Big business loses a buddy with Mark Foley resignation

WASHINGTON – We’re still figuring out who knew what and when about former Florida Rep. Mark Foley’s behavior toward pages, but the disgraced Republican was never discreet about fighting for corporate welfare for his campaign donors. Almost all congressmen win favors for their financial supporters, but few members displayed such a direct correlation between the bills they sponsored and the campaign checks they cashed.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


Start by looking at the Center for Responsive Politics’ list of Mark Foley’s top contributors for his recent, aborted re-election campaign. Topping the list is Florida Turbine Technologies.


Joe and Shirley Brostmeyer, Florida Turbine’s owners, gave Foley $12,400 over the years, and other Florida Turbine executives donated an additional $3,000. The company’s Political Action Committee helped him out to the tune of $16,000 over three election cycles. This $31,400 in seems only fair when you consider that Foley directed $5 million in taxpayer money to their company via an earmark he inserted in the Pentagon’s spending bill.


On Jan. 15 of this year, the Courier of Jupiter, Fla., reported on the first installment: “Florida Turbine Technologies, Inc., a Jupiter high-tech engineering firm, has received $2.5 million from the Department of Defense for the development and purchase of the firm’s FTT50 turbofan technology used in advanced weapons systems. The check was presented to owners Shirley and Joe Brostmeyer by Congressman Mark Foley.” It was pretty straightforward: They handed Foley a check, and Foley handed them a check from the taxpayers.


Foley’s love of gas turbines, however, was a recent development compared to his legendary sweet tooth. The CRP says Foley throughout his career received $86,937 from members of the Fanjul family. The Fanjuls own Flo-Sun, one of the largest cane sugar companies in the country.


Meanwhile, the PAC for U.S. Sugar, the Fanjuls’ competitor, cut $12,000 in checks to Foley’s campaigns. American Crystal Sugar PAC gave him $15,500. The Florida Sugar Cane League and the American Sugar Cane League gave him a combined $21,000.


Foley has earned their love. Entering Congress with the vaunted Republican class of 1994, Foley soon proved himself the champion of the protectionist sugar quota policy, which was facing conservative GOP knives in those early days of the 104th Congress. Foley successfully saved the federal sugar program, which consists of import quotas and special subsidized loans.


The United States Department of Agriculture loans sugar growers 18 cents for every pound of raw sugar they grow. The collateral on the loan is the sugar. This means if prices on sugar ever fall below 18 cents, the sugar growers can just forfeit their crop and the U.S. taxpayers foot the bill. In order to keep the price that high (about twice as high as the average world price), the USDA strictly controls the supply of sugar coming into this country (with the Fanjuls’ other home and place of business, the Dominican Republic, receiving the highest quota).


The result is higher sugar prices for Americans. Cereal costs more. Juice costs more. The GAO estimated that it costs American consumers $1.8 billion every year. In 2004, the Life Savers factory in Holland, Michigan shut down and moved across the border to Canada so they could buy their sugar at market rates instead of government-enforced-shortage prices. This costly program has lost a tireless advocate with Foley’s departure.


Most recently, Foley did big sugar’s bidding in the debates over the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Once it became clear they could not block CAFTA nor even stop the added sugar liberalization within the agreement, Foley fought for special ethanol-from-sugar subsidies.


Florida Turbines and Big Sugar are only two examples. Foley’s environmental record has earned him praise from the Sierra Club, but possibly also cash from some huge corporations.


Over his career, Foley received more than $30,000 from Citigroup, the eighth-largest corporation in America. Citigroup is betting big on wind power, predicting in the company’s “citizenship” report: “Renewable energy in the U.S. and abroad is expected to attract several billion dollars of financing annually over the next 15 years, with wind power driving much of this growth.”


In 2004, Citigroup invested $23 million in a factory to build wind generators in India, selling them into the U.S. In 2005, Foley introduced a bill to extend a special tax credit allowing Citigroup’s customers to reduce their tax bill by 1.5 cents for every kilowatt-hour produced.


Citigroup, however, lags behind the Florida Power and Lighting Company both when it comes to profiting from wind power subsidies and when it comes to funding Foley’s campaigns. Executives at FPL, which describes itself as “the world leader in wind power,” contributed more than $56,000 to Foley, who could have fairly called himself “the world leader in wind power subsidies”.


These large corporations have all lost a key ally with Mark Foley’s resignation, perhaps putting at risk their access to special tax treatment and subsidies.