Associated Industries of Florida lobbyist group in running for 'what were they thinking?' award
Wake up and good morning. That disgraced ex-Florida House Speaker and former congressman Tom Feeney (left) was picked just before the Christmas holidays as the new chief of Associated Industries of Florida -- the pushy business lobbying group in Tallahassee -- is not exactly breaking news does not mean I can't express dismay now. After all, he starts his job next week.
AIF, formerly led by Barney Bishop (right) until he was pushed out last summer, always has chosen its own prickly way in lobbying for its business members. But Feeney?
Feeney was state House speaker from 2000-2002, when he was elected to Congress from Central Florida. Feeney twice won re-election. Then he fell out of favor after becoming a crony of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who paid for the congressman to play golf in Scotland. In September 2006, Feeney was named one of the “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress” in a report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). He is mentioned four years in a row (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) in the annual reports of CREW. Earlier, Feeney was Jeb Bush's running mate in his first race for governor in 1994.
Here's Feeney in a 2008 election ad apologizing for his bad judgment.
Since those illustrious days, Feeney has been running an Orlando business consulting and lobbying company called Liberty Team. His own web site says he is a long-time "advocate of the growth and establishment of the I-4 Hi-Tech Corridor, Medical City and Modeling, Simulation and Space related growth in Central Florida."
Florida businesses deserve better representation in Tallahassee. Or is this simply AIF deciding that in Tallahassee these days it is best to fight muck with muck? Even if Feeney proves effective, AIF will never be free of the past taint.
Can't end this posting without noting this remarkable statement from AIF's Erika Alba (left), chair of AIF's board of directors and public affairs director with Foley & Lardner LLP. "Representative Feeney is highly respected, both as an elected official and as a Florida businessman. He is a proven leader and will be a tremendous asset to the association. Having dedicated much of the last 20 years to public service, Tom knows what it takes to be effective in the halls of the Florida capitol and on Capitol Hill."
I have no words...
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times, soon to become the Tampa Bay Times