‘Dirty Money’ at work as mining giant digs deep for lawmakers

First, stop what you’re doing and visit the Friends of the Everglades website to register your opposition to House Bill 789/Senate Bill 738, which will be voted on by the full House and Senate soon. The bills deserve to die, as they’re a testament to how “dirty money” — political contributions from polluters — infects our politics.

We initially hated these bills, with good reason: Both would have deterred citizens from challenging Florida DEP or water management district decisions by saddling them with responsibility for the other side’s legal fees if they lost. The bill also would have required “holistic reviews” of the coastal permitting process, ostensibly to promote “efficiency” — and likely less oversight.

But both provisions were stripped from the bills and we moderated our opposition. That is, until we read a blockbuster piece by investigative reporter Jason Garcia detailing how phosphate mining giant Mosaic would benefit greatly from a remaining provision that would weaken Florida’s Water Quality Assurance Act.

That act imposes strict liability, meaning a polluter can be found liable whether it intended to cause harm or not. These bills would amend the WQAA by prohibiting citizens from suing polluters for personal injury or economic damages if the event that caused the injuries was permitted or authorized by a government agency.

Mosaic, Garcia reported, has been burned by the law in the past; the bills “would effectively enshrine into law some of the legal arguments the company made” as part of past lawsuits.

Rep. Toby Overdorf

The company hasn’t lobbied publicly for the bill, he reported, but — we know you’ll be shocked by this — Mosaic just happened to drop $109,000 or more on campaign contributions literally the day before the Florida Legislative session kicked off on Jan. 9. The money was doled out to legislators’ campaign committees — including $5,000 to the “Heavens to Oceans” committee, associated with Rep. Toby Overdorf — who sponsored House Bill 789, introducing it in December.

What in the world is Overdorf thinking?

Other lawmakers whose committees raked in Mosaic money the day before session began:

  • Rep. Sam Garrison (R-11), associated with Clay Conservatives, which got $10k from Mosaic.
  • Rep. Bob Rommell (R-81), associated with the Florida Conservative Committee, which got $10k.
  • Rep. Alex Andrade (R-2), associated with Constituent Priorities, which got $5k.
  • Rep. Bobby Payne (R-20), associated with Conservatives for Rural Florida, which got $5k.
  • Sen. Clay Yarborough (R-4), associated with Floridians for Conservative Values, which got $5k.
  • Sen. Colleen Burton (R-12); Friends of Colleen Burton got $5k.
  • Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R-19), associated with Conservatives for Good Government, which got $5k.
  • Rep. James Buchanan (R-74); Buchanan for Florida got $5k.
  • Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R-78), associated with the Conservative Legacy Fund, which got $5k.
  • Sen. Joe Gruters (R-22), associated with Florida Conservatives United, which got $5k.
  • Rep. Josie Tomkow (R-51), associated with Florida Farmers and Ranchers United, which got $5k.
  • Rep. Tom Leek (R-28), associated with Living Live With Purpose, which got $5k.
  • Rep. Tommy Gregory (R-72); Friends of Tommy Gregory got $3k.
  • Rep Adam Botana (R-80), associated with Conservatives for Clean Water got $2,500.
  • Sen. Corey Simon (R-3); Friends of Corey Simon got $2,500.
  • Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-77); Fentrice for Florida got $2,500.
  • Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-37); associated with New Opportunity Florida, which got $2,500.
  • Rep. Jason Shoaf (R-7); associated with Protect Our Florida Values, which got $2,500.
  • Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-6); associated with Women Building the Future, which got $2,500.
  • Rep. Jennifer Canady (R-50); Friends of Jennifer Canady got $2,500.
  • Rep. Keith Truenow (R-26); associated with Growing Florida’s Leadership, which got $2,500.
  • Rep. Michael Grant (R-75), associated with Governing Responsibly to Achieve a New Tomorrow, which got $2,500.
  • Sen. Tina Polsky (D-30), associated with Americans for Progress, which got $2,500.
  • Rep. Will Robinson (R-71), associated with Keep Moving Florida Forward, which got $2,500.
  • Rep. Tiffany Esposito (R-77); Tiffany for Florida got $1,000.

If these bills become law, bolstered by votes from these lawmakers, Mosaic’s dirty money will have been well spent. 

This is a case study of how special interests game the system, a masterclass by experts in perfidy — and business as usual in Tallahassee.

But you can do something about it!

Visit Friends of the Everglades to send a message to lawmakers in the House and Senate, demanding they vote against these bills.

And remember this in the voting booth this year.