Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Can Debbie Wasserman Schultz Bend U.S. Policy To The Will Of Her Corrupt Financiers, The Fanjul Sugar Barons?


Click to read the web of sugar corruption

You don't normally see DWT championing bills introduced by anti-Choice fanatic and far right extremist Joe Pitts (R-PA). But when he introduced H.R. 693 last week, a new day of bipartisanship may not have dawned, but we recognized that Pitts is doing the right thing for a change. And he was immediately joined by a healthy cross-aisle bunch of co-sponsors that ranges from the lunatic fringe-- Lou Barletta (R-PA), Steve Womack (R-AR) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)-- to solidly mainstream legislators like Jackie Speier (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH). The Sugar Reform Act seeks to "ensure adequate sugar supplies at reasonable prices" by, among other things, rolling back price supports that unfairly benefit wealthy sugar producers-- primarily the Fanjul brothers-- as the expense of consumers.

Congress has tackled this before but between Fanjul DC consiglieres Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the legislation has always been derailed. Now the grotesquely corrupt Wasserman Schultz has accumulated even more power than ever before and she is working assiduously to shore up the interests of her benefactors, regardless of what it costs the very people who vote her into office year after year after year. The principal sponsor of the Senate version of the bill (S.345), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), said "American families are footing the bill for an outdated program that offers a sweet deal to a small group of sugar growers and processors. No program should be immune to updates or improvements" Her co-sponsors include Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) agree that the artificial limits put on sugar imports (read: Cuba) drives up the price for consumers while making Wasserman Schultz's political financiers, the Fanjuls, fabulously wealthy. As much as $14 billion has been transferred from American consumers to wealthy sugar barons in the last 4 years alone-- and, of course, their supporters in Congress, like Wasserman Schultz, get a cut. Since 1997 over 100,000 American jobs have been lost in sugar-using industries.

Danny Davis (D-IL), another reform supporter brave enough to go up against Wasserman Schultz, points out that "Left unchanged, the current sugar program will continue to hurt American workers by driving good American manufacturing jobs to Canada, Mexico, and other foreign countries. Left unchanged, the current sugar program will continue to hurt American consumers by unnecessarily inflating the price of every product made with sugar. It is time to change this anachronistic program."

This is what the bill is trying to accomplish:
• Repeal unnecessary trade restrictions. The 2008 Farm Bill restricted the ability of the Secretary of Agriculture to allow additional sugar imports when needed in the U.S. market. The 2008 Farm Bill required USDA to set import quotas (also known as tariff-rate quotas) at a legal minimum each year, with very limited flexibility to then respond to changing market conditions as needed. This bill would repeal these unnecessary restrictions that have further restricted supply, providing greater flexibility to those implementing the program.

• Repeal the Feedstock Flexibility Program. The 2008 Farm Bill added a $193 million program that requires the government to buy surplus sugar, and then sell that sugar to ethanol companies at a loss. This bill would save taxpayers from footing the bill for keeping prices high.

• Eliminate higher price support levels. The 2008 Farm Bill facilitated higher price supports for sugar growers. Reducing these rates would help put prices back in line with historic levels and reduce liability for taxpayers.

• Reform domestic supply restrictions to provide more flexibility to USDA. This bill would eliminate the current artificial guarantee of 85 percent of consumption and ensure that the current program is administered with sugar-using industries also in mind. In addition, the bill would restore the Secretary of Agriculture’s authority to modify or suspend these domestic marketing allotments.

• Provide flexibility to USDA in administering quotas. This bill would also give USDA more flexibility in administering the import quota system. The billencourages greater efficiency by allowing qualifying countries to trade their quotas among themselves on a temporary and voluntary basis. In addition, the amendment establishes a target stocks-to-use ratio for USDA to ensure that implementation of the federal government’s sugar policy is transparent and consistent.

• Provide savings. The federal sugar program has cost consumers and businesses an estimated $14 billion over the last 4 years.
I had to laugh yesterday when I found a letter of support for the reforms from the Koch brothers own advocacy arm, Americans for Prosperity. Is an epic battle looming between the Koch brothers and the Fanjul brothers? Who do you root for, Godzilla or Rodan?
On behalf of more than two million Americans for Prosperity activists in all 50 states, I write in support of the Sugar Reform Act (S.345 and H.R.693). Your legislation would make several reforms to U.S. sugar programs that benefit special interests at the expense of American consumers and taxpayers.

The 2008 farm law included a number of provisions that amount to corporate welfare for the sugar industry, and your bill would remove many of them. Most notably, your legislation eliminates the tariff-rate quotas that limit sugar imports and lead to higher domestic prices. It also repeals the Feedstock Flexibility Program, an antiquated program that requires the government to buy up surplus sugar and sell it to ethanol companies at a Farm Bill SNAP Coalition Letterloss. Your bill includes several additional reforms that ease trade restrictions for sugar and promote transparency.

Americans continue to struggle in the down economy, and the last thing they need is government policies that cause them to pay higher sugar prices than the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the U.S. sugar program does precisely that. The American Enterprise Institute reports that our sugar program costs consumers $2.4 billion annually, and has a net economic cost of $1 billion.

Regrettably, handouts for the sugar industry are not an anomaly in agricultural policy. The farm bill is full of special favors for many other agricultural sectors, such as dairy and cotton. When Congress considers the farm bill later in 2013, it should consider similar reforms on our other broken agricultural programs. U.S. food and agricultural policy should be based on free market mechanisms, not on government favoritism.

AFP is proud to support the Sugar Reform Act (S.345 and H.R.693). I urge your colleagues to support its passage. I look forward to working with you in the future.
Tigers of corruption

Who remembers when Wasserman Schultz first came out swinging on behalf of the Fanjuls-- spreading around their bribes to get freshmen to vote against easing agricultural trade restrictions against Cuba? The bill Wasserman Schultz, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and other pawns of the Fanjuls were able to sabotage was, like this one, bipartisan. Charlie Rangel, then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was the sponsor and it seemed like it was in the bag.
When Democrats gained control of Congress, hopes were high that Cuba travel and trade restrictions would be eased by a party historically opposed to a so-called hard line on Cuba.

So far, however, the Democratic-led House has been tougher on Cuba than when Republicans controlled the lower chamber.

Sixty-six House Democrats-- including 20 members of the freshman class-- recently voted against a farm bill amendment offered by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) that would have made it easier for U.S. farmers to sell agricultural goods to Cuba.

...Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was instrumental in winning Democratic votes against the Rangel amendment. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told The Miami Herald that Wasserman Schultz was “a tiger” on the Rangel vote, while Antonio Zamora of the U.S.-Cuba Legal Forum described her as a key party in building Democratic opposition.

“I was about as active as you could be,” said Wasserman Schultz, a second-termer who serves as a deputy chief whip for Democrats. At the same time, she said other members such as Reps. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) also worked hard to whip opposition.

...Wasserman Schultz’s position on Cuba puts her at odds with some Democratic leaders, but she said she has no worries that this might affect her if she seeks a higher leadership position in the future.

...Fifty-two of the 66 Democrats who voted against Rangel’s amendment have received one or more contributions from the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC since the beginning of the 2007-2008 cycle, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

It has given $56,000 to 22 Democratic freshmen this year, and 17 of those freshmen voted against Rangel’s amendment. The giving began during the run-up to the 2006 election. Freshman Reps. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Phil Hare (D-Ill.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Zack Space (D-Ohio) and Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio) received donations before they were elected, and all but Giffords voted against Rangel’s amendment.

The votes of the freshmen are a concern to those who believe the current U.S. policy on Cuba is ineffective. “At this point we must as a matter of urgency prevent a generation of Democratic legislators from becoming permanent embargo supporters,” wrote Robert Muse, a Washington, D.C., lawyer with expertise in U.S.-Cuban policy, in an analysis of the vote.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has a PAC which has given nearly a quarter million dollars to Democrats running for re-election and election in the House. [This was in 2007.] Between the US-Cuba Democracy PAC and her own sleazy Democrats Win Seats PAC this is how much loot Wasserman Schultz was able to direct to Democratic freshmen willing to sell her their votes, even from congressmen representing agricultural districts where this amendment would have had widespread support. The first amount comes from the US-Cuba Democracy PAC and the second came directly from the shady Wasserman Schultz PAC:

Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA) $8,000 + $5,000 [since defeated]
Mike Arcuri (D-NY) $4,000 + $2,000 [since defeated]
Bruce Braley (D-IA) $5,000 [running for Senate]
Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA) $7,000 + $7,500 [since defeated]
Kathy Castor (D-FL) $2,000
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN) $3,000 + $5,000 [now in the Senate]
Brad Ellsworth (Blue Dog-IN) $3,000 + $3,000 [since defeated]
Gabby Giffords (Blue Dog-AZ) $5,000 + $5,000
Kirsten Gillibrand (Blue Dog-NY) $8,000 + $4,000 [now in the Senate]
Phil Hare (D-IL) $9,000 + $1,000 [since defeated]
Ron Klein (D-FL) $10,000 + $4,000 [since defeated]
Tim Mahoney (Blue Dog-FL) $10,000 + $7,500 [since defeated]
Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ) 0 + $4,000 [since defeated]
Patrick Murphy (Blue Dog-PA) $6,000 + $4,000 [since defeated]
Joe Sestak (D-PA) $1,000 + $2,000 [since defeated]
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC) $7,000 + $5,000 [since forced to leave Congress for K Street]
Albio Sires (D-NJ) $10,000
Zach Space (Blue Dog-OH) $7,000 +$4,000 [since defeated]
The bill has been shunted off to the House Agriculture Committee, where chairman Frank Lucas will decide what happens next. His vice-chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), has come out strongly in favor, as has another senior GOP member of the committee, Glenn Thompson (R-PA).

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At 6:05 PM, Anonymous me said...

regardless of what it costs the very people who vote her into office year after year after year

Which proves why she does it: Because she can. Taking advantage of voter stupidity is a time-honored tradition.


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