Monday, October 01, 2012
U.S.Sugar Fighting Property Taxes And More?
CLEWISTON, FL. -- A newly organized non-profit group based in Tallahassee is receiving funds from U.S. Sugar and other companies and non-profit groups with curious connections.
United States Sugar Corporation has donated $7,000 to Taxpayers For Integrity In Government, Inc. a "Super PAC" run by Todd Wilder in Tallahassee. US Sugar has so far only donated a small portion of the organization's total funding so far. Other curious names with apparent local interests showed up when checking who's donating.
The largest amount has been given to Super PAC Taxpayers For Integrity by Buffalo, New York's Solar Sportsystems, Inc. They've placed $550,000 with the organization. Solar is a company reportedly affiliated with billionaire Jeremy Jacobs, who owns the Boston Bruins hockey team.
Sportsystems has had public relations problems going back as far as the 1980s, operating food and parking concessions at major racetracks and stadiums and it's parent company was accused of organized crime figure connections.
In the 80s the former umbrella company was called Emprise and run as a privately owned company by the Jacobs family. It was convicted of conspiring with mobsters in St. Louis and Detroit to conceal the ownership of a Las Vegas casino, the Frontier Hotel and Casino.
What's Taxpayers For Integrity Doing Here?
Taxpayers For Integrity have reportedly spent big bucks in Palm Beach county to oppose candidates who support an equestrian and commercial complex building project there. Sportsystems reportedly has interests in the Village of Wellington in West Palm Beach County where some U.S. Sugar Corp executives also live.
The organization might be moving to break down a system of how local county property appraisers are valuing real estate owned by those interests. United States Sugar Corporation last week published a full page print ad criticizing Hendry County's current Property Appraiser, Phil Pelletier for his method of valuing Sugar's property.
The organization spent $35 at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office to get the absentee voter lists, so are apparently involved in some voter persuasion efforts.
Other names of donors with an apparent local interest include Keep Hendry Safe, Inc. based at the same office as Taxpayers For Integrity, donating $44,500 July 12, 2012. Keep Hendry Safe's registered agent is Emmett "Bucky" Mitchell IV of Tallahassee. This PAC group has been sending out full color mailings promoting the re-election of Hendry Sheriff Steve Whidden to Clewiston voters.
Representatives for the Hendry Coalition For Fair Taxes have been seen in Hendry county canvassing selected voters, handing out literature favoring Kristina Kulpa, opponent of incumbent Hendry County Tax Appraiser Phil Pelletier.
The group has been posting large illegally placed signs without property owners's permission saying "Pelletier - Higher Taxes" around Hendry county and smaller signs prominently displaying Kristina Kulpa's photograph and a "fair tax" message. The group's signs (as well as most other elections signs) are mostly illegally placed on private or public property without permission of the property owners. At the corner of Birchwood and Carefree in Port LaBelle, Kulpa has ten signs advocating votes for Kulpa, all on county property.
Meanwhile, Keep Hendry Safe received $15,000 July 24 from the Taxpayers For Integrity organization, less than two weeks after it donated $44,500 to Taxpayers For Integrity.
Who's Behind These Political Organizations?
Bucky Mitchell is an attorney with a specialization in Florida election law and campaign finance. He's also been registered with the Florida Department of Elections as the general counsel for the Republican Party of Florida on the department's list of 3rd Party Voter Registration Organizations.
Around 2000, Mitchell reportedly was the "point man" for the state in compiling lists of ineligible voters to purge from the rolls. At the time he was an assistant general counsel to the Florida Division of Elections, who within a week of the November 2000 election was given a senior attorney's job in the state Department of Education.
According to Alternet.org, Mitchell in an interview with The Nation, claimed he had exercised restraint in producing the purge lists. "The division always had the policy to err on the side of caution," he insisted. But reports from county supervisors, correspondence between state officials and DBT employees, and testimony before the Civil Rights Commission tell a completely different story that didn't jibe with what he claimed.
Mitchell is also the registered agent for Hendry Coalition For Fair Taxes, Inc. located also at Wilder's Tallahassee office. Mitchell is associated with dozens of other organizations and interest groups registered at the Florida Secretary of State's Office.
Disney Worldwide Service, Inc. donated $10,000 to the Super PAC. Among other heavy givers, Putting Florida First, Inc. donated $87,800. And even PayPal donated $1.95.
Lots of money collected and spent, with Hendry County's name in the mix may mean interesting things to come before November's election as groups with big money come to town to lobby against less wealthy candidates.