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The lobbyist who got Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran talking

The problem was obvious. Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran had wildly different goals. To make things worse, they really didn't seem to like each other.

They wouldn't talk to each other, and that makes it hard to get results. But a deal quickly got done in days between the carefully scripted governor and a speaker who stays up late smoking cigars and sipping red wine, and that can't happen without communication. Nobody has explained who dragged the governor and speaker out of their corners to craft a deal that could enhance both of their political futures in 2018.

In interviews with both men, it appears the bridge was Bill Rubin, a veteran lobbyist and mutual friend.

"Billy is a very good friend of mine," Scott told the Tampa Bay Times' Anastasia Dawson. "As you probably know, he's always been helpful to me. He's a family friend, and he's always been Billrubin helpful."

Rubin (at right) got to know Scott while lobbying for Scott's Columbia/HCA hospitals in the 1990s, and he was one of the first insiders to support Scott's surprise bid for governor in 2010. Rubin also knew Corcoran as an adviser to Speaker Dan Webster in the mid-'90s, and Rubin's clients collectively drop a lot of money in statewide and legislative races.

"With his friendships with me and the governor, he was very helpful bringing us back together," Corcoran said.

This isn't how they teach civics. But this is how it works. It shows the power of relationships and how lobbyists exert influence in hidden ways.

Scott and Corcoran didn't trust each other, but they trusted Rubin. After Scott got a long voice mail from Corcoran, the governor sent his new chief of staff, Jackie Schutz Zeckman, to find common ground with Corcoran's chief of staff, Mat Bahl. Talks intensified on tourism, jobs money and dike repairs. Rubin cancelled a trip to Las Vegas with friends. Last Friday, as the special session ended, Rubin was in the crowd of reporters and onlookers in the Capitol Rotunda, watching a peaceful end and saying nothing.

Rubin has been around Tallahassee since he graduated from the University of Florida in the 1970s. He worked for two Democrats, Attorney General Bob Shevin and Treasurer Bill Gunter, before becoming a lobbyist in 1984, and an insurance specialty expanded to include health care, gambling and other areas. Rubin gravitated to Republicans, which helped the Fort Lauderdale-based Rubin Group extend its reach.

A lobbyist who avoids publicity, he was not available for comment. In an Orlando Sentinel article, he told reporter Donna Blanton in 1988 that being effective means lobbying everybody, not just leaders of the Legislature. "You live in a town where you want to be working 10 years later," Rubin said, 29 years ago.

Photo: rubingroup.com