Monday, June 04, 2018

Corporations Shift Affection To Democrats Who Could Control The Florida Senate ... by gimleteye

Since 2010 and Citizens United, the role of dark money -- now legal -- in campaign finance has grown gargantuan. Corporations can, and do, give unlimited contributions to candidates and political party depending on who and which party is most likely to control the majority in the legislature.

Republicans dominate the money landscape in Florida. Corporations and trade associations have been welded to GOP interests for two decades since Jeb Bush became governor and the Republican legislature filled behind him.

Fair Districts Florida and state court decisions ordering the re-drawing of district maps loosened the hammerlock of the GOP. It is the reason that the GOP fought tooth and nail in Florida, as it is doing in other states facing the same issue of gerrymandered districts. (Six years of non-stop litigation marred the 2010 citizens ballot referendum affirming fair districts in Florida, finally settled in 2016.)

November 2018 is the first election cycle where Florida Democrats could gain a Senate majority. Corporations are predictably scrambling to hedge their bets.

The place to look for signs of action are the heavily funded political committees who take unlimited corporate money. These investments are reported on the state campaign finance website. We are looking at the Fanjul/Florida Crystals empire, US Sugar Corporation owned by the descendants of Charles Stuart Mott, and their key executives. For example, the two Fanjul patriarchs have made no secret of appealing to both political parties. (Bill Clinton's relationship with Alfie Fanjul endures in Florida Congressional races where Democrats have a good chance to flip certain seats. Pepe Fanjul was Marco Rubio's most reliable funder in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.)

Within the Florida Democratic Party, the other place we see signs of movement are well-placed consultants who cycled out of professional roles in Democratic administrations into lobbying and public relations shops. Mercury Communications comes to mind.

Big Sugar knows the revolving door between government regulatory agencies and private contractors is an excellent strategic spot to hand out largesse. On the way out, it is dollars. On the way in, it is quid pro quo's. Lobbying firms like Mercury offer themselves to clients as "agnostic" of political affiliation. It is not just Mercury. Miami-Dade has its example of Republican and Democratic lobbyists teaming up to make money, no matter which party is in control.

Over time, this explains how Democrats could be so easily corrupted by Big Sugar. Here, "corruption", is not used light-heartedly. A core Democratic value is that clean air and water belong to all the people, not to corporations to sell back to us as a private right. Despite billions of tax dollars applied to the Everglades and our estuaries, Democrats in the Florida Senate have proven every bit as obsequious as Republicans to the demands of big campaign contributors. This encapsulates the sad story of a $2 billion reservoir plan that was senate president Joe Negron's key legislative achievement in 2017. The reservoir plan is now being sped through the Trump Corps of Engineers. It will never work as advertised because Big Sugar fundamentally hijacked an outcome fixed to its profits.

Over the next few months, watch the money from big corporations flow into Florida Democratic-oriented campaign committees. It will be a torrent and an obvious one. Even though the specific actors can shield their identities -- thanks to laws passed by Republicans -- they will make their fingerprints clear because part of being supremely powerful is making sure people know you are.

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