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“Captured” Regulators Turned Sugar Lobbyists

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A tactic used by the sugar industry to keep their pollution and harmful practices unregulated to any practical extent is to “capture” the regulators. They do this by getting real cozy and friendly with those charged with regulating their activities, and then, eventually, they offer them a job. The regulators go to work for the very industry they were supposed to be regulating.

In economics, this is called Regulatory Capture.

The concept of Regulatory Capture is easy to understand once you know what to look for and can be dangerous to the public when executed. 

It’s not just the outsized campaign contributions injected into the world of politics by Big Sugar, they rely on these experts to prolong the bleeding of the public’s resources to ensure private gain for themselves.

This is by no means exclusive to the sugar industry – scores of industries use this tactic. The tobacco industry famously manipulated science and prolonged debate for decades doing this. The oil and chemical industries are also notorious for this behavior.

But in Florida, for our waterways and the Everglades, the deep pockets of Big Sugar ensure ample salaries and incentives to hire the top brass at these agencies when they’re ready to leave the public sector. Then, poof, the regulator has switched sides. Now, the charade continues allowing Big Sugar to introduce them to elected officials and the political process as “the experts.”

To be clear, this practice is legal. But when you ostensibly dedicate your life to ensuring the environment and public’s safety, is it moral to take the talents the public paid you to acquire, then jump to the other side to take more and work against them?

A prime example of Regulatory Capture is the case of Tom MacVicar. Tom was once in upper management at the South Florida Water Management District. Now, he works for the sugar industry as a lobbyist and water “expert.” His “expert opinions” are not focused on what’s best for the entire system and Florida’s future, but on what’s best for Big Sugar’s bottom line.


After the drinking water in the City of West Palm Beach and the Town of Palm Beach became contaminated with toxins from blue-green algae last month, the Big Sugar PR machine has been working overtime. This week, Pepe Fanjul, Jr., president of Florida Crystals, brought in Tom MacVicar and another former SFWMD division director turned Big Sugar “expert” to try to convince the Town of Palm Beach that the toxic algae his industry is responsible for has nothing to do with the toxins in their drinking water.

In this quick video, you’ll see firsthand how Regulatory Capture works to control the narrative and undermine the best interests of the public.

This is a classic, yet twisted, attempt at sowing confusion. “Impaired waterbodies are found all over the country” could also be understood to suggest “everyone’s doing it!” And “these are different strains of toxins” rings hollow when Tom MacVicar later concedes this different strain was found regularly in the lake 20 years ago.

Ms. Bates’ assertion that the State of Florida doesn’t have standards for these toxins is another callous red herring. Why doesn’t Florida have a standard for cyanobacteria when the EPA does? Look no further than the political might of the polluters and their highly paid, former regulators turned sugar lobbyists.

The sugar industry demands a higher lake. But a higher Lake O is a dirtier Lake O. Like in 2015, 2016 and 2018, dangerous things are happening in 2021 to our waterways we’ve never seen before. Toxic blue-green algae has now made its way into the public’s drinking water supply. Credible scientists won’t be able to prove anything quickly – they don’t work that way. Sugar uses that lag time to their advantage and will trot out their experts to point in many directions but their own.

Common sense doesn’t require peer reviewed studies, though we have them, to tell us what we already know and can see with our own two eyes. The water is filthy and toxic, cyanobacteria is everywhere; it’s hot, it’s stagnant and we know with dead-on-balls-certainty exactly where it’s coming from. 


The Army Corps is working to bring some balance to Lake operations so more water can flow south to the Everglades that desperately needs clean water and lessen harmful discharges to both coasts of Florida being crushed by that polluted water.

The Everglades and coastal estuaries have endured the rules written by the sugar industry for decades. Doing so is destroying a watershed and the Everglades and continues to jeopardize the drinking water for 9 million of us.

Their current team of experts are attempting to write the rules for the next decade – Tom MacVicar being the lead author of one of five plans the Corps is considering.

Big Sugar is squirming and uncomfortable because they know it will be tougher now to get away with tactics used in the past. There are too many Floridians plugged in now to let them. Watch the video above, catch up on stories you may have missed below, and when your blood is boiling, email the Army Corps.

And, as always, stick with us!


The sugar industry is trying to hijack the public’s water, again. And the public can stop them, again.

Another piece of the puzzle that is Everglades restoration is how the water in Lake Okeechobee is managed – and mismanaged. The Army Corps will be putting NEW RULES in place for the next decade or so. So, this is a very big deal. Big Sugar wins if the public is absent from the conversation. So, let them hear you ROAR. We make it quick and super easy!



Exclusive: Tests confirm dog died from toxic blue green algae in the C-51 canal | WPBF

Toxins 1 million times greater than what is safe to consume claims the life of Bella, a beloved member of a family in West Palm Beach. Two conniving, greedy sugar corporations are responsible for this and the continued destruction of our waterways and America’s Everglades. Florida Crystals and US Sugar. Remember their names.

Read More

Guest opinion: Coasts unite, urge Army Corps to adopt more equitable Lake Okeechobee plan

“Depending on how it’s written, LOSOM has the ability to offer near-immediate relief to the estuaries, so it’s critical that the Corps gets it right.” Capt. Daniel Andrews with Captains For Clean Water lays it all out in this Op-Ed about the development of the new Lake Okeechobee operations plan, which is nearing completion.

Read More

West Palm Beach Mayor Stifles the Public Concerning Toxic Water

Two owners of dogs poisoned with blue-green algae plead with the City of West Palm Beach to address the cyanotoxin crisis plaguing our waterways. Mayor Keith James’ reaction says it all.

Watch Now

Algae Toxins in West Palm Beach water | SFWMD Governing Board Meeting

When the drinking water in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach became contaminated with toxic algae, the city waited 10 days to alert the public — after many people had already become sick. This is one testimony from a resident who experienced lip blisters, vomiting, gastrointestinal issues and headaches while drinking tap water she didn’t realize was poisoned.

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Toxins in West Palm drinking water a piece of Florida’s bigger water problems | Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post

“For decades, Florida has mortgaged its future, opting for short-term economic gain over long-term sustainability of its most essential resource. We’re seeing that play out in West Palm Beach now with its contaminated drinking water, and in North Florida, with its pristine springs being drained to alarming levels.”

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Lake O Fact Check by Congressman Brian Mast

One of the Lake Okeechobee management plans under final consideration by the Army Corps was written by two lobbyists for the sugar industry. Here’s why that matters…and how you can weigh in… 

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How High Should Lake Okeechobee Go? Army Corps Is Finalizing A New Management Plan | WLRN

We are demanding change. For decades the lake has been managed as a private reservoir for Big Sugar. As a result, water is held high with not nearly enough of it making its way south to the Everglades. A higher Lake O is a dirtier Lake O. When the rains begin the water levels grow too too high, forcing toxic discharges to both coasts of Florida. Add your voice to ours by emailing the Army Corps.

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Tampa Bay Algae Blooms Could Be Fed By Piney Point Wastewater | WUSF Public Media

Whether it’s the maniacal sugar industry or the filthy phosphate mining industry feeding an enduring toxic red tide in the Gulf of Mexico, the polluters in our state and their political enablers are destroying everything we hold dear.

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Treasure Coast residents await new Lake Okeechobee water release schedule | WPTV

A new water management plan for Lake O is right around the corner. Five plans are being considered. One of the five was written by and for the sugar industry. If we want to bring the devastation to an end, we cannot endure another decade of water management that only benefits US Sugar and Florida Crystals.

Watch Now

The damage being to the Everglades and coastal estuaries on both coasts of Florida is completely man-made. And we can do something about it. Contact the Army Corps today. Fight like the dickens for your Everglades. We make it simple. Click on this link.

Email Army Corps