Beruff defends lobbyist hiring despite pushing lifetime ban on such hires

Carlos Beruff campaigning on Tuesday in Panama City.
Carlos Beruff campaigning on Tuesday in Panama City. Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

To clean up Washington, Republican Carlos Beruff says if he is elected to the Senate he’ll push for a lifetime ban on House and Senate members becoming lobbyists after they leave office.

“The influence of lobbyists, particularly former high-ranking elected officials, is a direct cause of the growth of government,” Beruff declares on his campaign website.

The idea of hiring former legislators to lobby their former colleagues has not always been so distasteful to Beruff, state records show. In 2015, one of Beruff’s companies, Medallion Home Gulf Coast, hired former Florida Rep. Jerry Paul as a lobbyist to represent his businesses’ interest before the Florida Legislature and the executive branch, according to Florida’s Lobbyist Registration Office. Since July 2015, Medallion has paid Paul’s lobbying firm at least $40,000 records show.

Paul was a Florida House member from 2000-04 representing mostly Charlotte County as a Republican.

Hiring Paul is not the same as hiring a career politician, Beruff’s campaign said. Paul was a politician for just a few years, was never a congressman, and was hired for his environmental expertise — not because of his ties to the Legislature.

“Carlos is a businessman who hired an expert to navigate the expansive government bureaucracy that career politicians have let grow out of control,” said Chris Hartline, communications director for Beruff’s campaign. “One of the reasons Carlos wants to go to Washington is to reduce the size and scope of government and its impact on the ability of small businesses to grow.”

Beruff, in his bid to upset Sen. Marco Rubio’s re-election, has been touting a 10-step program to “end government greed.” In addition to pushing for term limits and a federal balanced budget amendment, Beruff is advocating for a lifetime ban on members of Congress from becoming lobbyists.

“We must stop our elected political leaders and appointed cabinet secretaries from ever cashing in, and return to the idea of citizen legislators,” Beruff said.

os Beruff said he is not worried about public polling showing him getting crushed by Sen. Marco Rubio in their Aug. 30 primary.

During an interview on NewsRadio 610 WIOD, Beruff was asked by host Fernand R. Amandi about a Bay News 9 poll showing Rubio with 63 percent of the vote compared to just 11 percent for Beruff. Another 13 percent in the poll were undecided.

“I’ve been an underdog my whole life,” Beruff responded.

Beruff said he is undaunted about being the only Republican left to take on on Rubio head to head in the primary.

“It’s sorta fun now to be the only guy left standing,” Beruff said.

As expected, Beruff spent much of his 18 minutes on the show blasting Rubio for “accomplishing nothing” during his more than five years in the Senate.