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Feeney the new chief at AIF

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Feeney

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.

AIF prepares for life after Barney

Thursday, August 18th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Associated Industries of Florida on Tuesday named insurance lobbyist Cecil Pearce as interim managing director while assigning former legislator Trey Traviesa to oversee the search committee for a new president and CEO.

The big business lobby has been holding its annual conference at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Among the items on the agenda has been finding a replacement for outgoing President and CEO Barney Bishop, who earlier this month announced he’d be leaving by year’s end.

After seven years on the job — which pays more than $400,000 annually — Bishop’s decision to leave was at least partially inspired by rising discontent among the organization’s board of directors.

Bishop leaving AIF, with some questioning the future of the big corporate lobby

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 by John Kennedy

One of the Capitol’s most potent business lobbies Wednesday was in search of a new leader.

Associated Industries of Florida President and CEO Barney Bishop resigned after seven years as the public face of the organization, effective at the end of the year. Bishop had been under rising pressure from AIF’s board of directors and his resignation precedes a scheduled meeting next week where his future with the organization was expected to be discussed.

“There are other things in life — other passions — that I wanted to pursue,” Bishop said. “Now is that time. I have always been a serial entrepreneur, having previously started two companies. I may start a third company or join another.”

Erika Alba, a Jacksonville lobbyist who chairs AIF’s board of directors, said, “Barney has accomplished great things at AIF by rebuilding our membership and enhancing our effectiveness in the halls of the Florida Capitol.”

Bishop, who earned more than $400,000 in the AIF post, drew some heat from board members in July, months after he caused a stir by declaring that the “number one job of our board (is) to defeat Bill Nelson.” 

AIF’s board is not publicly disclosed by the organization. But a member acknowledged that Bishop’s comment may have got him crossways with some influential corporate backers of Florida’s senior U.S. senator, a Democrat.

But AIF, whose membership is eclipsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce as a business lobby, has always had outsized personalities at its helm. Preceding Bishop was Jon Shebel, a six-foot-six-inch, ex-Marine who led the organization for more than 30 years until his 2006 retirement.

AIF is also renowned for its annual pre-legislative session cocktail party, which draws thousands to the organization’s Georgian-styled headquarters a block from the Governor’s Mansion. But in an age of business consolidation, some lobbyists have questioned how long the Chamber and AIF, which have many overlapping members, issues and candidate endorsements, can endure as separate entities.

No successor to Bishop has been named.

 

 

 

 

 

Utility reg chairman Carter: “Just leave us alone.”

Friday, October 16th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter wants everyone to leave him and his colleagues alone so they can get on with their jobs and has no plans to ask for an internal investigation into charges of possible conflicts of interest or bias against Commissioner Nancy Argenziano, he said today.

“Right now I plan on getting through this hearing,” Carter told reporters during a break in a nuclear cost recovery meeting now ongoing.

The panel is scheduled to vote later today on requests from Florida Power & Light Co. to charge customers $63 million for what the utility’s expenses on nuclear power plant construction and a similar $236 million request from Progress Energy Florida.

Yesterday, Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop asked that PSC’s inspector general look into thousands of BlackBerry messages exchanged between Argenziano and her aide Larry Williams over the past two years. Bishop accused Argenziano of potentially breaking laws barring ex parte communications between regulators and the utilities and of breaking her oath of office in unflattering comments aimed at her colleagues.

Read about FPL’s link with AIF’s press release here.

AIF’s demand is yet another distraction for the panel also poised to vote on about $2 billion in base rate increases – $1.3 billion sought by FPL and $500 million by Progress.

Ten days ago, the panel turned down a $1.6 billion request from FPL to build a natural gas pipeline through 14 counties.

State Attorney Willie Meggs said recently that his investigators have found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the agency. And several internal investigations resulted in similar findings.
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FPL linked to biz group’s demand for investigation of utility regulator Argenziano

Friday, October 16th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Associated Industries of Florida sent a press release demanding an investigation of Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano to Florida Power & Light Co. for review yesterday, officials for both groups said.

A version of the release posted on The Sayfie Review shows the author of the release as “FPL_User” last saved by “Lisa Garcia” and the company as “Florida Power & Light.”

Lisa Garcia works for Ron Sachs Communications, the Tallahassee-based PR agency handling media for AIF on the issue.

AIF has joined FPL in support of its requested $1.3 billion base rate hike.

FPL is a member of the business backed association that refuses to reveal its membership or how much they pay to belong to the group.

The latest bit of drama in the FPL/Argenziano/PSC serial unfolds as the regulatory panel is scheduled to vote on the Juno Beach-based utility proposed $200 million rate increase to cover the costs of nuclear plants not yet built.

Sachs executive Alia Faraj, a former spokeswoman for Gov. Jeb Bush, said that her shop crafted the press release and gave it to FPL.
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Argenziano: AIF accusations “baseless” and “stupid”

Thursday, October 15th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano dismissed a business-backed group’s demand for an investigation into her BlackBerry messages with her former aide as ridiculous and an attempt to intimidate her.

“It’s highly suspicious and rather stinky at this point,” Argenziano said.

Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop today asked for a PSC inspector general investigation into thousands of messages exchanged between Argenziano and Larry Williams, a former aide whom Argenziano fired for giving his secret BlackBerry personal identification number to a Florida Power & Light Co. attorney.

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Lopez-Cantera joins AIF demand for utility reg investigation

Thursday, October 15th, 2009 by Dara Kam

State Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera joined the call for an internal investigation into BlackBerry messages sent by utility regulators.

Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, serves on the Public Service Commission Nominating Council that selects who gets to serve on the regulatory panel. The governor makes the final picks.

“The PIN messages sent and received by Commissioner Nancy Argenziano and released by the PSC, coupled with their discussion of private emails so far unreleased and sent to non-public accounts in an attempt to evade public scrutiny, raise serious questions about Commissioner Argenziano’s impartiality and her ability to give a fair hearing to those appearing before her,” Lopez-Cantera wrote in a statement distributed to the media.

Earlier today, Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop demanded the PSC’s inspector general check out Commissioner Nancy Argenziano’s BlackBerry PIN messages.

Bishop said Argenziano may have broken rules restricting communications between the regulators and the utilities and may have acted in a manner unbecoming a commissioner, a violation of her oath of office.

It’s no surprise that Lopez-Cantera has jumped on the Argeziano attack wagon.
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More PSC sniping as FPL pipeline decision nears

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Here’s the latest installment in the seemingly perpetual Public Service Commission drama.

Sen. Mike Fasano today shot back at Associated Industries of Florida president Barney Bishop who yesterday publicly accused Fasano of interfering in the utility regulators’ business as the PSC considers three cases that could collectively cost Floridians up to $3 billion a year in extra energy costs.

Fasano yesterday asked Commissioner Lisa Edgar to resign because of an ethics complaint about her communicating with an FPL executive during a hearing. The ethics commission found no probable cause that Edgar, reappointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to the PSC last year, did anything wrong.

AIF supports Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.3 billion rate hike, and yesterday evening Bishop called out Fasano by name for trying to influence the outcome of that case and a proposed $500 million Progress Energy Florida rate increase.

“Any attempt by anyone to influence “due process”, whether they are an elected official or not, is inappropriate,” Bishop said in a statement.

That got to Fasano, who issued a statement demanding his own due process.

“Barney Bishop is a highly paid representative for utility companies throughout Florida. Mr. Bishop states that I am interfering in the due process that Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light are entitled to as the Florida Public Service Commission considers billion dollar rate increase requests. As anyone versed in the most elemental aspects of law should know, due process entitles one to face his or her accuser. Since Mr. Bishop, and Associated Industries of Florida, has stated that my involvement in this case is inappropriate, I challenge Mr. Bishop to publicly debate me on this issue,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, wrote.
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