Lobbying Firm of the Year: Capital City Consulting
“We look for people early in their career who have potential for growth, are hard-working, and are motivated to succeed.” – Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting
Capital City Consulting’s winning strategy might be described as killing them with kindness. In the world of Florida lobbying, they’re a Big 4 Firm in terms of revenue (median of $5.13 million in 2015), and they’re also respected and liked by the teams they primarily compete with, especially Ballard Partners and Southern Strategy Group.
The 2016 Legislative Session was yet another example of CCC’s acumen and natural talent, racking up multiple wins for their growing roster of clients. The firm’s work for The Everglades Foundation resulted in $200 million per year over the next 19 years for Legacy Florida, a dedicated revenue source for Everglades restoration. For Delta Airlines, they shut down a loophole that provided a competitive jet fuel tax advantage for newer airlines and lowered the tax for all commercial airlines. The firm also slayed it in appropriations, corralling $4 million for a new building at New College of Florida, $7 million for a needed chiller at Florida International University, and additional construction funding for Florida Keys Community College and the Palm Beach School District.
Not bad for a firm whose members’ average age hovers in the 30s.
“We look for people early in their career who have potential for growth, are hard-working, and are motivated to succeed,” firm co-founder Nick Iarossi said. “For the most part, we’ve grown organically and not through acquisitions, which makes us unique.”
Capital City Consulting was formed in 2003 by Iarossi, Ron LaFace Jr., and veteran lobbyists Gerald Wester and Pat O’Connell. (O’Connell has since retired.) They had been together at the Katz Kutter Haigler law firm in Tallahassee, which merged with the Akerman Senterfitt firm. Since opening, CCC has seen a six-fold growth in revenue.
“We wouldn’t be here without Gerald and Pat,” Iarossi said. “When we started, they took the financial risk. They get the credit for establishing CCC and we grew it working together.”
The firm’s first hire was former state House Healthcare Committee attorney Chris Schoonover. “Chris is our utility player,” Iarossi said. “He handles a myriad of client issues with grace and unparalleled success.”
The firm also stole Ashley Kalifeh from the state Department of Financial Services, where she had risen to the deputy position under CFO Jeff Atwater. Before that, the Vanderbilt and FSU Law grad had represented and array of insurers. Kalifeh and Wester helped pass legislation during the 2016 Legislative Session dealing with unclaimed property and structured settlements on behalf of CCC’s insurance clients. “Ashley’s technical expertise and tenacity is a proven recipe for her lobbying success,” Wester said.
Hires in recent year track the firm’s strategy of “organic growth.” Take Scott Ross, whom Iarossi and LaFace knew since his days at Florida State. Ross made a name as a statewide director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, went on to work for the Las Vegas Sands Corp., then landed as deputy secretary at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, where he oversaw regulation of the state’s pari-mutuels. “Scott has the most strategic mind I’ve ever met,” Iarossi said. “He sees the entire chessboard.”
The youngest member of the CCC team is Jen Gaviria, hired straight from law school after eight years as an aide to now-state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican. “Jen has an innate talent at navigating the process,” Iarossi said. “We believed she would make a fantastic lobbyist and she has.”
The secret to CCC’s successful procurement practice is Ken Granger, who was deputy secretary at the Department of Management Services, the state’s purchasing agency, and deputy chief of staff for Gov. Charlie Crist. “Our firm has helped clients win hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts over the last few years because of Ken’s expertise,” LaFace said. “The key to procurement success is not just winning contracts; companies must also establish a relationship with the state and no one does that better in the lobbying world than Ken.”
“We’ve been successful because of our talented and hardworking team,” LaFace added. “We are a relatively young group, so our philosophy when evaluating a new hire is to look 20 years ahead, and ask ourselves if this is a person we want to work with for 20 years and are they going to achieve successes for clients.”