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Alvin Brown, Lenny Curry and “billion-dollar polluters”

Back in the 1990s, they used to say that “Earth Day is Every Day.” In reality, it’s April 22. And ahead of that day of observance, the Alvin Brown campaign has sent an email spotlighting what it calls “Lenny Curry’s political ties to the billionaire Koch brothers who dump tens of millions of gallons of polluted wastewater into the St. Johns River every day.”

Those ties are not associated with any direct contribution to the current campaign account or its PAC; neither the Kochs nor their subsidiary corporations have backed Curry. Rather, the reference is to contributions to the Republican Party of Florida from a few years ago.

Those ties are also nothing new to this campaign narrative: A blistering attack ad before the First Election recycled similar claims about Curry’s reputed ties with Georgia-Pacific.

Despite the historical nature of the claim, the Brown campaign thinks the Curry/Koch connection is “shameless” and is ripe for exploitation ahead of Earth Day.

“The St. John’s River is the backbone of Duval County’s economy and a crucial job creator,” Brown spokesman Yianni Varonis said. “That is why it’s shameless that Lenny Curry has put polluters first, and Jacksonville’s greatest natural treasure last.” Varonis contrasted Curry’s political connections with Brown continuing “to protect the national resources our economy depends on.”

The Koch Brothers own the Georgia-Pacific company, which has a history of polluting the St. Johns River, something that alarms local activists and has become a wedge issue in the close mayoral election. The use of the Koch Brothers meme allows the Brown campaign to make a play for white liberals who routinely demonize the billionaire activists by using a “guilt by association” argument.

The email contrasts the Koch contributions to the RPOF with Brown’s “commitment to protect the St. Johns River” and work to “preserve Jacksonville’s environment,” citing the mayor’s declaration of 2015 as the “Year of the River,” his work with stakeholders to evaluate the impact of deepening the St. Johns, and various cleanup initiatives to the river and tributary creeks, as well as the just completed “Tire and Sign Buyback” event.

In response, the Curry campaign’s Brian Hughes had this to say.

Alvin Brown continues to say one thing and do another. With a dishonest attack, he claims that donors who have never given a penny to Lenny Curry’s campaign are somehow linked to Curry. Claiming money given to RPOF and Governor Rick Scott 3 years ago is somehow part of Curry’s campaign is ridiculous. Even more hypocritical? Alvin and Florida Democrats have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations in backroom meetings, companies that are the targets of environmentalists. Alvin is trying to hide his relationship with billion-dollar polluters.

As we reported recently, the Brown Taking Jacksonville to the Next Level PC in March got a $5K contribution from the Waste Management PAC. Sourcewatch describes the company, which has a billion dollar valuation, as working toward privatizing the waste management industry, and as working against initiatives to remediate climate change. Additionally, the site itemizes a number of other questionable business practices that Waste Management conducts.

Other companies in the industry, such as Waste Management subsidiary Waste Management of Florida, Waste Pro, and Advanced Disposal, all have given large contributions to the Next Level PAC. None of these companies are noted for their green footprints. Of the $50,000 from the industry total,  $15,000 came from Waste Management itself.

The claim the email from the Brown campaign makes, connecting the Curry campaign of 2015 with money raised by the state party under his leadership a few years ago, is an interesting tack to take given that the Florida Democratic Party has taken an increasingly active role in the Brown campaign in recent weeks, providing resources ranging from new staff to media buys.

Brown, running as a “conservative Democrat,” given the scope of his financing,  could be asked about ties to entities ranging from George Soros and Florida Power and Light to Duke Power and US Sugar, even if his own policies owe little to those entities. It will be interesting to see how much this campaign pivots on the respective candidates’ ties to their state parties in the coming weeks. If so, Brown may be “linked” to some of the most traditionally liberal contributors to the Florida Democrats, which could erode his strength with moderates if done effectively.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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