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Jeb Bush Governs Florida Wetlands to Sugar Producer’s Profit

2016-01-08

An article in the New Yorker describes the effect that the sugar lobby has had on Jeb Bush’s governance in Florida.  Gigantic lobbying by the sugar industry, a major phosphorus polluter in the Everglades, caused Bush to legislate a change in the laws governing cleanup of the wetlands.  The sugar cane growers dump their effluent water into the wetlands, and this causes high levels of phosphorus to stimulate algae growth.  The laws, passed in 1994, state that the wetlands should be cleaned up in two stages, but when it came time in 2003 to implement the second phase, the sugar industry started lobbying Bush and the Republican party generally, and the second stage was indefinitely delayed.

The article states that, since 1998, the sugar industry has given over twenty-one million dollars to political candidates in Florida’s elections.  This figure was obtained from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.  This amount of money is trivial to an industry that has a revenue of over nine billion dollars a year.  By spending this money on lobbying, the industry is able to avoid pollution controls that would cost them considerably more, perhaps a hundred million dollars a year.

Clearly, powerful industries and people control politics and cast their influence over whomever they chose to appear at the ballot box.  No candidate could avoid their grasp, for hundreds of millions and billions of dollars are at stake.  Through its influence, the sugar industry gets tax breaks, price supports, and exemption from pollution regulations.  There is no limit to the extent to which private interests will go to obtain the influence they seek.

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