Ron DeSantis blasts Florida sugar industry that’s indirectly funding his campaign

Written by on September 16, 2018

Ron DeSantis, Republican candidate for Florida governor, calls sugar price supports “corporate welfare” and says the industry has too much influence.

On the campaign trail, Ron DeSantis has railed against Florida’s sugar industry, blasting its two largest corporations for having too much influence in Tallahassee and D.C.

Even before running for Florida governor, the former congressman — who resigned this week to focus on his campaign — opposed U.S. sugar policy in the Farm Bill.

As business interests continue to support DeSantis, it’s likely the industry will continue to indirectly fund the Republican who’s used sugar as a punching bag throughout his campaign.

Jobs for Florida, a PAC affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, gave DeSantis’ PAC $100,000 at the end of last month. U.S. Sugar Corp. of Clewiston and Florida Crystals of West Palm Beach have contributed more than $280,000 to Jobs for Florida since 2013.

Neither company has reported any political contributions since the Aug. 28 GOP primary, but each has donated to both Republicans and Democrats running for office within the past two years.

U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals did not respond to TCPalm’s questions for this story.

DeSantis’ campaign has asked business-friendly PACs to avoid giving any money from the sugar industry to him, spokesman Stephen Lawson said. However, that’s impossible, as all donations are funneled into one pot and cannot be parsed out — unless the PAC returns the sugar money.

Florida politicians have accepted campaign contributions from the sugar industry for decades. But now that Big Sugar is getting blamed for toxic algae blooms, a connection to the industry has turned into a political liability.

Sugar stopped direct donations

The relationship between DeSantis and the sugar industry wasn’t always volatile.

DeSantis received at least $4,500 in direct contributions from the sugar industry when he first ran for Congress in 2012, and thousands more within his first year in office.

Such contributions stopped after 2014, when he voted to eliminate sugar price supports and foreign import tariffs, calling them and a $300 million U.S. Department of Agriculture bailout “corporate welfare.” He voted for similar reforms in May.

During the GOP primary, the sugar industry backed his opponent, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The same goes for the state’s largest business and industry groups, whose PACs are partially funded by sugar industry money.

DeSantis rejects direct sugar money

DeSantis accused the sugar industry of funding “dark money” attack ads against him in the primary and called Putnam “U.S. Sugar’s errand boy” during a debate. DeSantis’ campaign has rejected sugar money and will continue to do so until November, Lawson said. DeSantis’ Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, has not accepted any money from the sugar industry, but has been less critical of Florida’s largest sugar companies.

Source: Ron DeSantis blasts Florida sugar industry that’s indirectly funding his campaign

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