Big Sugar already spending big ahead of 2024 elections

The 2024 election cycle may seem a long way off.

But Big Sugar’s already started to “invest” in compliant politicians and shady political action committees.

State campaign finance records show that in the first quarter of 2023, the sugar industry’s political spending topped $1 million, the bulk of the money spent by Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar.

None of the money went directly to candidates, though significant chunks went to the following campaign committees:

  • Friends of Ben Albritton (Republican Senator District 26, Senate Majority Leader, incoming Florida Senate President 2024-26) — $25,000 from US Sugar
  • Friends of Ashley Moody (Florida Attorney General) — $25,000 from US Sugar
  • Friends of Erin Grall (Republican Senator District 54) — $10,000 from US Sugar
  • Friends of Lois Berman (Democratic Senator District 31) — $10,000 from US Sugar
  • Friends of Blaise Ingoglia (Republican Senator District 11) — $10,000 from US Sugar
  • Friends of Lauren Melo (Republican Rep. District 82) — $5,000 from US Sugar
  • Friends of Corey Simon (Republican Senator District 3) — $10,000 from US Sugar
  • Friends of Jonathan Martin (Republican Senator District 33) — $10,000 from US Sugar
  • Friends of Jim Boyd (Republican Senator District 21) — $5,000 from Florida Crystals

The rest went to the political action committees Big Sugar and other special interests use to cloak the true scope of their political giving.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC — one of the “Big 6,” the six main PACs that get the most sugar money — took in the most of any single recipient during the cycle, $250,000 from US Sugar

Associated Industries of Florida — another “Big 6” PAC – got $100,000 from US Sugar.

Floridians for Economic Advancement got $110,000 from Florida Crystals.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign got $100,000 from US Sugar.

The Republican Party of Florida got $75,000 from US Sugar.

Conservatives for Principled Leadership got $50,000 from US Sugar.

And more than two dozen other PACs — some with laughable names like “Vision and Integrity for Florida” or “Ethics and Honesty in Florida Government” — got anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000.

Again, the vast majority of this money — $900,000 — came from US Sugar; Florida Crystals spent a total of $120,000 during the quarter, with the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative spending $15,000.

This, on top of Big Sugar’s spending during the 2022 election cycle, where the industry dropped $10.4 million to Florida PACs/candidates, and federal candidates got nearly $8 million.

Big Sugar also spent more than $19 million on lobbying in 2022, according to the website Open Secrets — and has already spent $4.5 million this year.

Big Sugar’s federal lobbying efforts are ramping up as Congress considers renewing the federal Farm Bill, which is renewed every five years and benefits the sugar industry via low-interest loans, price supports and import quotas, all designed to keep the price of sugar in the United States higher than it is on the global market.

The money spent on elections and lobbying pays huge dividends for Big Sugar.

Big Sugar, of course, is but one “special interest”; the sprawl industry, the big utilities and others are also spending millions to influence legislators and legislation.

In the coming months we’ll track their influence and spending, helping you to understand why Florida in particular passes so many laws benefiting polluters at the expense of our waterways.

Dirty money = dirty water. And it’s time Floridians who value clean water do something about it.