Cretul, Cannon are lobbyists; former speakers start new firm


Larry Cretul, left, and Dean Cannon. (File photos)

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 6:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 6:35 p.m.

Former Florida House speakers apparently don't just fade away.

Ocalan Larry Cretul, a Republican who capped off his eight-year tenure in the Legislature by leading the state House of Representatives, recently partnered with Dean Cannon, Cretul's successor as speaker, in a new lobbying venture.

Cannon, a Republican from Winter Park, recently announced that he was starting Capitol Insight, an all-purpose consulting and lobbying group in Tallahassee.

Joining Cannon and Cretul so far is Cynthia Lorenzo, formerly a high-ranking officer in the Department of Economic Opportunity.

In an interview Tuesday, Cretul said the arrangement was recently brokered over dinner as both lawmakers discussed their future plans.

Cretul said he had entertained the idea of "doing something all by myself" since the legal prohibition against him lobbying members of the Legislature expired on Election Day.

But, he added of the meeting with Cannon, "It just kind of came together. We have been friends and colleagues, but now (we) will be doing something together professionally."

Cretul pointed out that he and Cannon have been intertwined since the late 1990s.

The men first met in 1998, Cretul said, when the Orlando law firm Cannon worked at helped the Marion County Commission on utility issues. Cretul served on the commission at the time.

In 2002, when Cretul ran for the Legislature, Cannon was one of the lawyers the Republican Party of Florida sent to Ocala to monitor the recount in his close race with Democrat Perry McGriff. Cretul won by 35 votes.

The two became reacquainted after Cannon won his own House seat in 2004, Cretul said, and they worked together on several issues.

Cretul then passed the speaker's gavel to Cannon as he left the Legislature after the 2010 session.

Shortly after leaving the House in November 2010, Cretul became the director of the Board of Governors for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The panel is an advisory group comprised of people from the chamber's different committees, councils and its Board of Directors.

More recently, however, Cretul delved back into politics.

He said he spent most of 2012 as part of a team that vetted 180 legislative candidates from both parties for the Chamber of Commerce. The information gleaned by Cretul and the others was passed along to the chamber's board to form the basis of the organization's endorsements for the recent state elections.

Cretul said Friday is his last day with the Chamber of Commerce. Working with Cannon will require him to spend most of his time in Tallahassee, Cretul said, but he will keep his home in Ocala.

At Capitol Insight, he said, he will try to whip up support for his clients' legislative proposals. Cannon, by law, is banned from lobbying the Legislature and will stick to working with the Scott administration.

"We're still in the organizational part," Cretul said. "We have no specific area. Just whatever the clients need."

Cretul, whose mild-mannered demeanor and self-deprecating humor often countered the stereotype of the slick wheeler-dealers in the capital, understands that his new role might make some recoil, given the connotation associated with the term lobbyist.

Yet lobbyists are an integral part of the legislative process, he said.

"The word certainly has an impact on some people, but it won't have the same impact on me," he said.

"In my eight years, I came to rely on them for educational purposes, and I found that some of the best lobbying of me personally explained the whole problem, offered a solution if there was one and told who was for it and who was against it, and the reasons for that.

"I want to bring the things I appreciated — honesty, integrity, truthfulness and providing information. I'm actually kind of excited about it and looking forward to it."

According to the Florida Current, at least a half-dozen former House speakers now practice as lobbyists in Tallahassee.

Contact Bill Thompson at 867-4117 or at bill.thompson@starbanner.com

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