From billionaires to beverage companies, capitalists to colleges and sheriffs to software corporations, Josue Larose appears to have become an almost overnight K Street phenomenon with an amazingly diverse clientele. But this portfolio may not be what it seems.
During five days in late May, Larose and his company, the American Federal Lobbying Firm, filed documents with Congress stating that he registered 87 new clients representing almost every sector in the country. To put that number into perspective, fewer than 20 of the 2,500-plus registered lobbying firms operating in the nation's capital have more clients than this single lobbyist registered in one week.
Larose did not return phone calls for this article. But a man who answered the phone at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., firm and gave his name as Stanley Cater said Larose had already been in touch with the Senate about his lobbying filings.
"There is nothing wrong, and he has already talked to the U.S. Senate about that," said Cater, an assistant to Larose. "They called him and asked why he filed so much in a short period of time."
Larose's clients may have monikers that sound like typical lobbying organizations: American Private Equity Firm, United States Network Marketing Company and United States International Airlines. But public documents show that they are anything but ordinary.
For instance, there are no records of any of Larose's clients having lobbied the federal government before signing on with him. The majority of his clients are listed as political action committees on Senate records; PACs rarely lobby Congress. And nearly all 87 of Larose's clients are listed either at the address of his lobbying firm or another post office box he maintains.
Cater said that many of these PACs and organizations have the same address as Larose because Larose is the leader or chairman of these groups, which are registered at the Federal Election Commission, the state of Florida and some county offices. "He is the chairman of the PAC, and he is the lobbyist of the PAC," Cater said. "There is nothing wrong with that."
Many of Larose's clients don't appear to exist — except perhaps on paper — including Americas Elite Magazine and United States Times Newspaper.
While they are registered to lobby on an assortment of issues, at least 20 of the organizations say they are looking for federal grants. That has Washington, D.C., watchdog organizations raising questions.
"The whole situation sounds exceedingly peculiar," said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen.
Even stranger still, some of Larose's clients could potentially square off against each other. For instance, Larose is asking the government "to fine the BP for its oil spill disaster" on behalf of his client American Cruise Lines Companies PAC. But he also represents the American Petroleum Companies PAC (not to be confused with the Big Oil lobby American Petroleum Institute).
Larose's petroleum client isn't his only one that has a similar name to some of K Street's biggest interests. For example, the American Federal Lobbying Firm is registered to represent the American Chambers of Commerce PAC and two other PACs that sound similar to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the biggest client on K Street spending nearly $440 million since 1998 — or its affiliates.
Larose also registered American Pharmaceutical Laboratories PAC, similar to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which has spent $180 million in the past dozen years. He also has a client named American Furniture Stores PAC, which sounds a lot like the Independent Office Products & Furniture Dealers Association.
"I am very familiar with the office furniture industry, and I have not heard of that," said Paul Miller, a partner at Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies. Miller, who has lobbied on behalf of the furniture industry for more than a decade and is a former president of the American League of Lobbyists, said the situation sounds unbelievable.
"If you sign up 87 new clients — I don't care if you are Patton Boggs or just one lobbyist — you are going to need a huge team," he said. "It's impossible," Miller added of Larose's one-lobbyist firm.
The FEC raised similar questions in late 2008 when Larose registered at least 60 PACs in one month. Since then, Larose has answered dozens of letters from the FEC providing Internal Revenue Service employer identification numbers for newly created organizations, a move apparently aimed at convincing the agency that he is serious about his fundraising efforts.
Since registering the organizations back in 2008, Larose's PACs have yet to collect any funds, according to FEC records. But that does not mean that these groups are not trying to get money.
"There is nothing wrong if the PACs don't receive any money," Cater said. "You are just expected to file in accordance with the law."
In a 2008 phone interview, Larose explained his PAC philosophy. "When you have so many PACs," he said, "you can contribute more and more to the candidates."