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August 2018

Miami Herald leaves earth in search of extra-terrestrials

By Brian E. Crowley

No. Someone dear God tell me this is a joke. Have we moved April Fool's Day to August? Has the Miami Herald been sold to Area 51?

Why you might ask am I ranting? Well, let's just say the Herald made a rather unusual endorsement in the Republican Primary for 27th Congressional District - Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera. Unusual because she is Hispanic? Nope? Unusual because she is a woman? Nope.

Unusual because, well judge for yourself:

We realize that Rodriguez Aguilera is an unusual candidate. Last year, she told the Miami Herald — and several Spanish-language media outlets — that she believes in extra-terrestrials. She says when she was 7, she was taken aboard a spaceship and, throughout her life, she has communicated telepathically with the beings, which remind her of the concrete Christ in Brazil. There you have it.

“This is a non-issue,” she told the Board. We agree. Her bona fides as a former elected official, and now a businesswoman who spends time in other countries training women to run for office are solid.

Rodriguez Aguilera is a strong candidate in the race with plausible conservative ideas. 

You think I made that up don't you. Please read it for yourself:

So the Herald is trying to convince voters that this is the best the Republican Party has to offer as a candidate to go Washington.


At a time when journalism has more than its share of problems this silliness seems like more like click-bait than a thoughtful look at the candidates.

The Herald should be embarrassed. 

Are Florida Republicans leaderless?

Hatchet135 copy

It is time to stop blaming Big Sugar

It Is Time To Stop Blaming Big Sugar

By Brian E. Crowley

UPDATE:  This was first written in July 2016. Much of it remains true today. Let me add something.  One rarely hears environmentalists complaining about growth. Palm Beach County, to use but one example, has added hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses that creep into the edge of what was once part of the Everglades ecosystem.

Every mile of asphalt and concrete is less ground to absorb rain, filter it, and feed our aquifers. It is no longer as simple as blaming Big Sugar. Still, as we approach another election, with algae blooms, red tide, fish kills, and a level of toxins that threaten human health, maybe we can dream about the day both environmentalists and agriculture interests not only agree on the problem but also the solution.


SHAKING MONEY TREE   It is time to stop blaming Big Sugar.

Yes, Big Sugar is winning. It owns the governor’s office, the cabinet, and the Florida Legislature. It has power over much of Florida’s congressional delegation.

Formidable Tallahassee reporter Mary Ellen Klas did a masterful job this week with an in-depth storyin the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times about the power of Big Sugar.

Between 1994 and 2016, a review of state Division of Elections records by The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau shows, the sugar industry — led by United States Sugar and Florida Crystals — has steered a whopping $57.8 million in direct and in-kind contributions to state and local political campaigns.


The Sugar industry has been masterful. No matter what successes the environmental community has had – passage of the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, the 1996 Polluter Pays Amendment to the Florida Constitution, the 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (sign by President Bill Clinton with then Gov. Jeb Bush by his side), or the 2014 Water and Land Conservation Act – the Sugar industry has been able to either slow down implementation or thwart the intent.


By owning a stable of elected officials. By hiring top teams of lobbyists. By having connections in critical government agencies.

And, nothing they do is illegal. Sugar simply plays the game of politics better than their opponents.

As Klas reported:

“I can tell you, first hand, that the industry is directly involved with every decision this Legislature makes,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation which for decades has fought the sugar industry over the causes and solutions of the Everglades and was a chief of staff to former Gov. Charlie Crist. (Note: I previously was a media consultant for the Foundation.)

Eikenberg works hard to make sure the Foundation’s voice is heard in Tallahassee but it is an often frustrating experience.

Eikenberg was part of the Crist team that put together the deal to buy U.S. Sugar land. At the time, the company applauded the deal and was eager to get out of the sugar business. But when U.S. Sugar wanted out of the contract it fought hard. And they found a willing ally in the newly elected governor, Rick Scott (to whom they contributed handsomely) who said hell no about buying the land.

No matter the setback, the sugar industry always comes out ahead.

But it is time to stop blaming them. Perhaps it is time to blame the environmentalists.

No dear God – not the “good” guys!


The sugar industry is united. Its goal is simple – keep farming, no government intrusion, protect profits.

Environmentalists often are not united. While they may all talk about stopping algae blooms, saving America’s Everglades, rivers and springs, there is a tendency to go their separate regional ways. Each part of the state has its own environmental concerns. Each fights to get money from the same state pot of dough. Each jealously guards its own circle of influence.

It is the kind of division that an opponent loves.

Money from sugar goes to candidates who will support them.

While there are billionaires and millionaires in the environmental community who give generously, there is rarely an effort to identify environmentally friendly candidates and support them. Perhaps even more important, there is little effort to make a concerted effort to defeat incumbents who opposed the environmental agenda.

There is no price for most incumbents who defy the environmentalists. There is a huge price in opposing sugar. Nothing illustrates that better than passage of the Water and Land Conservation Act. Seventy-five percent of Florida voters supported the Amendment.

75 percent.

This may have annoyed the sugar industry but it is used to it. So Sugar did what it does best – it worked with the Legislature to ensure that the amendment would do them little harm.

Look there is nothing wrong with that. It is politics. And the environmental community could learn a great deal from how the sugar industry operates in Tallahassee.

Until environmentalists win legislative races with candidates who strongly support them and, put those who oppose them in fear of losing – or at the very least force costly, tough races, Sugar will continue to win. Because that’s what they do.

It is time to stop blaming Sugar.

A rare Florida Political record album

Graham Album Cover

By Brian E. Crowley

One finds the oddest things when looking through old boxes. Here a record album from 1986. The album speaks for itself. And for those of you who followed Bob Graham, let's hear you sing: "We have a friend in Bob Graham." 

Not sure if daughter Gwen has come up with a similar ditty for her campaign for governor.

And here's the flipside:


Graham Album Flipside

Jimmy Buffett seen singing with Bob Graham

Skits graham and buffett

By Brian E. Crowley

Sometime during the early 1980s. then Gov. Bob Graham, always a bit of a ham, decided he would pretend being Jimmy Buffett during the annual Tallahassee press corps skits. As Graham warbled away, the real Buffett came on stage dressed as if he was Florida's governor.

Now, Buffett is campaigning for Graham's daughter Gwen who is a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor. She is the third Graham to take a shot at the governor's mansion. Her father won two terms, plus three in the U.S. Senate. Her grandfather l0st his bid to be governor in 1944.

Whether Buffett can bring any votes to Gwen Graham is doubtful....but for his fans, it is certainly entertaining.


Will tonight's Florida Democratic Debate make any difference?

By Brian E. Crowley

Her voice on the phone sounds quite serious. She is a Democrat. She will vote in the primary for governor. She is confused, not sure for whom to vote.

One of the best things about Florida's Democratic primary is that there are five interesting candidates for governor. One of the worst things about Florida's Democratic primary is that there are five interesting candidates for governor.

Well, I say, there's Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Chris King, Phil Levine and Jeff Greene. Who? she says. I go over the list again.

She ponders each of them, asking questions. I give neutral answers. She eliminates a couple of them and says she is going to do more research. The primary is August 28. She has time.

This is not an unusual moment. Many of the folks who will vote in the Democratic primary are clueless or confused or both about the candidates. Few have the fervor of a Trump Republican. These voters may loathe Trump, and they are certain to loathe Congressman Ron DeSantis (the increasingly likely GOP nominee) but they lack a deep connection to anyone in the Democratic field.

Tonight, the five Democratic candidates will participate in a statewide debate being aired from the studios of WPBF-25 in West Palm Beach. It will be broadcast by other stations around the state. Is this the moment that will make a difference? Is this the moment when Florida Democrats, after months of being indifferent, find the leader of their party? 


Many Democrats will remain indifferent. Many will not bother to vote in the primary. Many will continue to complain about Republicans in general and Trump-lovers in particular. Many will accept the eventual Democratic nominee grudgingly.

And that is the mistake Democrats have too often made during the past 20-years of GOP dominance in the state.