Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a longtime proponent of a hardline approach to left-leaning regimes in Cuba and Central America who commands respect from both parties in Washington on Latin American policy.
But a rookie Republican lawmaker and fellow Floridian recently turned on Ros-Lehtinen on one of her signature issues, and she isn’t happy.
Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, was one of 25 members of Congress who signed onto Ros-Lehtinen’s bill that that would limit U.S. loans to the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega until the longtime president carries out democratic reforms in the Central American country. The list of co-sponsors also includes every Republican and Democrat from Miami-Dade County.
But after Ros-Lehtinen’s bill passed the House by a voice vote in October, Rooney apparently had a change of heart.
According to Ros-Lehtinen and a U.S. official familiar with lobbying work who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, Rooney began scouring the halls of the U.S. Senate with Nicaraguan businessmen to lobby against Ros-Lehtinen’s Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act after it passed the House of Representatives — with his support.
“Why Rooney chose to lobby against a bill that he himself cosponsored and to do so without even giving me the courtesy of a notice, is practically unheard of in this institution,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “And then to take the extra step of being actively involved in lobbying against it, going to the Senate and lobbying senators against a bill he cosponsored? I don’t know what Rooney’s about, but it was not appreciated. It’s just uncool.”
Rooney did not respond to emails, phone calls and a request to speak in person about his work on the bill. A lobbyist hired by the American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua, which opposes Ros-Lehtinen’s bill, declined to say whether Rooney was working with them.
“We represent AMCHAM in Nicaragua and we do not comment on client matters,” said Carmen Group chief of staff Alison Cricks.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua has spent at least $160,000 to lobby against Ros-Lehtinen’s bill in recent months, according to lobbying records.
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