Was lunch with movie star a lobbying ploy?

St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 7, 2003 (Column: Political Junkie)
By Times Staff Writers

In politics, every free lunch has a price. Eventually, the politician being wined and dined will be asked for a favor.

Of course, the politicians don’t see it that way.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio thought Tom Cruise, superstar and prominent Scientologist, just wanted to hang with her and her husband last May. Their dinner at a political consultant’s house in Clearwater was just a gathering among friends, Iorio said.

“What would Tom Cruise be lobbying me about?” Iorio said.

For starters, try the Church of Scientology‘s plans for expansion in Tampa.

Indeed, the church has hired a lobbyist to represent its interests before city government. The church needs city approval to use its center on Habana Avenue for some church purposes.

Lobbyist Todd Pressman, who filled out a lobbyist registration form to report a meeting with city officials on the project, said he doesn’t consider his work lobbying.

“That’s not really lobbying,” Pressman said. “Obviously, we have to have interaction with those officials for obvious reasons.”

He said city officials aren’t treating the church differently from any other property owner.

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