President Barack Obama’s Earth Day visit to the Everglades is the latest ploy to use the river of grass to support Florida Democrats. White House officials admit President Obama is making his first visit to the Everglades for political reasons. “This is an effort to raise this debate,” Josh Earnest, the president’s press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday evening. “Those Republicans that choose to deny the reality of climate change, they do that to the detriment of the people they are elected to represent.” While the move may be intended to create debate in Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio’s home state, prominent liberals have been using the Florida Everglades as a political weapon for years.
Paul Tudor Jones, the Connecticut billionaire behind the Everglades Foundation, funds a wide array of liberal politicians. When he’s not attending Palm Beach social events with his buddy Jimmy Buffett, Jones serves as one of the driving forces behind the proposed deal to buy land owned by US Sugar. In 2008, Jones held a fundraiser for Mr. Obama at his Greenwich, Connecticut estate.
As a part-time Florida resident, Jones makes hefty contributions to Florida Democrats.
Since 2008, Jones contributed nearly $15,000 to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He gave another $15,000 to help get Senator Bill Nelson re-elected to office. Jones gave generously to Congressman Alcee Hastings and Ron Klein.
On April 9th, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), “effectively canned a 2010 deal to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land that it once considered critical to restoring the Everglades and coastal estuaries.” Jones and his allies hoped to force the Florida Legislature to finalize the land grab. The SFWMD board preferred Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Everglades Restoration Plan. The plan would spend $5 billion over the next twenty years.
“If we can get $5 billion in state dollars and match that with $5 billion in federal dollars and have $10 billion, to me that is the big huge goal we have to go after right now,” said SFWMD board chairman Dan O’Keefe.
Now, another group tied to Paul Tudor Jones is urging President Obama to support the US Sugar land deal.
According to the influential SaintPetersblog website, Mary Barley of the Everglades Trust told supporters about the importance of Obama’s Earth Day visit. “Florida has a contract with U.S. Sugar Corporation to buy land that would save the Everglades,” Barley wrote. “But if our legislature does not act by May 1, we could lose this natural treasure. That’s why the president’s visit and attention are so vital.”
State records show The Everglades Trust non-profit corporation is operated by allies of Paul Tudor Jones. Mary Barley uses the same Islamorada address as George Barley, a founding member of The Everglades Foundation.
Last week, The Sunshine State News wrote how nearly twenty years ago, investigative reporters Bob Malloy and Will Bourne detailed “how money and political influence contributed to the demise of water quality and the seagrass/coral reef ecosystems of Florida Bay and the Florida Keys.”
According the Sunshine State News story, Malloy and Bourne claimed George Barley bought into “bad science promulgated by Joseph Zieman, a University of Virginia seagrass biologist, and his colleague, Ron Jones of Miami’s Florida International University; Tudor Jones bankrolled the development of their wrong conclusions. Meanwhile, water quality in Florida Bay and the upper Keys worsened because of it.”
Malloy and Bourne concluded that politics and money had harmed Florida’s environment. “What began for us as an investigation of bad science, of a flawed hypothesis that seemed to acquire supernatural powers, evolved into an examination of power, money and big-business environmentalism in South Florida. As environmentalists, it rapidly soured us on the philosophy and tactics that have moved to the forefront of the battle to save our natural treasures. It became a case study in ethical disintegration.”
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg is another director of the Everglades Trust. A recent Palm Beach Post editorial called Eikenberg, the former chief of staff for Governor Charlie Crist, “the driving force behind efforts to convince the district to spend more than $400 million on the land.” He said, “Florida’s leaders have a duty to buy strategic land needed for storage to protect the interests of thousands of homeowners.”
In 2010, Paul Tudor Jones gave $9,200 to Charlie Crist’s ill-fated US Senate campaign against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek.