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Nancy Smith

Matt Caldwell to Bullsugar: I Don't Deal with Hate Groups

July 10, 2018 - 6:00am
Matt Caldwell
Matt Caldwell

Republican agriculture commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell sure got my attention Friday when he told "hate group" Bullsugar.org what they could do with their "candidate questionnaire."

Asked by email to complete and return the Bullsugar.org 2018 Candidate Questionnaire (and sign the Now or Neverglades Declaration) "to help us promote your campaign's positions on water issues that are critical to Florida voters," Caldwell abruptly declined and fired this back:  

"From the base vulgarity of your name to the harassment and abuse hurled toward fellow Floridians to the constant stream of twisted misinformation spread to the public, your organization has all the hallmarks of a hate group." 

Whoaaa. It was only the second sentence in Caldwell's response and already I was cheering.

"Having your organizing principle as the hatred of the 'other' is a wholly unacceptable premise for any organization, whether the 'other' is Jews, migrants, or, in your case, farmers," wrote the state representative from North Fort Myers.

I've never heard anybody else call Bullsugar.org Inc. a hate group, but by God, that's exactly what it is.

This organization's dark money, skewed "facts" and targeted attacks on anyone or any group that doesn't fall in line with its fear-based propaganda certainly qualifies it as a hate group.

Most of all, I only have to look back at this anti-sugar fright site's Facebook postings.

It seems to me the most egregious (of many) were the attacks on Indiantown's Kevin Powers in 2016, when Powers was vice chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board.

Bullsugar apparently felt the need to hatch a conspiracy theory about Powers because the SFWMD board opposed its push to "buy the land, move the water south." Powers lives in Martin County, ground zero for algal blooms.

In August 2016 organization president Kenny Hinkle Jr. and staffers Michael Conner and Jo Neeson launched a concerted effort to paint Powers as a man in a dirty business, profiting from his Rick Scott-appointed SFWMD position.

Hinkle wrote, "Guess who owns Indiantown Gas Co at the end of the (Sabal Trail) pipeline. None other than Kevin Powers of SFWMD. Guess Gov. Rick Scott took care of his buddy that killed the purchase of US Sugarland last year."

A total lie. Indiantown Gas (IGC) is a propane gas company only. The business is focused on residential and commercial propane delivery, not natural gas. IGC had no interest in the natural gas pipeline going to FPL or any other pipeline for that matter. Only the Legislature could "kill" such a land purchase. And it's Kevin's brother Brian who is the majority owner of the company and runs the day-to-day operations at IGC with his wife -- not Kevin.

Even Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum added to the lie: "... hell, Kevin Powers, vice chair, operates the COAL fired plant in Indiantown, he doesn't care about clean water. HIS golden parachute for denying us the land we so desperately need was the proposed LNG refrigeration plant that Sabal Trail Pipeline is headed to."

Asked later where he got his information, Baum told me, "You know, I'm really sorry about that, I got bad information and realized it when I went back to check. I meant to address it and apologize to Kevin for what I said."

But there never was an apology.

Bullsugar Director of Angler Outreach Mike Connor, a licensed fishing guide, "posted a video ... of Kevin along with his false, vulgar commentary," Marsha Powers, a Martin County School Board member and Kevin's wife, wrote to Bullsugar co-founder Kenan Siegel. "This is what my children and your children get to see and hear. Is this really the way to get results?

"Kevin and I were at Dancing in the Streets when we had to walk by the Bullsugar.org tent. Kevin was immediately called out by the people working in the booth. At one point, Hinkle had strangers that walked up to the booth shout things at Kevin. It was such a display of immaturity and bullying behavior that seems unimaginable as I write it. ... Kevin and I cannot go out in the community that we love as much or more than anyone without being heckled by known liars and bullies," she wrote.

Over and over again the facts were pointed out to Hinkle and the others, but neither he nor Siegel would take the post down. (Incidentally, Bullsugar did have the good sense last year to dump Kenny Hinkle as its president.) 

Then there was Bullsugar Bob Markey III: Here's what the Wellington Realtor posted on Bullsugar.org's Facebook page: "I don't care if jobs are lost in the Glades because of a cut in sugar production. Those jobs are causing the destruction of our environment and should not have ever existed. Clewiston is a legitimate town, but have you seen Belle Glade or Pahokee? They are godforsaken places of crime, municipal corruption and poverty whose residents would be better off, and would cost the state and feds less by being relocated to legitimate communities elsewhere."

Bullsugar Bob's insensitivity was stunning -- but typical of Bullsugar Facebook posters. Bob Markey is the son of the Wellington newspaper's founder, grew up amid the polo ponies of tony Wellington. Wouldn't you think a guy whose hometown was carved out of the pristine Everglades, bermed to help keep it dry, dredged with canals that go nowhere so people like him can make a bundle selling "waterfront," then blasted every summer day for God-knows-how-many years to annihilate the mosquitoes ... wouldn't you think he might have just a touch of humility and compassion for his hard-working neighbors across the River of Grass?

It's hard to say Bullsugar people even mean well. Over the four years the organization has been up and running from a UPS office address on East Ocean Boulevard in Stuart, its calling card has been demonization, not conversation. It has always been reflected on its Facebook page, a mish-mash of targeted obscenities, childish insults and accusations largely based on lies.

You might be interested in the rest of Matt Caldwell's response:

"The Central & Southern Flood Control Project exists to serve all of the millions of Floridians who live in the drained Everglades and restoring those Everglades requires restoration throughout the entire Project," he wrote.  "Your continual suggestion that all of the flood water that historically sat west of I-95 in Wellington, Davie, and Miami Lakes can somehow be shoved into a farmland area less than half that size is so patently ludicrous, it only serves to prove your organization's adherence to the “Big Lie” strategy so typical of hate groups. I will continue to collaborate with those groups who are truly interested in a restored and ecologically functional Everglades. Thank you."

A politician in the heat of a political campaign refusing to equivocate on a very controversial, very political organization -- finding the moxy to call a spade a spade. That's rare.

You bet Caldwell got it right. Bullsugar is indeed a hate group.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

This article did not age well.

The only way folks are going to get the picture is when somebody dumps a truckload of slime in front of the capitol building. Greed is killing Florida, pure and simple. If you cant pollute it, you pave it. All for the love of money. You worship God but defile what you claim he created. There WAS a viable plan to resolve this but the puppets of Big Sugar kneecapped it. Go to the affected area: see it, smell it, look at the dead fish. Hard to believe the Big Lake has morphed into a cesspit, we know who caused most of it, but they own half our politicians so they will keep getting away with it.

People People People! Let’s take the agriculture business out of southwest Fl.and see how well the state as a whole fairs! The only two things Fl. Has going for it is tourism and agriculture! You take one away and depend on tourism as your main source of income and Fl. Is in deep trouble. You say “no way”. What happens when a category 5 hurricane hits? No tourism, and no money! Land is still there and crops could be planted, but wait a minute you people decided to wipe out agriculture! Now what? I just read an article today talking about Allgee blooms in the waters in upstate New York! Now did Sugar companies cause that problem? It even Talked about runoff and sewage being two of the causes of the bloom. Last time I checked there weee no sugar plantations in upstate New York. Another cause they listed was the weather being so warm and water temperatures. So To blame the ag industry is just ludicrous! Take away agriculture and you coastal people will be selling your beautiful waterfront property for little to nothing! Get educated on the matter and Stop listening to idiots running a stupid corporation called Bullsugar! This problem Is not an agriculture problem it is a growth problem!

The sugar industry hires migrant workers and is subsidized, so how is the state benefiting financially by them again? The Fanjul brothers and the rest of the handful of rich sugar barons pay off our politicians to prop up their business. A drop in the bucket for those billionaires. These arn't the rural livin' off the land farmers here, we are talking about a family of billionaires siphoning off our tax dollars. I would hardly lump sugar in with the rest of the ag industry in Florida. More info on cost to taxpayers for subsidies here: https://www.realclearpolicy.com/articles/2018/04/30/sugar_subsidies_are_killing_jobs_and_small_businesses.html and here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bitter-battle-over-sugar-subsidies-heats-up/ more info on money given to politicians here: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-sugar-industry-political-donations-20160712-story.html and here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article88992067.html

There's at least 2 industries that contribute more to the Florida economy than agriculture. Try doing some research before making goofy assertions.

87% of all fertilizer in this state is used by the sugar and citrus industries, another 10% by secondary farms and lesser crops. Deregulation of the requirements to limit commercial fertilizer use and subsequent runoff are the only changes that took place since the algae blooms became a problem. Unless you are one of the nut jobs that are actually trying to sell that the other 3% is causing all the problems, leaking septic, more development, more sewer use, etc. etc. That lie was disproved and supposedly died long ago...but maybe not, you can probably get people from up north to believe that 3% is greater than 97%...too funny.

Let him, and this lying rag bash Bullsugar all they want...as soon as anyone even begins reading this shit, it's pretty clear of their agenda. Maybe the author of the article could offer their theory of why Bullsugar (and other conservation groups like them) even exist? No one is getting rich off of their existence. When you compare the funds these Sugar crony politicians get, I think it is very obvious who stands to make money by taking a side here.

show me the lies in this lying rag's story. all true, all real, if anything the story is too soft. these bullsugar people are BULLIES. i would not invite a one of them with their poison tongues in my house.

it ain't green down there for nothing...Scott and all of his cronies take some of the blame whether you like it or not...

What’s really sad is that there are people who can read and write but are so caught up in their right wing identity that they swallow what the likes of Caldwell is selling.

If www.bullsugar.org is FOR CLEAN WATER and AGAINST POLLUTION ... and if they continue to call out those who despoil the water and create pollution ... that's not "hating" ... that's "fighting" for what's right! Three cheers for www.bullsugar.org! Caldwell is simply a coward ... and, apparently, like a lot of the other 'Big Ag' GOPpers' ... he favors $$$$$$ over clean water and party over people! Yuck to Caldwell!

Nancy, as I recall when your paper first started you refused to say who was the money behind it. We can't be sure that we still don't know the money behind it. So to call Bullsugar a dark money organization is to put Sunshine State News in the same category. At least someone is out there calling BullSugar on the Sugar Industry and its political henchmen.

Hardly the same, and I think you know it, Colleen. Do you understand the definition of dark money? In the politics of the United States, "dark money" is funds given to nonprofit organizations -- and include 501(c)(4) (social welfare) 501(c)(5) (unions) and 501(c)(6) (trade association) groups -- that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals, and unions, and spend funds to influence elections, but those groups are not required to disclose their donors. Sunshine State News isn't a political organization, nor is it a nonprofit. It's a right-of-center news organization whose owners, like left-of-center Tampa Bay Times investors, choose to remain anonymous. Bullsugar.org is a 501(c)4 group -- again, the very definition of dark money. We write about many issues related to Florida politics, particularly conservative issues, not just Everglades restoration and algae. Nor do we incite our readers to hate and violence. We don't even endorse candidates. Bullsugar has a single mission and its leaders urge members to go the extreme to accomplish it.

Attack the messenger, the bullsugar way of doing business. Please reveal all funding sources for bullsugar!!

So Nancy again sides with the polluters who are destroying HER town choked with toxic algae from the farm, ranch, city, septic, dog pollution...……..All these rivers from Orlando to the Gulf, Atlantic use to be clear until big sugar, etc polluted it all foisting their costs on everyone else and Nancy is fine with that...……………. I hope your town chokes on it again Nancy and blames you, your kind for doing it because it is YOUR fault putting out biased reporting and never naming the ones that pollute, attacking those who stand up to this massive corporate welfare....……. What's up with that Nancy? Our corporate shill...…….

Ludicrous comment that shows the absolute absurdity that “Big Sugar” is to blame for all our water woes. There are no cane fields or farms in Sewalls Point or Old Palm City, but there sure is a lot of fecal matter in the water. To blame one industry is just plain ignorant. This all out war against farmers is a dangerous one to pursue. We are heading toward being forced to depend on foreign countries for our U.S. food supply, then we will see a real shift in our nation’s stability. And these bullies will be the first protest on a bridge about that too, but do little or norhing to really solve the problem.

Poor old lying Michelle!! It is obvious in my post I blamed 5 different sources. ……………... All I'm saying is the water coming off farms, ranches, cities, etc need to be clean...………….. If not those are responsible to clean it, no? ………….If they are not polluting as you say then they have no problem...………… If they do, problem...……………… So you think we should pay $Bs to clean up the mess or those who make it?...……….. Please decide if you are a real conservative or a corporatist?...………….A real conservative would have those doing the polluting pay which is only right, No? ………..And for bullies don't stand behind big sugar and say that, the biggest bully of them all...………..But I guess you like the pollution, higher sugar prices, etc?.

Michelle you are so uninfomed, it is unfathomable to me that you can even form a valid sentence with all of the venom coming out of your mouth. For you education, the water leaving the agricultural area, per EPA mandate is cleaner than rain water. Please educate yourself further before choking on the phalace that is BullSugar.

Correction my comment was aimed at Jerri not Michelle, my apologies.

Really Jerry? Really? Acknowledging Bullsugar is a hate group is siding with the polluters? I can see by your response hiding behind a phony name even that you're one of them. Just a Democrat shill with attacks and no answers.

people in Martin county are sick of being ignored every single summer! What we get is lip service from politicians that constantly pass the buck to the federal government. Meanwhile NOTHING Is done while we live in a toxic dangerous cesspool if green algae! We are fed up with lying politicians! Math Caldwell stinks with green algae !

People in Martin county need to wake up every day and find a mirror, then find their septic tank. Because looking at themselves is their first step in recognizing their own pollution. Then they may realize that when they flush their crap, urine, food, antibiotics, etc - it goes from their own drainfields into the estuaries where it kills fish and grows green slime. Boy when they realize they are the problem the area is gonna need lots of psychiatrists to treat depression and anxiety.

This post is such BS. I live on the river. Martin County Shoved this city septic system down our throats. Funny... I would say after we went on city septic the river only get polluted when the locks are wide open. I live on the River and I see first hand the destruction from dumping lake o .

Taking money and telling lies or half truths ..... MOST political candidates, the democratic and republican parties and everyone trying to work a deal! Application of the label "Hate Group" to any organization that lobbies is dangerous and reckless.

I wonder if $10,000.00 contributions from US Sugar had anything to do with him refusing to answer the questionnaire?

Bing bing bing - you are the winner

Comments are now closed.

nancy smith
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