Saturday, July 26, 2014

Florida's top GOP officials entertained by Big Sugar at secret, luxurious Texas hideaway, refuse to disclose details … by gimleteye

Story of the year goes to the Tampa Bay Times exposing exclusive, luxury hunting trips to Texas by Florida's top Republican lawmakers, paid for by US Sugar. The link to the story is here. We can imagine what happened.

US Sugar and the Republican lawmakers -- those who would talk to the press (Ag Secretary Adam Putnam slammed a door in the reporter's face) claimed that the contributions -- to pay for travel expenses according to campaign finance law -- were to the Republican Party of Florida although top party officials told the Times they had never heard of the trips.

We can do the imagining because Friends of the Everglades (of which I am volunteer board chair) has been fighting the sugar industry and its state-sponsored political captives for decades in state and federal courts and in the state legislature where Big Sugar gets what it wants, when it wants it. And what Big Sugar wants more than anything is for the public to subsidize its pollution of the Everglades, caused by farming practices that keep the price of sugar to consumers high while exporting the costs of cleaning its pollution to American taxpayers.

First of all you are driven by a US Sugar limousine, maybe it is just a very luxurious Suburban like the kind rap stars favor, to the airport in Tallahassee. Or, you drive your Honda to the parking lot at the private jet operating facility (FBO) at the airport. There you are escorted to a waiting private jet. No TSA screening for these VIPs.

According to the Times, the contributions by US Sugar to the Republican Party of Florida were only for the cost of an ordinary plane ticket. That's the minimum required by law. But these legislators traveled in ultra premium class with no amenity spared.

The private jet carrying US Sugar's captives like the GOP Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, Governor Rick Scott or Adam Putnam, Ag Secretary who slammed the door in a reporter's face, didn't land at a regular airport. We can imagine their jet landing directly at the King Ranch where their luggage was separately carried to their guest quarters. Were they greeted by friendly coed's bearing leis and garlands and tropical drinks, or, did they go directly to get outfitted for the hunt with thousands of dollars of hunting equipment. Perhaps they had already given their clothing and shoe sizes and their preference for gun styles.

Let's imagine their were other corporate people there to mingle in the hunting party. What would they be talking about? We can guess.

The King Ranch and its subsidiary Consolidated Citrus have been active players in Florida agriculture since Jeb Bush days and early supporters of the failed Enron grab to privatize Florida's water supply infrastructure. Maybe the GOP legislators talked about new plans to reduce regulation, but maybe they had even more ambitious goals.

Back when Enron spent a few million dollars to entertain the state legislature, the party it threw in Tallahassee was called "Liquid Gold". George W. Bush hadn't been elected president yet, Jeb Bush was early into his first term as governor and his top environmental staff, like former DEP chief David Struhs, went to bat for the idea that private industry modeled on friends from Texas could do a better job allocating water for Floridians than guv'mint.

We can imagine that the dream of Big Sugar -- to privately control water resources like they do in Texas -- hasn't been off the table for the past decade, just pushed a little further into the tall grass where plans can mature: in places like the King Ranch where there are no reporters to do public records requests, where maybe even a US Supreme Court justice or two have been entertained.

Next time we do some imaginings along these lines, we will imagine what happens in the Dominican Republic where US Sugar's chief "competitor", Florida Crystals, and its billionaire owners -- the Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach -- have been entertaining high political officials for decades.

Anyhow wouldn't it be grand if the Tampa Bay Times could untangle the real story of what is being planned for Florida voters and taxpayers?


Anonymous said...

For them its all about socializing more risk and privatizing more profit, with as many implicit and explicit subsidies as possible. This includes shifting the cost of clean-up from the source to the public and the cost of treating your otherwise avoidable scrambled brains, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancers from them to your health insurance policy. This is the new fine print in your social contract between the government and the governed.

In that context, the politicos involved don't need to be bribed to screw the Everglades. They'd do it for free.

If we cannot hold the line in the Everglades against unlimited, unregulated growth and development beyond the carrying and assimilatve capacities of the solar-powered natural systems, then it won't happen anywhere else. This is our stand-your-ground moment for finally doing it all right now rather than some incrementally later.

No way but the flowway.

Larry E. Fink, M.S.
Waterwise Consulting, LLC

Anonymous said...

ShowMe, MO said...

Big Sugar/Big Energy = Big Money = Big Problem
We have lost control of the factors which control our lives,
our government, our environment, our economy, our education, our energy, our safety, our water, our rights and the quality of our lives. And we are so beaten down we have lost the will and maybe the power to change it. Big Money has won. Accept it or move. Prove me wrong.