Rooney hopes to transition from influential builder to influential lawmaker

Posted at 12:57 PM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 13:04:04-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Businessman Francis Rooney wants to take over fellow Republican Curt Clawson's Congressional seat.  You may not know him, but the power elite in the Republican Party sure do.

Four in Your Corner's shedding some light on the man who's written checks for millions of dollars in political contributions -- but now wants to be on the ballot himself.

Rooney's construction company has brought in nearly a billion dollars in local, state and federal contracts.  And he's written millions in checks to politicians and Super PAC's.  Some say donors like Rooney are part of the problem in Washington, so we wanted to know how he thinks he's the solution.

After not even completing two terms in office, Curt Clawson surprised everyone when he said he wasn't going to keep his Congressional seat representing Lee and Collier counties.  And that's when it clicked for Francis Rooney.

"I was sitting there watching a basketball game with my wife, and she said 'you're doing all these things to try to influence opinion, why don't you run for that and see if you can make a difference?'"

Rooney is used to making a difference.  His Manhattan Construction works on projects all over the country.  And when hes not building, he is -- as he says -- "influencing."

He's contributed more than $1 million to Republicans in Florida in just the past six years, and he's given millions more to buy influence in the nation's capitol while his businesses and related companies have earned more than a billion dollars in local, state and federal contracts.

Four in Your Corner asked what his response is to criticism that he is a special interest that's given a lot of money.

"Can I talk about the construction part first?  We do several billion dollars a year, so the government stuff is part of it.  But it's not predominate by any stretch of the imagination."

But is there a conflict of interest when Rooney makes political contributions while his companies makes millions on federal contracts?  Rooney says he follows the letter of the law.  "We've never had an ethical allegation against our company for anything like that.  We give money we believe that supports free enterprise."

And if Rooney gets elected, how will he ensure he doesn't vote on contracts that might benefit his businesses?  His answer was simple: he would put everything in a blind trust.  "We have three kids in the business. And I would have to do these documents where I have nothing to do with it. No conflict of interest. No nothing."

But is that really truly blind when you know your companies are benefiting from projects that are dependent on public funding?  "I  wont have any idea," says Rooney.  I won't know what they're doing, what they're building. I won't know anything."

But what Rooney does know, is that he will focus his energy on building a stronger economy and a safer America.

Rooney's Republican competition for the seat is Chauncey Goss and Dan Bongino.