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Crist lobbied hard for U.S. Sugar deal

Dec. 21, 2008 at 2:50 PM

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist lobbied feverishly to gain approval of his $1.34 billion plan to buy U.S. Sugar's farm lands, he and observers say.

The Miami Herald reported Sunday that in the days before the South Florida Water Management District voted on his proposal the Republican governor led an all-out lobbying effort to save the deal he had announced six months earlier.

The newspaper said not only did Crist lobby the district governing board, he enlisted outgoing Sen. President Ken Pruitt. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp also visited the district.

The deal was approved Tuesday by a 4-3 vote. The governor acknowledged "spending an awful lot of time on the phone" to secure the votes needed to approve the deal, aimed at restoration of the Everglades.

Critics say the governor shoved the deal through by twisting the arms of board members.

"It was obvious to me that people were being pressured, not everybody but certain individuals," said Michael Collins, the only remaining board member appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. "I never saw the Bush administration tell anybody on the board to do anything but what they thought was right."

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