March 14, 2011- On Friday, The American Independent reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) received more Koch Industries money than any other candidate for U.S. Senate in the 2010 election, and many of his other major contributors have personal and professional ties to the Koch brothers as well. So how have Rubio’s backers fared so far in terms of getting a return on their investment?
As far as introducing new legislation, Rubio has been fairly quiet. So far, he has been responsible for one piece of legislation, an amendment to an air traffic control bill that would prevent the expansion of flight itineraries in countries that sponsor terrorism. Since becoming a senator in January, Rubio has voted in opposition of the implementation of health care reform through a number of resolutions and amendments, and has voted for extending provisions of the PATRIOT Act and blocking Transportation Security Administration employees from collective bargaining (of course, the involvement of the Koch brothers in the national fight over collective bargaining is well documented). That’s the extent of his U.S. Senate voting record, but he’s been vocal about his support for other bills, and it’s there that his benefit to Koch Industries comes into focus.
Koch Industries has three major operations in Florida: Georgia-Pacific, Flint Hills Resources and Koch Chemical Technology Group. Of those, the paper company Georgia-Pacific has come into the most heated conflict with environmental regulations. Flint Hills is an oil refinery operation that has been fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the Clean Air Act in the past, though it was also commended by the EPA in 2005 for cutting emissions. Koch Chemical Technology primarily makes pollution control equipment that can be used to ensure compliance with EPA regulations.
Rubio has stated his opposition to cap-and-trade regulations that would reward companies for limiting emissions and tax those that don’t. Cap and trade could have a major impact on the Flint Hills operation in Rubio’s backyard, but it could have even larger repercussions for Koch Industries outfits in other states. Koch Industries has spent hundreds of millions in the past in fines for EPA violations and costs incurred in bringing factories up to emissions standards.
And as a pitched battle continues to heat up in Florida over Georgia-Pacific’s objections to EPA water standards, Rubio has made known his opposition to the same. The sugar conglomerate Flo-Sun, another major backer of Rubio’s campaign, has also had its own battles with the EPA over water pollution standards. Rubio has couched his opposition to regulations in terms of job creation, but opponents have argued that failing to enact environment regulations could ultimately cost jobs for Florida in some of its flagship industries (more on that later).
It’s unclear how Rubio’s constituents feel about his vigorous opposition to EPA regulation, as no polls have been conducted by an independent body to find out. The only poll available is one showing 68 percent of Floridians and climbing oppose EPA water regulations; however, the poll simply asked if Floridians would oppose water quality regulations if they resulted in a $700 increase in the average home water bill. That number was based on industry estimates of industrial wastewater regulation costs that the EPA has disputed.