Let them eat algae
Win or lose, Donald Trump has done the public a service by being probably the first candidate for the presidency, and perhaps any high office, to openly admit that bribery is good. He has boasted in his crude way that he gives liberally to candidates in order to buy influence. And circumstances in Florida pretty much proved it when it was revealed that his foundation donated $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, shortly before she declined to join a lawsuit brought against Trump University for defrauding students in Florida.
Trump can acknowledge his fondness for bribery because, under current campaign contribution rules, bribery is not a crime. It’s only a crime if you get caught on a recording saying, “I’ll accept your campaign contribution with the understanding that I’ll vote for anything you want me to.” Quid pro quo.
That doesn’t happen very often. But it apparently happened in Pennsylvania, where a former state treasurer and a massive campaign contributor were recently indicted. The treasurer was taking campaign contributions in return for allowing a financial company to be a “finder” for money managers to handle state funds. The finder contributed $3 million but got back several million a year from the favored findees. The details have not come out, but the papers reported that an undercover federal informant and tape recordings were involved. We discussed this case in the current issues of several of Gulfstream Media Group’s magazines. We wonder why, if they aren’t already doing it, the feds aren’t looking at the history of massive campaign contributions by Big Sugar (major sugar producers and related agricultural interests), which have had such a detrimental effect on the Everglades and major waterways on both sides of the state.
All bribery of public officials costs the taxpayers eventually, if only in the legal tab to put them in jail, but the situation in Pennsylvania, in which parties simply enriched themselves, seems petty compared to Florida, where tourism and water-related businesses on both side of the state are damaged, the Everglades are endangered and, eventually, the water supply of all South Florida may be threatened.
The campaign contributions ($8.5 million by one sugar company) ensure that no matter how loud the public outcry, the votes to buy the land south of Lake Okeechobee necessary to restore the natural flow of water south into the Glades never seem to be there. Even legislators who live in areas most severely damaged usually vote for Big Sugar over their own neighbors. Those same legislators usually win handily. Why? $8.5 million has a lot to do with it.
Joan E. Friedenberg of Boynton Beach, in a letter to The Palm Beach Post earlier this summer, supplies some details. Martin County (Stuart, Fort Pierce) has been most damaged by the disastrous algae blooms (seen above on a Treasure Coast waterway) caused by polluted water being pumped into the salt-water estuary in Stuart. Businesses and residents have been screaming, but reader Friedenberg points out that they don’t take their anger to the ballot box.
She points out that Gov. Rick Scott, accused of ties to Big Sugar, beat environmentally friendly Charlie Crist by 55 to 40 percent in Martin County. Pam Bondi, Scott’s lackey, won by 66 percent to 31 percent. Two influential state elected officials seen as friendly to sugar interests won with 63 percent and 74 percent support. Go figure. Can Martin County voters be so uninformed, or does $8.5 million set the political agenda?
Until the feds get involved, or Martin County voters wake up, let them eat algae.
Photo provided by Ecosphere.