Why I Went Sugar-Free — and Why Other Florida Democrats Should Follow My Lead
By Chris King
November 14, 2017
From day one on the campaign trail, I made a promise to never accept campaign contributions from the sugar industry. I made this promise for two reasons: to never be beholden to special interests, and to protect Florida’s environment.
Big Sugar spends millions on Florida elections every year, giving to both Republicans and Democrats. The industry is one of the biggest political spenders in the state. In the last two decades, the sugar industry has pumped nearly $60 million into Florida’s local and state elections.
This year alone, U.S. Sugar has given over $2.2 million to political campaigns. It recently gave $100,000 to the political committee of State Rep. Jose Oliva, the GOP’s presumed next Speaker. And it has given nearly $300,000 to Adam Putnam, one of my Republican opponents in the governor’s race.
It’s no question there’s too much special interest money in politics. Everyday Floridians can’t compete with the excessive influence of Big Sugar and other interest groups in our elections. But that’s not even the biggest problem that comes with the sugar industry’s stronghold on Florida’s elections.
Big Sugar has lobbied for decades against critical environmental regulations that would protect Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades from further damage. The politicians who take campaign contributions from the sugar industry are pressured to vote against environmental protection efforts to keep their war chests full during election years.
After years of failing to prioritize our environment, our state government has allowed Lake Okeechobee to become contaminated with harmful particles from sugar field fertilizer, giving way to toxic algae blooms. And when the water levels in Lake Okeechobee get too high, the toxic water flows east and west, harming everything in its path, because sugar companies have fought to route the water away from their own land.
Our state faces a number of environmental challenges, from rising seas to stronger storms to toxic polluted water. We’ve got to address these serious issues in any way we can: by committing Florida to the U.S. Climate Alliance, by mandating storm preparedness, by supporting climate research, by investing in renewable energy.
But while some of these effects of climate change may be near impossible to reverse at this point, saving our Everglades is still plainly within reach. Anyone who’s serious about protecting our Everglades and saving Lake Okeechobee should be paving the path to more environmental protection — not funding their campaign with money from the industry that caused this environmental harm in the first place.
That’s why I’m not accepting any contributions from the sugar industry — because I’m serious in my commitment to Florida’s beautiful resources and prized environment. And if any of my fellow candidates for governor are serious about protecting our environment, they will join me in refusing to accept campaign contributions from Big Sugar.