How to Battle Florida Ad Tax Fuels Internal Spat About Lobbyist
ATLANTA--The governor of the 4th District of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) said last week that the group's executive committee will not recognize the results of a delegate vote this week regarding the reinstatement of lobbyist Bob Levy.
Levy was told in a Nov. 16, 1998, letter from 4th District governor Brenda Edwards to cease lobbying Florida legislators on the AAF's behalf, as the group shifted its strategy towards a grass-roots campaign.
AAF's goal is the passage of State Bill 99, which will clarify Florida's tax policy for creative services. A similar tax was repealed in 1987, but the state's Department of Revenue has been assessing back taxes on some agencies, essentially daring shops to challenge the fees in court.
Edwards has said Levy's history as a self-described "lifelong Demo-crat" has been working against him. Florida has a new Republican governor, Jeb Bush, and both houses of the legislature are now under GOP control.
Six of the 20 members of the AAF legislative committee have initiated their own effort to reinstate Levy. They call the concerns about partisanship "completely bogus," according to Space Coast's legislative chairperson Vicki Northrup. Northrup initiated the letter faxed last week to every Florida AAF legislative chair. The missive asks delegates to sign a reversal of the executive committee's decision to muzzle Levy.
Edwards called the effort "a proxy vote and not legal. All this is beyond our bylaws." She said the only way a reversal could occur was if she called a vote of the board of directors. Ed-wards added that would not occur until the next business forum in March.
At the last forum, AAF members voted against firing Levy and opted to "redefine" his position with the federation. "Most members I've talked to said they didn't know he was going to be put out to this extent," said Don Dugan, chairman of the Miami Ad Club, which has pledged its support for Levy.
Last month the American Association of Advertising Agencies jumped into Florida's ad tax fray, filing a "friend of the court" brief challenging the state's tax assessment against JES Publishing in Jacksonville, Fla.