The Fanjuls: Koch brothers of South Florida?

Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 9:57 am

Image by Matt MahurinFollowing revelations of their involvement in the war on public unions in Wisconsin, the once-anonymous Koch Industries executive vice president David Koch and his brother Charles have in short time become boogeymen of the left, the liberal answer to the center of so many conservative conspiracies, George Soros (something David groused about in a recent, fawning Weekly Standard profile).

Meanwhile, other billionaires and multi-millionaires who have used their wealth to fund a similar agenda have managed to slip under the radar. Among them are the Fanjul family, Florida sugar magnates who also happen to be friends and neighbors of David and Julia Koch.

Like the Kochs, Alfonso “Alfy” and José “Pepe” Fanjul are two of four brothers who inherited a massive conglomerate from their father, in their case, Cuban sugar kingpin Alfonso Fanjul, Sr., who fled Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power. Unlike the Kochs, Alfy and Pepe are by all accounts still on good terms with their brothers, Alexander and Andrés, though Alfy and Pepe are higher profile and are the top executives at Flo-Sun, Inc., the family sugar empire.

Flo-Sun owns resorts in the Dominican Republic but gets most of its revenue through its American Sugar Refining division. ASR owns the C&H, Florida Crystals and Redpath Sugar brands, but its largest and best-known subsidiary is Domino Foods, Inc., producer of Domino Sugar. All told, Flo-Sun is estimated to pull in about $2.5 billion annually.

The Fanjuls, however, are not necessarily the easy targets that the Kochs are; to begin with, Alfy is a devoted Democrat. In the run-up to the 2010 election, he gave $37,230 to nine Democratic candidates for U.S. Congress. The biggest recipients of his largess were Kendrick Meek, who lost in his Senate bid to Marco Rubio despite former President Bill Clinton’s vigorous campaigning, and Ted Deutch, the Broward County representative (and, given their Palm Beach headquarters, the Fanjuls’ own congressman) who overwhelmingly defeated Republican Ed Lynch in a special election in April of last year.

Though despite Deutch’s party affiliation, based on his policies and his voting record in the Florida Senate prior to becoming a U.S. representative, the Associated Industries of Florida gave Deutch an 80 percent “business friendly” rating, the third highest of any Florida Democrat analyzed, and the highest of any Democrat now serving on the national stage. His general voting record in U.S. office, however, has been overwhelmingly along party lines.

Pepe Fanjul, meanwhile, gave $40,100 to nine Republican candidates prior to the 2010 election. He gave the most to U.S. Rep. David Rivera, he of numerous ethics troubles. Should Rivera remain in office, he has pledged (PDF) to oppose any legislation relating to climate change that would create any amount of government spending. The pledge he signed was originated by Americans for Prosperity, a limited government organization funded by the Koch brothers. The second largest recipient of Pepe Fanjul’s campaign contributions was freshman U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whose dedication to loosening environmental regulations on corporations like Flo-Sun has previously been reported by The American Independent.

Of course, for mega-corporations like the Fanjuls’, just giving to favored candidates may not represent the best Washington investment for their money. Lobbying is where the Fanjuls put major cash. Flo-Sun spent $695,000 (PDFs: Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4) in 2010 alone lobbying the House, Senate and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on industrial waste regulations, food safety rules relating to sugar and elements of the Clean Water Act that affect the Florida Everglades.

Neither the Fanjuls nor their lobbying firms are required to disclose exactly what’s discussed in lobbyist meetings or which politicians have agreed to meet with them — though it would certainly strain belief to suggest that they’re spending upwards of a million dollars a year to argue in favor of deeper government regulation. Since 2005, Flo-Sun has spent $3.65 million lobbying the federal government.



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