Former Florida House speaker and ex-congressman Tom Feeney was named Thursday as president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, the big business lobby.
Feeney succeeds Barney Bishop, who left the post last summer after seven years on the job. AIF is expected to play a central role in the upcoming legislative session as an advocate for casino gambling — pushing a major ‘destinations resorts’ package targed for Miami and two other, still-to-be-named areas of the state.
“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,” said Erika Alba, Chair of the AIF Board of Directors.
Feeney was the state House speaker from 2000-2002, when he was elected to Congress from Central Florida. Feeney twice won re-election, but fell out of favor after becoming a crony of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who paid for the congressman to play golf in Scotland, along with other perqs.
Feeney, who as a state legislator called himself a “happy warrior” for conservative ideas, usually drew high marks from business associations, anti-tax advocates and social conservatives. But running a losing campaign against Democrat Suzanne Kosmas in 2008, Feeney also ran a TV spot apologizing for his “bad judgment” in the Abramoff case.
Back in Florida, Feeney has been running a business consulting and lobbying company called Liberty Team, based in Orlando.
“With the 2012 Legislative Session just around the corner, I will be immediately rolling up my sleeves and getting to work on AIF’s top priorities,” Feeney said.