By Jordan Zakarin @jordanzakarin
Nikki Fried, who wants to take over the Florida Democratic Party, likes to brand herself as “something new.” But what she really represents is the status quo.
Actually, she’s far worse than that. Nikki Fried is a corporate lobbyist turned pliant politician, who has a long and well-documented history of siding with Big Businesses over everyday Floridians, engaging in unethical and untrustworthy behavior, and allying with some of the most corrupt Republican politicians in Florida.
But it’s possible that some party officials who will in the FDP chair election don’t know her full record. So let’s unpack it now.
Nikki Fried got her start in Florida politics as a corporate lobbyist representing the property insurance industry, Duke Energy and HCA Healthcare, the giant owner for-profit hospitals that Rick Scott used to run. Voters elected her in 2018 to be the state’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. But even in office, she continued to advocate for corporate interests.
For instance, 10 months after taking office, Fried used her regulatory powers to protect Big Sugar growers who had been sued by Floridians sickened by the toxic “Black Snow” that falls when the sugar companies set pre-harvest fires in their cane fields.
According to a 2022 investigation by the Palm Beach Post, Fried pretended to crack down on cane burning by announcing what she claimed were “major” new regulations. This was a dystopian trick meant to help Big Sugar instead of the people it was poisoning. Immediately after these phony regulations were announced, Big Sugar growers turned around and used them as a defense in the lawsuit against them, claiming the regulations were poof that sugarcane-burning is safe and closely monitored by the state.
Fried also used her office to help Florida Power & Light, the giant electric company that generates most of its power from fossil fuels, according to the Energy and Policy Institute, a watchdog group that advocates on behalf of consumers and clean energy.
FPL and other big utilities wanted the state’s Public Service Commission to weaken statewide energy-efficiency rules. So they enlisted Fried to personally lobby the agency on their behalf.
That’s right. Nikki Fried, who wants to be the leader of the Florida Democratic Party, pressured regulators to weaken energy efficiency goals – which are a crucial tool in the global fight against climate change. All so companies like FPL could make more money while burning more fossil fuels.
Of course, Nikki Fried was richly rewarded for work defending Big Sugar and Big Power.
A few weeks after issuing the bogus rules that helped Big Sugar, Fried received more than $100,000 in donations from organizations heavily funded by the sugar companies Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp, according to the Palm Beach Post.
And a few weeks before lending a hand to FPL’s efforts to eliminate energy efficiency goals, Fried took $25,000 from the company, according to the Florida Phoenix.
A more comprehensive analysis last summer by Seeking Rents, a newsletter that covers corporate influence in Florida politics, found that, during her time as commissioner of agriculture and commissioner affairs, Fried took at least $265,000 from Associated Industries of Florida and at least $50,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the two big-business lobbying groups who are heavily funded by U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and FPL.
Even more troubling, the analysis found that more than $1 in every $3 of the more than $2 million Fried raised while in office came from groups that deliberately hid the identities of their donors – but many of which had extensive connections to Big Sugar and Big Power.
Fried even took hundreds of thousands of dollars from political committees linked to Florida’s 2020 “ghost candidate” scandal, which Republicans used to steal three state Senate elections from Democrats – and was orchestrated, at least in part, by consultants for Big Sugar and Big Power.
This hasn’t stopped, either. Fried recently started a new fundraising committee. The No. 2 donor? A lobbyist for Big Sugar and Big Power.
But Nikki Fried isn’t just a corporate water carrier. She’s also unethical and untrustworthy.
As agriculture commissioners, Fried regulated and promoted the hemp industry – while her then-fiancé was investing millions in hemp businesses, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Fried also pushed to give herself more oversight of the state’s marijuana industry – while personally investing in the state’s biggest marijuana company, according to the Sentinel.
And she illegally hid from voters more than $300,000 of income she had earned as a lobbyist before she was elected, according to the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times.
When confronted with her record, Fried cynically lies and deflects in exactly the same way that Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis do – regardless of the damage it does to the Democratic Party or even democracy itself.
Fried falsely accused the Palm Beach Post of being paid by environmental groups to attack her when the newspaper scrutinized her record on Big Sugar. Fried had her allies attack progressive Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani when challenged on her record on Big Power. And she refused to support Florida’s minimum wage amendment for fear of alienating her big business donors.
And then there’s the fact Nikki Fried is close personal friends and political allies with some of the most corrupt Republicans in Florida politics.
Fried campaigned for DeSantis Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, who is now helping to lead the DeSantis administration’s attacks on public-school teachers, Black history, and LGBTQ+ kids.
She defended U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz when Gaetz became the subject of a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
And she dined with former Republican lobbyist Chris Dorworth on the same day she all but announced her campaign for governor.
To sum all this up, Nikki Fried is a well-marketed wolf in sheep’s clothing who, if put in charge of our party, will destroy our party from within.
Democratic Party voters saw through her act when they overwhelmingly rejected her in last year’s governor’s race.
The party officials who will vote in the FDP chair elections must see through it, too.
You’re using all the buzz words that the GOP likes so much.
Nikki is something new and good. She represented Floridians well during the 4 years she served as our Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and will revive our Party so we can start winning races again. We’re tired of retreads running over and over and losing over and over again.
Just another hit piece using all the right wing talking points.
Nikki was an amazing Commissioner who stood up to DeSantis and his cronies. She is a bulldog with a bullhorn and is not afraid to use it.
She will help us save the party in Florida.
Fried has issues. Taddeo isn’t compelling. Are these truly the best candidates FL can produce to help lead the Dem state party apparatus?
Just another hit piece. Nikki is a an effective leader that does not have to pass anybody’s purity check.