The Everglades ecosystem and its preservation is a a life or death matter for those living south of Shingle Creek. Last year the Audubon Society awarded Senator Darren Soto the “Champion of the Everglades.”
While elements of Soto’s record are admirable from an environmental perspective such as his filing of anti-fracking legislation like so many other issues, Soto has no problem taking money from those who harm the Everglades yet refuse to be accountable for it. In his current campaign to fill the open Congressional District 9 which is being vacated by Alan Grayson.
Soto sugar has accepted close to $13,000 in money from the sugar industry including $5,000 last month. In past election cycles while running for state office, Soto has accepted money from the industry. Strangely this hasn’t impacted Audubon’s assessment of Soto as an Everglades “champion” but when you consider that organization has been more “pragmatic” in its courting of GOP officials and candidates in the last decade than other prominent environmental groups, perhaps it makes perfect sense.
In the 2014 cycle when facing nominal opposition from an NPA candidate in one of the state’s most Democratic districts, Soto accepted ten checks totaling $5,000 from sugar-related entities.
Certainly many in the political business seem to think it is okay to take money from sugar and then “vote against” them. But the goalposts have been moved because of the number of Democrats accepting sugar money and then being friendly with the industry has changed the way the debate about Florida’s critical water issues are framed. Democrats in the Florida Legislature have essentially accepted time and again water quality and ecosystem maintenance is of secondary importance when weighed against development, road building and corporate interests that clash with water quality.
Water and sea rise are the biggest issues facing Florida’s long-term future and on both of these matters Florida’s Republican governing class continues to drop the ball. The idea that the sugar industry would want to contribute to the campaign of many Democrats. It’s baffling that so many like Soto are desperate for campaign cash they’re willing to take money from all
In the past, some prominent Democrats have argued with me that sugar money is essential to funding the party and legislative candidates because the Republicans have all the other corporate money locked up. Democratic candidates, party executive committees, local Democratic clubs and partisan functions have all been recipients of sugar’s generous contributions over the course of the last two decades. Additionally, developers in southeast Florida have influenced Democratic elected officials for years and have created a hostility between local parties and environmentalists.
Unless candidates are so hard up for money it’s difficult for many activists and those who aren’t engaged in the day-to-day political dealings to understand why Democrats especially those who claim to be environmentalists continue to accept so much money from the sugar industry.
Working in Soto’s favor however, perhaps some Democrats in CD-9 don’t mind seeing their representative accept contributions from sugar. This is because in the 2014 cycle, Alan Grayson accepted $12,500 in campaign cash from sugar related entities.
Senator Soto has through the years been all over the place on issues and his acceptance of money from the sugar industry election cycle after election cycle should not exactly inspire confidence in his claims that he would be a progressive if elected to Congress.