The following report by Florida's Treasure Coast Palm reflects our many blog posts on Marco Rubio's love affair with Big Sugar. Note: Rubio and Big Sugar allies refused to respond to this writer.
There are many good Republicans who believe that the federal government has "too many regulations". Many of these Republicans are unaware that the anti-regulatory war is funded by polluters; from the Koch Brothers to Big Sugar.
Right now they are quiet because Donald Trump has upset many apple carts, but he hasn't upset the GOP holy war against environmental rules.
Big Sugar uses populist fear about government over-reach to hide the ways Big Sugar contributes to the destruction of property values and natural resources loved by generations and millions of Floridians. That is the story of 2016, on the east and west coasts of Florida bombed by Big Sugar's pollution through toxic Lake Okeechobee.
The bottom line: Florida can't afford Marco Rubio.
Florida can't afford more pawns of Big Sugar who use Tallahassee and Washington, DC to turn private property and public health into their sacrifice zones.
Vote for Patrick Murphy on Tuesday to replace Rubio and vote for Hillary Clinton who will give us a fighting chance to reverse control of government by the Big Sugar oligarchs.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has cozy relationship with Fanjul sugar family
Isadora Rangel , email@example.com 8:16 p.m. EDT November 3, 2016
0701-2016 Marco Rubio.JPG
Sugar family has invested more than $500,000 to get Rubio elected.
Fanjuls helped Rubio launch first Senate run and introduced him to political figures.
Rubio is a staunch supporter of sugar price supports.
After talking about being the son of a bartender during his announcement to run for president last year, Marco Rubio walked off stage in Miami and hugged a middle-age man in a tan suit.
That man was Jose "Pepe" Fanjul, the patriarch of the family that owns sugar giant Florida Crystals and whom Rubio has credited for helping him win the U.S. Senate seat he's defending this year.
The Fanjuls and their company have supported Rubio since his first election to the Florida House in 2000 and stood by him as he became the speaker, a senator and a presidential candidate. And Rubio has stood by many of the company's positions, in particular related to the environment and Lake Okeechobee discharges.
In addition to the $504,000 the Fanjuls and their company have given to support the Republican, they have organized dozens of fundraisers and introduced him to key political players. The sugar industry, including Florida Crystals competitor U.S. Sugar Corp., has invested $598,000 on Rubio since 2000.
Marco Rubio, Rick Scott are top recipients of sugar contributions
Rubio and the Fanjuls share a common personal background. Pepe and his brother, Alfonso, were born into a prominent Cuban sugar family that fled the island after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. They created one of the nation's largest sugar productions in South Florida, with operations in the Dominican Republic as well. Rubio's parents left the island in 1956.
"The Fanjuls believed in me early on, when few others did, and I'm grateful for that," Rubio said in an emailed statement. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
Despite winning the Senate in 2010 on an anti-big government platform, Rubio is a staunch defender of a federal program that artificially inflates sugar prices. The Great Depression-era program sets quotas on imports and gives growers loans they can repay with surplus sugar if prices fall near of below the loan rate.
The program has many opponents: environmentalists; manufacturers that use sugar in their products, like candy makers; and the corn industry, which produces corn syrup, a sugar substitute. Congress has voted to continue the program several times with support from several Florida lawmakers.
The sugar industry employs 14,000 to 15,000 people in Florida, and Rubio is prepared to eliminate the program once other countries end their sugar subsidies, he said in a 2015 "Meet the Press" interview.
"If the American sugar industry is wiped out because, for example, the Brazilians heavily subsidize theirs," Rubio said, "once we are out of the picture, the Brazilians now hold a disproportionate share of the sugar industry and at that point they can charge whatever they want for it."
Rubio's Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, voted against a 2013 amendment to reform the federal sugar program. Murphy, who represents the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County, "supports working with our trading partners to remove subsidies and barriers so that all sides can compete on a level playing field," his campaign said.
Rubio's rise in the Florida Legislature was meteoric. First elected in 2000, he became the first Cuban-American speaker in 2006. That was after his friend and fellow Cuban-American Gaston Cantens lost a bid to the House top job. Cantens left the Legislature to work for Florida Crystals and supported Rubio's presidential candidacy over former Gov. Jeb Bush. Cantens didn't return requests for comment.
Rubio and Florida Crystals opposed a 2008 state deal to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist negotiated the purchase, most of which fell through after the 2008 recession.
Florida Crystal's opposition to the plan was "strong," said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg, then Crist's chief of staff, who led negotiations with U.S. Sugar.
"(U.S. Sugar) came to the state of Florida and wanted to sell all of its land," Eikenberg said. "The discussion was with one company, not both."
When Crist ran for Senate in 2010, the Fanjuls put their muscle behind his challenger: Rubio, a 37-year-old still largely unknown outside his Miami district.
Rubio wrote in his autobiography, "An American Son," the family organized a fundraiser that helped him rake in enough money for his campaign to be taken seriously. Pepe Fanjul introduced Rubio to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who later endorsed Rubio.
Rubio now opposes using federal and state dollars to buy 60,000 acres south of the lake under a new plan Florida Senate President-elect Joe Negron proposed this year. Florida Crystals owns most of the land Negron has identified, and criticized the plan for potentially taking land out of production and killing jobs. Murphy supports the plan.
Rubio has dismissed allegations the Fanjuls influence his environmental positions. He often touts his work lobbying the Senate this year to approve the $1.95 billion Central Everglades Planning Project, which is estimated to reduce 14 percent of lake discharges when complete.
"Anyone who donates to my campaign is buying into my agenda, not the other way around," he said in a statement.
Rubio offers 3 proposals to stop the algae, but sending water south isn't one
Rubio has said he prefers to focus first on existing restoration efforts and pollution entering the lake from the north. Trying to get money for those projects and a land buy at the same time jeopardizes getting any of those projects funded, he said.
There were positive environmental actions during Rubio's two-year speaker term, including $300 million each year for the Florida Forever land preservation program and a sugar-backed plan to address pollution entering Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River.
But he's consistently shared sugar's views on sending Lake O water south. He also voted for a controversial 2003 law that delayed by 10 years a 2006 deadline to clean Everglades-bound runoff, mostly from sugar farms.
"I think when you look at the comments Rubio has made about the Everglades, his comments were perfectly mirrored on the comments made by Florida Crystals," said Audubon Executive Director Eric Draper, an environmental lobbyist in Tallahassee.