Category Archives: Campaign Finance

U.S. Sugar, King Ranch, and Some Elected Officials Walk Into a Bar (Guest Opinion)

The following was not drafted by TameTheGorilla.  It is a guest opinion from Phil Buchanan of Pine Island, FL – pseudo-retired attorney and civic leader.  For context, first is an email excerpt describing his inability to get certain press coverage.  This is followed by his proposed Letter to the Editor. He can be contacted at for more information.  (Apologies for formatting issues.)


Email Re: Pine Island is the Next Victim of US Sugar/King Ranch Corruption
The Pine Island Eagle chose not to publish this item. The only way we have to get out the    word is email, Facebook, etc., so please forward this message to everybody you know.
The News-Press has also avoided publishing information on this corruption or even the King Ranch purchases on Pine Island. Even the extensive King Ranch involvement in the election/appointment/re-election of two county commissioners was largely ignored.
US Sugar/King Ranch refer to our local state legislator Matt Calwell as “our boy.”  I’m told they now intend to place him on the Lee County Commission. If Hamman is also re-elected, they would then own at least three of the five Lee County Commissioners, and the Pine Island Plan, environmental protection, and sustainable growth polices will be history in Lee County. That situation, if it occurs, will have been made possible by the cowardice of the media and apathy of the voters.
Please get involved. Stand up to the corruption.
Proposed Letter to Editor
Pine Island is the next victim of US Sugar/King Ranch corruption
US Sugar and King Ranch have paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to Governor Scott and other state and local officials, and in return have been rewarded with legislation and appointments worth untold millions of dollars. They claim it’s all legal because the money was routed through the Republican Party instead of going directly to the officials (like that actually makes a difference!). One newspaper said this “looks fishy.” Gee, you think! Bribery is bribery (even if it’s legal under Florida statutes!).
The victims of this corruption thus far have been the taxpayers, Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah (who was driven from office by a sleazy million dollar television blitz led by US Sugar), as well as the Everglades, the quality of our water, and the quality of life of numerous Florida communities. In the past few years, King Ranch has bought large tracts of land in Hendry, Martin, and Palm Beach Counties, and is using their enormous power and influence (including legalized bribery) to do away with local zoning and other land use controls. Now, they are also after Pine Island.
King Ranch has within the past two years purchased some 18 properties on Pine Island, a total of about 340 acres for some $4 million—all palm farms except one mangrove area near the Calusa Land Trust Dobbs Preserve (they will probably use those mangroves as “mitigation” for wetlands development). The palm farms are all in Bokeelia, include the former Soaring Eagle properties, and are located on Stringfellow Rd, Harbor Drive, Howard Rd, Quail Trail, and Pembroke Rd. King Ranch has overnight become the second largest commercial enterprise on Pine Island (second only to PalmCo). They also, true to form, immediately hired a local “developer-oriented” attorney to get rid of the Pine Island Land Use Plan. That attorney’s effort last year (aided by the County Attorney’s Office) to quietly eliminate the 910 rule failed, but no one thinks they have given up.
The corruption clearly extends into Lee County. Governor Scott, just after returning from an all-expenses paid ($20,000 or so to kill a deer) hunting trip to the King Ranch Hunting Lodge in Texas, appointed King Ranch Vice-President Mitch Hutchcraft to the South Florida Water Management District. He also appointed Brian Hamman to the Lee County Commission, and Hamman in turn also appointed Hutchcraft to the Lee County Local Planning Agency. Our legislative representative Matt Caldwell also took one of those hunting trips to King Ranch, and then sponsored legislation that saved US Sugar and King Ranch millions of dollars in Everglade’s pollution cleanup costs (which has to be made up by taxpayers). Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker got his position when US Sugar/King Ranch eliminated Ray Judah, and US Sugar and King Ranch are of course strongly supporting with money and influence the re-election of Commissioner Brian Hamman. Huge sums of PAC money are flying in every direction and extremely difficult to trace. Numerous and powerful foxes are in the Lee County hen house, which bodes ill for us chickens on Pine Island.
Pine Island is a beautiful coastal rural subtropical paradise, but unfortunately it’s located in the most corrupt state in the United States, and we are set up for some very bad times. You should expect to see well-financed misinformation campaigns, legal actions in the courts, and political shenanigans accompanied by grandiose development proposals—perhaps even including another bridge to the mainland and annexation by Cape Coral.
Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.    
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Do You Know a Good Repairman? My Democracy is Broken.

This week, The Hill contributor Allan J. Lichtman writes about “a shattering new study (that finds) ordinary Americans have virtually no impact…on the making of national policy in our country.”

Shattering? That’s really not the word I would use. Is it shattering that the sun rises? Surprising that earth spins? No. We’ve come to expect it. But interesting, I’ll give you that.

The study was conducted by pronounced university professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern. It is due out in full this fall.

Mr. Lichtman, a professor himself at the American University in Washington, likely was privy to a sneak peak. He continues that “the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a “non-significant, near-zero level”…(while the) rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process.”

Again, I don’t think this qualifies as “news” for the majority of Americans. Most of us already possess a healthy level of pessimism where political influence is concerned. But don’t let my sans-coffee, cranky musings diminish the importance of what Mr. Lichtman promotes.

Indeed, this “should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans…bypassed by their government.” Yes, “the relationship between the people and our government” must be changed.

But how?

Mr. Lichtman describes an apathetic public, one where more and more Americans are opting not to vote, not to participate. Somewhere, our country fell off the civic bandwagon.

So, what does it take to spark a revolution?

I’ll point you back to a 1972 political theory called the Downs Model. It was the basis for much of my college thesis and is something I refer to whenever I need to sound smart. It is my fix-all for virtually any governmental or social ill and is the only political theory I can identify by name.

The genesis of the model is quite simple: crisis breeds opportunity. Change follows catastrophe.

With these crises come “windows of opportunity.” Every sinking ship needs a plug, so the first shipmate to show up with a giant piece of cork wins. People aren’t so picky during times of emergency.

But the window won’t stay open forever. No patch kit? Well, there goes humanity. Opportunities are just as easily missed due to the fact that no one stepped up with a solution. Or, on the contrary, someone stepped up with a bad one.

Mr. Lichtman suggests non-elites pool their moderate resources into competing political action committees (PACs)…meet thy enemy head on in the war of political fundraising.

I’ve got to admit, PACs and Super PACs straight up give me the willies. Even for a cause I believe in, it just feels wrong. Could it be a transparent Super PAC that doesn’t eat meat and that hugs bunnies?

Frankly, I don’t have an alternative for the masses. I’ll think on it, if you will. But remember, time’s a wastin’. Do as Mr. Lichtman suggests, and act now! This is a limited time offer – it won’t last forever!


Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.


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Who Wins Every Election Cycle? The Cable Company.

Last week, I found myself wondering who really benefits from the many millions of dollars that are raised and spent by super PACs.  For the most part, I’ve assumed it was the candidates, their parties, and the special interest groups who fund these enterprises.

You know, an interest group gives money to a super PAC.  The super PAC spends money (indirectly) promoting a candidate or party platform.  The candidate gets elected and makes decisions in favor of the interest group’s priorities.  Rinse and repeat.

But step back for a moment.  Think of how these dollars are spent.  Election cycles increasingly bring in ungodly amounts of advertising dollars.  The Wall Street Journal reported that for the 2012 elections, super PACs spent more than half a billion dollars.  That’s in addition to the millions spent by the candidates and parties themselves.

Clearly, the influence of super PACs on our political system is very troubling.  But perhaps there is another middleman – aside from super PACs – about whom we need to be concerned.

The sheer amount of money being spent on campaign ads gives cable companies and broadcast networks major skin in the game.  They have a lot to gain from the campaign season and from the unabashed use of super PAC dollars to influence politics.

Last Saturday, Matea Gold of the Washington Post wrote about the Democrats’ increasing reliance on super PAC fundraising.  She reported that the board for Priorities USA, a key Democratic super PAC, now includes an executive from Viacom, as well as a lobbyist for Comcast.  Interesting.

In the world of super PAC haters, the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson are low hanging fruit.  It’s really easy to demonize them for using their mega wealth to influence politics.  But what about the television networks that accept this money and run these ads?  They, too, deserve our scorn, as they are perpetuating this revolting trend.

Like bookies who take bets on dog fights.  They may not own the dogs, but they’re still culpable for the harm.

Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.


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Election Season – It’s Kind of Like that Movie “300.”

February 7, 2014

As I read Matea Gold’s (Washington Post) piece about the Koch brothers’ attack against Democrats this election cycle, I couldn’t help but envision a scene from the movie “300.”  Two armies, clashing together in a winner take all battle…but without those undeniably impressive six packs.  This – is – AMERICA!!!

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) already has pumped more than $27 million into advertisements for the 2014 election cycle – November still nine months away.  AFP is taking aim at the Democrats, but I don’t know that it’s fair to call it a pro-Republican organization.  It’s shown before its willingness to cannibalize when, in the 2010 elections, it ate its own kind during the Tea Party’s rise to power over the GOP.

Of course, the Democrats, on the defensive, want to start lobbing money bombs back the other way.  You know, because that’s a productive cycle to get into.  Nothing fixes a country like spending millions of dollars on campaign ads.

Just imagine, $27 million.  Do you know what $27 million could do?!  That could buy a year’s worth of HIV treatment for 1,173 individuals.  It could pay the college tuition costs for 424 students attending a four-year public university.  It could buy 243,000,000 meals for the nation’s hungry and malnourished.

Instead, it bought some political ads.  In other words, it just made several million Americans change the channel.

Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.

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