By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Broward Health’s long-lost lobbyist registration policy is, at last, resurrected. Lobbyists looking to influence district policy or the award of profitable contracts must now publicly identify themselves and their clients.
Six lobbyists have registered since the program began Sept. 12 – all representatives of large, out-of-state pharmaceutical or hospital and medical supply companies like Sandoz, Genentech and Carefusion.
Who to watch out for going forward: politically connected local lobbyists like William “Billy” Rubin and Fred Karlinsky, who’ve operated behind the scenes at Broward Health in the past.
Rubin is a confidant of Gov. Rick Scott. Karlinsky was co-chair of Scott’s 2014 statewide campaign finance committee. The governor appoints the board of commissioners that governs the billion-dollar public health system whose legal name is the North Broward Hospital District.
FloridaBulldog.org reported in May that for 12 years Broward Health had ignored its own lobbyist registration rules, adopted in 2004, allowing lobbyists to operate freely behind the scenes.
That was news to Broward Health’s current board of commissioners.
Said Chairman Rocky Rodriguez, “You assume these things are being taken care of.” Said Commissioner Sheela VanHoose, who spent two months on the board’s legal affairs committee holding workshops to establish a lobbying policy, “It was a little shock to see.”
Broward Health CEO Pauline Grant announced in May that registration would begin in June, but it took much of the summer to actually get a system in place.
The revised rules require lobbyists to pay an annual $40 fee for each client “before any advocacy can take place.” Lobbyists must declare under oath that the information they provide is “true and correct.” That includes their yes or no response to this question: “Do you have any direct or indirect business association, partnership or financial relationship or live in the same household with or are related to any Broward Health board member, board committee member, employee or agent?”
So far, no lobbyist has answered yes.
Lobbyists must also file annual expenditure reports under oath “disclosing each lobbying expenditures [sic] to any person or entity,” including such items as food and beverage, travel and entertainment expenses. Those reports, however, don’t have to be filed until the July 30 of the fiscal year after registration, so they will likely not be timely.
Unlike the Florida Legislature, the district does not require lobbyists to disclose how much they are being paid to lobby.
The district’s revised lobbying policy forbids “lobbyists and lawyers” from lobbying any Broward Health board members, employees or agents “during the consideration of any contracts and contract negotiations and related discussions. This prohibition shall include, but not be limited to, physician contracts, professional service contracts, services contracts, design-build contracts and construction contracts.”
A list of registered lobbyists is published online.
Broward Health awarded many multi-million dollar contracts during the years its lobbying policy was not enforced. One of the biggest, and most unusual, was an unprecedented 25-year, no-bid deal in 2012 that outsourced the district’s radiation oncology services to 21st Century Oncology, the Fort Myers-based cancer care company.
FloridaBulldog.org reported in February that at the time of the deal Gov. Scott had an indirect ownership interest in 21st Century Oncology via his $210,000 investment in Vestar Capital Partners, the private equity firm that owns 21st Century.
The governor’s office has said Scott had “no conversation or contact about Vestar Capital or 21st Century Oncology with the North Broward Hospital District.”
Still, Scott’s good friend, lobbyist Billy Rubin, has lobbied at the district and counts 21st Century Oncology among his clients, according to the website of his firm, The Rubin Group.