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A Half-Truth in the Florida 22nd

Republican Rep. Shaw falsely implies his opponent lied about being a lobbyist

September 28, 2006

Modified: September 28, 2006

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Summary

Republican Rep. Clay Shaw, defending the seat he has occupied for a quarter of a century, attacks Democrat opponent Ron Klein for being a lobbyist who has "sold influence to developers, insurers, [and] government contractors." Shaw's ad even shows a picture of Klein's "lobby/law firm" located "steps away from the Capitol" to insinuate the state senator wasn't truthful when he denied lobbying fellow legislators.

While Klein has registered as a lobbyist in Palm Beach County, he has not registered to lobby the state legislature and Shaw has produced no evidence that Klein did so.

Analysis

The Shaw campaign released "Registered Lobbyist" Sept. 23.  The ad falsely implies that Democratic challenger Klein had improper dealings with the state legislature.

Shaw Ad "Registered Lobbyist"

Shaw: "I'm Clay Shaw and I approve this message."
Announcer: Ron Klein explaining himself:
(On Screen: Klein's recent ad on a TV)
Klein: "I've never lobbied the Florida legislature."
Announcer: Wait a minute. Ron Klein is a registered lobbyist. Newspapers checked government documents. Klein has used his political position to lobby local politicians.
(On Screen: "He has registered with Palm Beach County as a lobbyist..." Miami Herald 9/19/06)
Announcer: Here's his lobby/law
firm steps away from the Capitol.
(On Screen: Picture of Klein's office near State Capitol)
Announcer: Klein sold influence to developers, insurers, government contractors. They made money, Ron Klein made money. Ron Klein: There's no denying. He's a lobbyist.
(Paid For By: Friends of Clay Shaw for Congress)

Wait a minute, indeed.

The ad shows an excerpt from a Klein TV ad which features the state senator saying, "I've never lobbied the Florida Legislature." An announcer then says, "Wait a minute. Ron Klein is a registered lobbyist" and goes on to say he "sold influence to developers, insurers, government contractors."  The ad even shows a picture of Klein's law office in Tallahassee which the announcer points out is "steps away from the Capitol."

The insinuation from the ad is clear: Klein lobbies the state legislature even though he denied doing so. But wait a minute: Klein doesn't deny being a registered lobbyist – at the county level. The Palm Beach Post reports  that in 1999 and again in 2004 Ron Klein registered as a lobbyist in Palm Beach County to represent Cigna Health Care and EB Developers. Despite the impression created by this ad, Klein's lobbying stops at the county's border.

Florida law dictates that in order to lobby the state legislature a lobbyist must register with the state annually, and the Florida Legislature's Lobbyist 
Directory shows no 'Ron Klein' as a registered lobbyist. When Klein says "I've never lobbied the Florida legislature" the evidence actually supports him.

Listen Carefully

At one point the ad does mention that Klein would "lobby local politicians," but the single word "local" is easy to miss, especially since the ad goes out of its way to show the state Capitol building and sets itself up as rebutting Klein's denial that he ever lobbied the legislature.

Klein has been a member of the state legislature since 1992. Until this year, Klein co-chaired the Governmental Relations, Lobbying, and Administrative Law practice group at the law firm in which he is a named partner, Sachs Sax Klein. In 2006 the firm opened an office just a few blocks from the Capitol in Tallahassee, but the firm's managing director, Steven Sachs, told the Palm Beach Post on Sept. 19 that Klein has not been involved in the Tallahassee office.

A different issue

Rep. Shaw says that even lobbying local Palm Beach County officials poses an ethical conflict for Klein, telling  the South Florida Sun-Sentinel,"You can't represent a company in front of a group you're supposed to be representing [in Tallahassee]." We take no position on that issue, except to note that it's not the issue raised in Shaw's ad. It's true that both Klein's previous House  district and his current Senate  district include parts of Palm Beach County, which means he might have been lobbying local officials who also depend upon him to represent local interests at the state level.

The ad would have been accurate to say that Klein is registered to lobby county officials that he represents in the state legislature. Instead, it falsely implies that he wasn't telling the truth when he said he never lobbied fellow members of the state legislature.

-by James Ficaro

Sources

Brittany Wallman and Anthony Man, "Klein, Shaw trade hard-hitting attacks in TV ads," South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 20 Sept. 2006