As Miami Children's and Jackson Memorial hospitals are urging legislators not to cut their state money, they have doled out a total of $198,000 to former House Speaker Marco Rubio and Viviana Bovo, the wife of state Rep. Esteban ''Steve'' Bovo, to serve as consultants.
As Bovo was taking office in November, Rubio was leaving, due to term limits. Rubio took Viviana Bovo with him to work at a new consulting-lobbying firm, Florida Strategic Consultants.
The company in December then scored two contracts worth $102,000 and $96,000 with Miami Children's and Jackson Memorial hospitals, respectively.
Rubio, who plans to run for higher office in 2010, said he's staying out of Tallahassee lobbying. He said he provides strategic consulting advice and access to a network of contacts he culled as House speaker, one of the most powerful posts in the state Capitol.
''My job is to make introductions to key people who could help the hospital and the children it serves,'' Rubio said. ``I'm not a lobbyist. It's not my forte.''
Steve Bovo, a freshman Republican from Hialeah, is the in-house lobbyist for Miami Children's Hospital. He sits on a House budget committee that helps decide how much state money hospitals and healthcare providers in the state receive.
To ensure he's on the right side of the law, Rep. Bovo said he has requested legal advice on conflicts of interest. He said he stopped lobbying in Tallahassee ''the moment I got elected.'' He now does governmental-affairs work in Washington, D.C., and in the South Florida area.
Bovo noted that most people in the Legislature have other jobs, so apparent conflicts are nearly unavoidable.
''In this building . . . you could find 120 cases of conflict of interest, or maybe 160,'' Bovo said during an interview in the Capitol last week. ``I'm aware of it and I'm mindful of it, and I've had this conversation with the hospital.'' Read more.