Associated Industries of Florida is one of the most influential business groups in the state.
» 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.
$600,000-plus — Spending on lobbying the Legislature and executive branch in 2010
$352,000 — PAC spending on candidates in 2010
"Barney is tough, but he is a gentleman."
— Dave Rancourt, an AIF contract lobbyist
Al Cardenas represents AIF in Washington.
» 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."