There are only a handful of influential lobbyists in Tallahassee who have unimpeded access to leadership in the Florida Legislature. SL7 Interviews Chip Case, political consultant, lobbyist and owner of Jefferson Monroe Consulting and Spartan Strategies. Chip is one of a handful of public affairs operatives who can leverage the power of politics with the power of legislation.
#1-SLEVIN: CHIP HOW DID YOU GET INTO POLITICS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS?
CASE: My first paid position was the Campaign Manager in 1995 for Mike Fasano -- putting up signs, making phone calls, and walking door-to-door. After Mike won his first re-elect, he was appointed to the position of Whip for the Republican Caucus and given a “third staffer” position, which was my role. It was an exciting time to be involved in Florida politics. It was 1996, and the Republicans had control of the Florida House for the first time in 122 years. With an office in the Majority Office, I got to be involved with floor strategy and debate prep and see firsthand how the process worked--very cool for a 25 year-old kid who loved politics. It was during that time that I developed a strong connection to the Florida House as an institution, and I have focused most of my professional career on that institution and advising members who serve in leadership.
#2-SLEVIN: THE TERM “PERMANENT CAMPAIGN” CAME INTO VOGUE AFTER BILL CLINTON WAS SWORN IN AS OUR PRESIDENT IN 1993. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON CANDIDATES WHO GET ELECTED AND LEGISLATE AS IF THEY ARE STILL RUNNING A CAMPAIGN? IS THAT STILL HAPPENING? GOOD OR BAD IDEA?
CASE: I think that abandoning your principles and the platform that you ran on because of focus group/poll testing results is clearly a negative thing; however, using modern campaign techniques such as polls and focus groups to identify the best ways to message your principles and to measure your effectiveness, are necessary and should be utilized. As the well-known pollster Frank Luntz has often said: “Words matter.”
#3-SLEVIN: WHEN A CANDIDATE FOR THE HOUSE OR SENATE CALLS YOU TO CONSULT ON THEIR CAMPAIGN, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOOK FOR IN THEM? WHAT ARE THE KEY FACTORS THAT MAKE YOU WANT TO HELP THEM GET ELECTED?
CASE: In my opinion, it's a very straightforward assessment. They need to have good reasons for running, such as service to others or a desire to make things better. They need to have a proven track record in their community. They need to have a strong work ethic, and they need to have the ability to raise money. I don’t like candidates that run because they want to “become somebody”—that’s the wrong reason to run. I prefer a client that has already been successful outside the process and then decides to run. It’s an honor working for people like that.
#4-SLEVIN: THE GUBERNATORIAL RACE BETWEEN GOV. RICK SCOTT AND FORMER GOP GOV. CHARLIE CRIST HAS TALLAHASSEE TIED UP IN KNOTS. THERE ARE MORE THAN JUST A FEW LOBBYING SHOPS TRYING TO HEDGE WHICH WAY THIS RACE WILL GO. WHAT’S YOUR ANALYSIS OF THE RACE AND WHO ARE YOU SUPPORTING FOR GOVERNOR?
CASE: While current polls show the race as "too close to call", and most pundits will say that this will be an incredibly close race, I believe that Governor Scott will likely pull ahead in the last thirty days of the campaign and win with a clear margin of victory. I say that for a few reasons: Scott has a significant war chest and a strong record to run on--economic recovery and more jobs for Floridians. He also currently has a team in place that understands data and voter turnout. I know some of the people on Charlie Crist's team, and they're excellent strategists, but Crist seems more undisciplined as a candidate this time and still must convince dyed-in-the-wool Democrats that he's their guy. That's a significant task, given his pivots on most major policy issues.
#5-SLEVIN: WHAT ARE THE KEY RACES IN THE STATE THAT YOU FIND INTERESTING OR WORTH MENTIONING?
CASE: Quite a few seats are more competitive this cycle because of redistricting, so I'm closely watching all of the targeted R and D seats. I am consulting on one major targeted seat in the central Florida Candidate (HD 47). We currently have about 12 seats (in my opinion) that are going to be highly competitive for both Republicans and Democrats. I believe this cycle will be more favorable to the Republican Party. Another interesting issue is not what’s happening in these elections, but what is happening within the major parties and the growth of the NPA voter. I’ll save that for another day. This issue could be a separate article all together.
#6-SLEVIN: YOU HAVE A REPUTATION FOR GETTING LEGISLATORS PLACED IN KEY LEADERSHIP POSTS. HOW MUCH OF IT IS INSIDE BASEBALL VERSUS HOW THE INSTITUTION WORKS?
CASE: It’s a combination of things, really. It starts with a person who has the skill set and desire to be in leadership. And then it is knowing how the institution works, how the caucus functions, and how to show value to the members of the institution.
In late 1998, I started working with incoming leaders. First, I worked with Speaker-Designate Tom Feeney, who taught me much about local party politics and how to communicate effectively. I was then given the opportunity to work with Allan Bense and help him with his four-year race to become Speaker of the House. Most of what I learned about leadership, management, team-building, and investing in people came from my interaction and experiences with Speaker Bense in that hard fought race. I continue to draw from those experiences, as I consult with legislators in leadership races currently.
#7-SLEVIN: LOBBYISTS OFTEN GET A BAD RAP AS AN INDUSTRY. GOVERNOR SCOTT RAN AS AN OUTSIDER, BUT QUICKLY REALIZED THE VALUE LOBBYISTS BRING TO THE PUBLIC POLICY MAKING PROCESS. CAN YOU GIVE US YOUR TAKE ON HOW LOBBYING IS PART OF THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS?
CASE: The term "lobbyist" is often seen as a pejorative term. There's a small minority who may deserve the negative association. But from my experience, lobbyists are hard-working professionals who provide valuable information on policy and regulatory matters for legislators and professional staff, and lobbyists provide access to the process for their clients. That client could be a large corporation or a small non-profit. Helping individuals and businesses successfully navigate in order to change the law is precisely what lobbyists do. That's an integral part of the democratic process.
Thank you Chip for sharing your time with my readers.
You can follow Chip on Twitter @clarencehenry.