Marco Rubio’s Billion-Dollar Sugar Addiction
Rubio has remained a consistent, vocal supporter of the sugar subsidy during his rise to national prominence.
Writing for National Review, Windsor Mann was among those stumped by Rubio’s logic. “Let’s try to untangle this,” he wrote following Rubio’s remarks. “If we get rid of sugar subsidies, Americans will turn their sugar farms into condominium lots and start buying sugar from foreigners, who will starve us until we surrender to ISIS. Or something like that.”
“We have as much reason to grow our own sugar as Lithuania does to make its own cars: none,” Mann added. “The fact is that other countries produce certain things more cheaply and efficiently than we do. That is why we trade with them.”
Indeed, the Fanjuls have long reaped the benefits of their political alliances. They’ve maintained a cross-party dominance of the sugar lobby by splitting allegiances: Alfred “Alfy” Fanjul has steadily given to Democrats and Democratic organizations, while his brother Pepe donates to Republicans. Their cozy relationship with the Clintons is such that when President Clinton was ending his affair with Monica Lewinsky, he halted their meeting to take a 22-minute call from the sugar baron, who was enraged about Al Gore’s proposal of a “polluter’s tax” on the sugar industry. The bill was quietly dropped.
Rubio has staked his candidacy on empowering the middle class, and has denounced the Export-Import Bank as a bastion of “taxpayer money” for “corporate welfare.” His support for sugar subsidies, and his tight relationship with their largest beneficiaries, flies in the face of that position, which may pose problems as the primary season develops.
“One of the best ways to attack Hillary Clinton is on crony capitalism and corporate welfare, and any marks that the GOP candidate has on his record where he’s in favor of these things will weaken him,” says Tim Carney, visiting fellow at AEI. He adds that it makes Rubio a “worse nominee” to tout his belief in free trade, “except for sugar,” as well as a “protectionism that helps some of his earliest fundraisers.”
When reached for comment, Rubio’s team pointed to statements the candidate made on Good Morning America following the Milwaukee debate, in which he said “I’m not going to wipe out an American industry that happens to have a lot of workers in Florida.”
They declined to comment on Rubio’s relationship with the Fanjuls.