The governor of the 4th District of the American Advertising Federation is complaining that internal debate over the group's silencing of its lobbyist Bob Levy is obscuring the real issue.
"The Florida government and its Department of Revenue are putting small houses out of business," said Brenda Edwards, governor of the district that includes Florida. "[Levy] isn't the issue. It's a sideshow."
According to Edwards, who complimented Levy's work in the past, the AAF's primary goal is to have the state pass a bill that will clarify Florida's policy on the taxing of agencies and other creative businesses for professional services.
Currently, taxes on such intangibles are supposedly not taking place, due to the repeal of a similar tax in 1987. Edwards said Florida has begun auditing agencies sporadically, assessing back taxes and essentially daring shops to legally challenge its findings.
To date, Altman Meder Lawrence Hill, Tampa, Fla., and The William Cook Agency, Jacksonville, Fla., have gone to court and won, but at high financial costs. The action forced the Tampa agency to become a part of Pittsburgh-based Hallmark/Tassone.
Though he has helped push the bill through the Florida House, Levy has been unsuccessfully lobbying for passage in the Florida Senate for two years. In a Nov. 16 letter, Edwards claimed AAF membership wants to try a "grass-roots" method. This week she said the time was right for such an effort in the wake of the state's shifting political winds, which now sees its governor-elect and both arms of the legislature controlled by Republicans. Levy has described himself as a "lifelong Democrat."
"Let's be frank. Grass-roots [lobbying] don't work in this process. That's why we have lobbyists," Levy said. "The ugly side of politics is fundraising, and [the AAF] has made minimal contributions. . . I give much more money to both parties than [the AAF] pays me annually."
Levy is paid $12,000 by the AAF.