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Secret money in local government exposed: Newly released contracts reveal lobbyists pay day

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Posted at 6:50 PM, Jan 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-10 14:25:32-05

$295 dollars an hour. That's how much Hillsborough County is paying a lobbyist to help them draft legislation for the Pubic Transportation Commission and to best represent their interests in Tallahassee.

The Pinellas County School Board is paying a Palm Harbor lobbying firm $60 thousand a year to attend legislative meetings and to win them favor in the State Capital.

All of this is being paid for with your tax money and for the first time you can see it in black and white.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran just established new rules in the House of Representatives, requiring lobbyists to release how much money they're getting from local governments.

For the first time, you can look up those government contracts on the Florida House website.

"The fact that you can now go online and see this transparency is really important and that is one of the positives of this," says Dr. Susan MacManus, USF Political Science Professor.

So who's the top hired gun? Miami-Dade attorney Ronald Book.

His client list stretches from South Florida to the Panhandle. This year taxpayers will pay him over $1 million.

But like it or not -- the reality is professional lobbyists can level the playing field in a big complex state like Florida.

"These lobbyists are experienced, they understand how the process works , it's a very confusing process," says MacManus.

Inside knowledge that comes at a price that's no longer hidden from the public.

While the Florida House is revealing how much tax payer money is being spent on lobbyists to influence, the State Senate is not.