December 19, 2014

Business Lobbyists

Associated Industries of Florida is a Business Heavyweight

Associated Industries of Florida is one of the most influential business groups in the state.

Amy Keller | 6/2/2011

Membership

» Mum's the Word: AIF doesn't disclose how many members it has or their names. Bishop says his group is "probably one-third" the size of the Chamber's.

» Dues: Annual dues for corporations are $5 per employee along with a minimum annual fee of $500. Sliding scales of fees between $500 and $5,000 apply to law firms, lobbyists and associations. AIF charges another $5,000 to be part of the AIF Political Council (AIFPC), which provides political research and analysis.

Skill Sets

SPENDING

$600,000-plus — Spending on lobbying the Legislature and executive branch in 2010

$352,000 — PAC spending on candidates in 2010

» Heft: Bishop's extensive lobbying background and Tallahassee savvy have re-established AIF's clout. The group relies on a combination of both in-house and contract lobbyists to push its proposals, including Gerald Wester, of Capital City Consulting, who handles insurance issues for the group; Stacey Webb, at Southern Strategy Group, who handles education; and Al Cardenas, who represents AIF on Capitol Hill in Washington. The group spent between $610,022 and $869,974 lobbying the state Legislature and executive branch in 2010, according to compensation records filed with the state.

Dave Rancourt
"Barney is tough, but he is a gentleman."

— Dave Rancourt, an AIF contract lobbyist



Al Cardenas
Al Cardenas represents AIF in Washington.
» Issues: AIF enjoys its status as the "go-to" group on insurance issues, particularly workers' compensation. Says Bishop: "We've always been perceived as being the entity that put together and keeps together the workers' comp coalition we started 20 to 25 years ago. We lead that coalition, and we invite everyone to the table, but we are sort of the ones where if you don't have AIF on your side on workers' comp, it probably isn't going to happen." The group also touts its leadership on tort reform, working to preserve the space industry and fighting EPA efforts to tighten water regulations.

» Relationship with the Governor: In 2007, Bishop recruited Rick Scott, then living quietly in Naples, to serve on AIF's board. Three years later, when Scott threw his hat into the ring for governor, AIF decided to co-endorse both Scott and then-Attorney General Bill McCollum. Scott's victory was a plus for AIF, which continues to enjoy close access to the governor. "We frankly see him as one of our own," says Bishop.
While the access has given AIF insight into the governor's policy moves, those moves haven't always matched AIF's positions — AIF had pushed for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando for more than two years. Scott and AIF (along with other business groups) have also been at odds over immigration issues.

» Speed: AIF's membership is connected and it has money. Not having to respond to a huge constituency, Bishop says, means his group can be agile. "If we support an issue today and there's an amendment (tomorrow) that changes the bill to where we no longer support it, I can do an e-mail to my nine-member executive committee and I can get responses in a matter of hours, do a conference call within 24 hours.
I can turn on a dime."

» Politics: AIF's political council interviews and endorses candidates and uses McLaughlin & Associates, a national polling firm, to conduct quarterly public opinion surveys. In 2010, AIF's political action committee contributed more than $352,000 to candidates, primarily to Republicans but occasionally to Democrats, in legislative and Cabinet races. In some primaries, AIF hedges its bets with dual endorsements. "My philosophy as a lifelong Democrat running a Republican business group is that I'm not going to try to pick between two good Republicans or three good Republicans because that's not our job. Our job is to tell our members this Republican, these Republicans, they represent the philosophy you want to have in office. You pick whoever you want and when you do, whoever that nominee is, that's who we're going to go to bat with."

Tags: Politics & Law, Business Services, Government/Politics & Law

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

NASA: Holiday lights can be seen from space
NASA: Holiday lights can be seen from space

It’s official: our holiday lights are so bright we can see them from space. See the NASA video.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

How do you feel about the historic decision to remodel US-Cuba relations?

  • Well, it's about time!
  • I'm cautiously optimistic...
  • I'm skeptical about this at best...
  • Not in favor at all: Keep the embargo strong!

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe