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Biography Tom Rooney

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Tom Rooney Tom Rooney
Tom Rooney
U.S. Representative for Florida (since 2009) - member of the Republican Party.


Tom Rooney Biography

ENG: Thomas J. "Tom" Rooney (born November 21, 1970) is the U.S. Representative for Florida's 17th congressional district, serving in Congress since 2009. He is a member of the Republican Party.


Early life

Tom Rooney was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When Tom was 14 his father, Patrick J. Rooney Sr., moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida where the family owned a dog track and gambling business. He graduated from the Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, Florida in 1989. In college, Rooney played football for Syracuse University and Washington & Jefferson College outside of Pittsburgh where he earned his B.A. in English Literature. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

Rooney attended the University of Florida where he received his M.A. in Political Science. After that he went to the University of Miami School of Law where he received his J.D. and met his wife Tara Lombardi. They became a members of The Florida Bar Association in 1999.


Early political career

As his first job out of college, Tom Rooney worked for U.S. Senator Connie Mack III, who had worked with Tom's father, Patrick J. Rooney Sr., at one time. Tom started in Senator Mack's mailroom: "We opened every letter and that’s where I learned what people’s issues were. It really helped shape a blank slate in my life." After getting his Masters, he returned to Florida, where he went to work as an Assistant Attorney General. While working as a criminal prosecutor for Attorney General Charlie Crist, he joined the Board of Directors with “The Children’s Place at Home Safe,” a Palm Beach County shelter that helps abused, neglected, and abandoned children. In 2005, Tom was named CEO of Home Safe and because of his work there, Governor Jeb Bush appointed Rooney to the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County Board of Directors in January 2006. After his second year as director, Rooney returned to the Board of Directors of Children’s Place and resumed his practice of law in Stuart, Florida with the law firm of Kramer, Sopko & Levenstein, P.A. He is a graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County.


U.S. House of Representatives - Elections - 2008

Rooney challenged Democratic incumbent Tim Mahoney. Mahoney had narrowly won the Republican-leaning district in 2006, after former Congressman Mark Foley abruptly resigned under a cloud of scandal. Florida election law required Foley's name to remain on the general election ballot, with votes for him being transferred to his replacement, State Representative Joe Negron. It was widely believed that this significantly undermined Negron's chances, as many voters would be reluctant to cast a ballot in Foley's name.

Given Mahoney's narrow margin of victory, coupled with the unusual circumstances surrounding the 2006 election, the 16th District was viewed as one of Republicans' best opportunities to take a congressional seat from the Democrats in 2008. In the Republican Party primary, Rooney was endorsed by Florida's Governor, Charlie Crist and defeated State Representative Gayle Harrell and investment banker Hal Valeche. Mahoney, aided by incumbency and having burnished his image as a moderate Blue Dog Democrat, consistently led Rooney in polls throughout the 2008 election cycle until mid-October 2008, when it was revealed that Mahoney, who had promoted a family values image and campaigned against corruption in contrast to the disgraced Foley, had engaged in multiple extramarital affairs and secretly paid off his mistresses to conceal them. This revelation shifted the race decisively in Rooney's favor, even causing the Palm Beach Post to take the rare step of rescinding its previous endorsement of Mahoney and endorsing Rooney instead.



Rooney ran unopposed in the Republican primary. In the general election, he defeated Democratic nominee Jim Horn and write-in candidate William Dean.



Rooney chose to run in the safely Republican 17th district. Approximately one-third of the reapportioned District 17 voters are from Rooney's current District 16. He faced an Aug. 14 primary challenge from Joe Arnold, a Republican state committeeman for Okeechobee County and member of the school board. Rooney defeated Arnold in a landslide, getting 74% of vote. Rooney runs in the general election against a retired airline pilot, Democrat William Bronson (formerly an unsuccessful Republican candidate in Massachusetts and Georgia) as well as Socialist Workers Party write-in candidate Tom Baumann (who ran unsuccessful campaigns in Minnesota and in the Borough of Manhattan).

Rooney received endorsements in Florida from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Reps. Allen West and Dennis A. Ross as well as from the National Rifle Association. In their Saturday, October 13, edition the Tampa Bay Times recommended Tom Rooney for the District 17 seat, and on October 19, The Tampa Tribune endorsed him. The Bradenton Herald recommended Rooney on 26 October.



One of the first bills Rooney introduced in the House was to prevent any money being spent to bring prisoners to Florida from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Another was a bill he co-sponsored to try to reduce the number of military veteran suicides by mandating mental health screenings for returning troops. Although that bill did not pass, the military eventuall adopted the reforms Rooney asked for. Rooney has been recognized by the city of Stuart, Florida for his efforts to prevent veterans suicides.

Rooney sponsored a bill to name a federal courthouse under construction in Fort Pierce in honor of a St. Lucie County rancher, and former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice, Alto Lee Adams Sr.; Rooney's bill was approved by the House in September 2009, but was not passed by the Senate until September 2012, when the new courthouse had been in open for eight months.

Since 2009, Rooney has personally presented Congressional Award medals to young people in his district.

In April 2011, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, traveled to Iraq with Rooney and four other members, who met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ambassador James Franklin Jeffrey. Rooney said that they discussed with Maliki how the United States and Iraq might interact diplomatically after the U.S. troop withdrawal scheduled for December of that year.

On the evening of February 19th, 2012, a man crashed his pickup truck into Rooney's Stuart, Florida office. No one was inside the building at the time. The man claimed he tried to park in front of the building, but instead of pressing the brake, accidentally pressed the accelerator. The driver was cited for careless driving by the Stuart Police Department.

Rooney, as Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, introduced The Defense of Environment and Property Act in March 2012. This act would make changes to federal water regulations and prevent some prosecutions of farmers and landowners by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. In response to an expansion of federal power to regulate wetlands in a 2011 EPA and Army Corps document that redefined "navigable waters," the Rooney bill defines navigable waters to exclude “wetlands without a continuous surface connection” to a body of water. The Rooney bill is a companion to a Senate bill introduced by Rand Paul.


Personal life

Tom Rooney is a grandson of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. and a first cousin, once removed, of actresses Kate Mara and Rooney Mara.

Rooney is also related to Pittsburgh Steelers owner and ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney. Tom's younger brother, Brian J. Rooney, has a seat on the Pittsburgh Steelers Board of Directors which was previously held by their father. Brian, a veteran of the Iraq War, is a Deputy Director of Michigan Department of Human Services, and was a candidate in 2010 for Congress in Michigan's 7th congressional district. Tom's older brother, Patrick J. Rooney Jr., serves in the Florida House of Representatives in District 83.

Tom, Tara and their three sons (Tommy,Sean,Seamus )split their time between Tequesta, Florida and Washington D.C. Rooney decided to run in the new District 17, and he promised to move into that district, but told The Ledger that he and his wife have not yet decided on which city. Rooney plans to move to Charlotte County, but he says that "I'm leaving where I grew up. That's the hardest thing." Charlotte County has the largest percentage of voters in the newly-drawn district, and includes the city of Punta Gorda (where Rooney has his campaign office and one of his Congressional offices) as well as the larger, but unincorporated Port Charlotte as well as other unincorporated communities.


Palm Beach Kennel Club

Tom's grandfather, Art Rooney, bought the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach in 1969 and his father ran the business as president from 1984 until recently, when his brother, Patrick J. Rooney Jr., became president of the club. Tom Rooney lists ownership of stock in family businesses in his congressional financial disclosure form. Rooney has said that he has neither operational nor ownership responsibilities, and the stock is part of a trust with his children as beneficiaries. In 2010, Rooney stood at 346th place in terms of net worth among the members of the U.S. House.

The Palm Beach Kennel Club serves the product of yet another family business, Rooney's Old Irish Ale. The Palm Beach County Commission has approved a referendum for the November 2012 ballot to decide whether slot machines will be allowed at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. Tom's cousin Joe Rooney is a spokesman for, as well as Co-Chair and Treasurer of the coalition supporting the Palm Beach County slot machines referendum. Other Florida counties have put slot machine referendums on the November ballot, but Attorney General Palm Bondi issued an opinion that current state law does not allow slots outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Joe Rooney said Palm Beach County will have several paths to follow if the referendum succeeds, including legislation and legal action. 





January 23, 2013

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