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FACT CHECK: No-Show Rubio Misleads Floridians As Toxic Algae Crisis Worsens

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After ignoring the growing water crisis for years, no-show Senator Marco Rubio is now attempting to rewrite history to cover up his complete dereliction of duty to the people of Florida. In his Treasure Coast Palm editorial, Rubio misleadingly claims he has “been working to address Florida’s water challenges” over the past few years. That will be news to the residents of the Treasure Coast and to the activists and advocates who’ve worked tirelessly to combat this crisis.

Here are the facts.

Even Marco Rubio concedes he should have come sooner to view the damage done by toxic water discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Indian River Lagoon. But rather than taking responsibility, he has, unsurprisingly, offered the excuses of a “busy schedule” and the fact that Florida is a “big state.”

In 2015, Rubio was not among the signatories to a bipartisan letter requesting action on an Everglades plan that would have reduced pollution from Lake Okeechobee. He pledged to hold regular meetings with Indian River stakeholders, but only one meeting, which was held by phone, was ever announced. Rubio promised to introduce legislation transferring Lake Okeechobee discharge authority to the state of Florida, but by the end of 2014 had only held one meeting and had failed to introduce the legislation.

Rubio regularly failed to attend hearings and briefings on issues with Indian River Lagoon. In 2013, Rubio was “notably absent” from a bipartisan hearing on Indian River Lagoon issues. He did not attend visits to Indian River Lagoon from state and federal elected officials, including a 2013 visit from Bill Nelson and Rick Scott.  

Rubio’s failure to deliver on his promises earned bipartisan condemnation. Republican Indian Riverkeeper Executive Director Marty Baum blasted Rubio having not “done shit” on Indian River Lagoon pollution. Rivers Coalition Chairman Leon Abood criticized Rubio for refusing to “acknowledge there’s a problem.” At his most recent visit, Indian River advocates and Treasure Coast residents slammed “No Show Rubio” for his failure to respond to toxic water concerns. The editorial boards of the Stuart News and Naples Daily News blasted Rubio as “AWOL,” a “latecomer to the party,”and a “Washington no-show” on Indian River Lagoon water issues.

Background:

MARCO RUBIO ADMITTED HE SHOULD HAVE ADDRESSED INDIAN RIVER LAGOON TOXIC WATER ISSUES SOONER

WPTV: Marco Rubio “Admits He Should Have Come Sooner” To See The Damage Done By The Overflow Of Lake Okeechobee On The Treasure Coast. “He came, he saw, now what?  That's the question for people on the Treasure Coast. On Friday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to Stuart to hear about last year's toxic water issues and the fear it could happen again.  Rubio admits he should have come sooner. Shortly after he arrived, people huddled around the Rubio as he looked at numbers and pictures of the lasting effects of toxic water.  Mark Perry, head of the Florida Oceanographic Society, described how discharges from Lake Okeechobee caused problems.  Last year's discharges created toxic water killing fish and seagrass.  It also hurt local businesses and made some people sick.” [WPTV, 6/20/14]

  • Marco Rubio Planned To Discuss Harmful Water Flushed From Lake Okeechobee Into The Indian River Lagoon. “U.S. Senator Marco Rubio will be in town this afternoon, to take and the harmful effects of that toxic blue green algae that continues to plague The Treasure Coast. During his visit, Senator Rubio will also sit down and discuss the concerns regarding the harmful water that continues to be flushed from Lake Okeechobee into the Indian River Lagoon. A situation that is  heavily damaging  the treasure coast and surrounding areas, economically, as well as the quality of life of families in this area.” [CBS 12, 6/20/14]

MARCO RUBIO BLAMED A BUSY SCHEDULE AND THE SIZE OF FLORIDA FOR NOT VISITING THE TREASURE COAST AFTER OKEECHOBEE OVERFLOWS

WPTV: Rubio Blamed A “Busy Schedule” For Not Visiting The Treasure Coast Sooner After The Treasure Coast’s Toxic Water Issues. ““He came, he saw, now what?  That's the question for people on the Treasure Coast. On Friday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to Stuart to hear about last year's toxic water issues and the fear it could happen again.  Rubio admits he should have come sooner…Rubio blames a busy schedule. ‘One of the biggest challenges I've had in the three years I've been here is trying to get through a state that's enormous,’ says Rubio.” [WPTV, 6/20/14]

  • Marco Rubio On His Failure To Visit The Treasure Coast Soon After Its Toxic Water Issues: “One Of The Biggest Challenges I've Had In The Three Years I've Been Here Is Trying To Get Through A State That's Enormous.” “‘He came, he saw, now what?’ That's the question for people on the Treasure Coast. On Friday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to Stuart to hear about last year's toxic water issues and the fear it could happen again.  Rubio admits he should have come sooner…Rubio blames a busy schedule. ‘One of the biggest challenges I've had in the three years I've been here is trying to get through a state that's enormous,’ says Rubio.” [WPTV, 6/20/14]

  • Marco Rubio On His Inaction On Indian River Lagoon Concerns: “It’s A Big State With Multiple Issues Everywhere.” “After criticizing him for more than a year, Indian River Lagoon activists come face-to-face with Sen. Marco Rubio as he arrives at Stuart City Hall…Environmentalists have criticized Rubio for alleged inaction. ‘We wish we could have come here a few months earlier but we’ve certainly been engaged and aware of the issue,’ Rubio told WPBF 25 News reporter John Dzenitis. ‘It’s a big state with multiple issues everywhere but this is an important one and I know that we hope to be making some process.’” [WPBF, 6/20/14]

2015: MARCO RUBIO DID NOT SIGN ON TO BIPARTISAN FLORIDA DELEGATION LETTER REQUESTING ACTION ON EVERGLADES PLAN TO REDUCE LAKE OKEECHOBEE POLLUTION

Stuart News Editorial: Marco Rubio’s Signature Was “Conspicuously Absent” From A Bipartisan Florida Delegation Letter Requesting Action On An Everglades Plan To Reduce Some Pollution From Lake Okeechobee. “Last month, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delayed action on an Everglades plan that would have reduced some of the pollution coming from Lake Okeechobee, a bipartisan group of Florida’s congressional representatives fired off a letter asking that action be taken. Democrat Murphy was among the signers, as were conservative Republicans such as U.S. Reps. Tom Rooney and Bill Posey. Sen. Bill Nelson was also a signer. Rubio’s signature on the letter was conspicuously absent.” [Editorial, Stuart News, 3/16/15]

MARCO RUBIO FAILED TO LIVE UP TO HIS PROMISES ON INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

2014: Stuart News Editorial: Marco Rubio Pledged To Hold Regular Meetings With Indian River Lagoon Stakeholders, But Only Held One – Via Phone Conference. “Rubio pledged to draft a bill by September that would transfer authority over Lake O discharges from the Army Corps of Engineers to the state. (Our editorial board is skeptical of the idea. Changing the decision-maker would not automatically solve the problem of where to send excess water.) Rubio also pledged to convene regular meetings with lagoon stakeholders. But again, we were left to wonder. No ‘transfer’ bill was filed during the remainder of 2014. And the only stakeholder meeting occurred via phone conference in August.” [Editorial, Stuart News, 1/16/15]

  • Stuart News: Rubio “Said He Would Have Regular Meetings With Advocates And Local Elected Officials To Discuss The [Indian River] Lagoon,” But “There Was Only One Meeting Announced To The Media.” “U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will go on a boat and ground tour to see the algae in area waters Friday.  Rubio will leave from Central Marine Stuart, at 200 N.W. Alice Ave., and will speak with the media at about 11:45 a.m.  He visited Stuart in 2015 to tour the St. Lucie River and said he would have regular meetings with advocates and local elected officials to discuss the lagoon.   There was only one meeting announced to the media. He also said he would work on a bill to transfer control of Lake Okeechobee discharges to the state, but his staff later released a report saying that would be largely unfeasible because Florida could be liable if the dike around the lake breaches.” [Stuart News, 7/1/16]

2014: Stuart News Editorial: Marco Rubio Pledged To Introduce Legislation To Transfer Lake Okeechobee Discharge Authority To Florida – But Did Not File A Bill. “Rubio pledged to draft a bill by September that would transfer authority over Lake O discharges from the Army Corps of Engineers to the state. (Our editorial board is skeptical of the idea. Changing the decision-maker would not automatically solve the problem of where to send excess water.) Rubio also pledged to convene regular meetings with lagoon stakeholders. But again, we were left to wonder. No ‘transfer’ bill was filed during the remainder of 2014. And the only stakeholder meeting occurred via phone conference in August.” [Editorial, Stuart News, 1/16/15]

  • Stuart News: Rubio “Also Said He Would Work On A Bill To Transfer Control Of Lake Okeechobee Discharges To The State, But His Staff Later Released A Report Saying That Would Be Largely Unfeasible.” “U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will go on a boat and ground tour to see the algae in area waters Friday.  Rubio will leave from Central Marine Stuart, at 200 N.W. Alice Ave., and will speak with the media at about 11:45 a.m.  He visited Stuart in 2015 to tour the St. Lucie River and said he would have regular meetings with advocates and local elected officials to discuss the lagoon.   There was only one meeting announced to the media. He also said he would work on a bill to transfer control of Lake Okeechobee discharges to the state, but his staff later released a report saying that would be largely unfeasible because Florida could be liable if the dike around the lake breaches.” [Stuart News, 7/1/16]

MARCO RUBIO FAILED TO ATTEND HEARINGS AND BRIEFINGS ON THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON ISSUE

2013: Stuart News Editorial: Rubio Was “Notably Absent” From A Bipartisan Hearing Regarding The Lagoon. “Rubio was notably absent.” [Editorial, Stuart News, 1/16/15]

  • 10/3/13: Rubio Did Not Join 22 Congressional Leaders At An Indian River Lagoon. “Rubio was not among 22 congressional leaders at an Oct. 3 briefing on the lagoon, arranged by U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers. His Florida counterpart, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., were there.” [Vero Beach Press Journal, 11/10/13]

2013: Rubio Did Not Attend Visits By State And Federal Politicians To Support The Estuaries. According to Treasure Coast Palm, “Recent visits from state and federal politicians stirred support for the estuaries. Rubio, from West Miami, was not among them. His regional director, Greg Langowski, toured the lagoon July 23 and a district staff worker sometimes attends local meetings on the issue.” [Vero Beach Press Journal, 11/10/13]

  • Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy: “When Gov. Rick Scott And Sen. Bill Nelson Toured The Area In 2013 As The Crisis Began, Rubio Was A No-Show.” “But it is the work that Rubio has not done and the meetings he has not attended that have left the local communities demanding more. When Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson toured the area in 2013 as the crisis began, Rubio was a no-show. Months later, when Reps. Murphy (D-FL) and Trey Radel (R-FL) organized a congressional briefing on the emergency, 22 members of the House and Senate, including Nancy Pelosi, attended. Rubio did not. Since his 2014 visit to Stuart, Rubio has not been back. For much of 2015 and all of 2016, he has been on the campaign trail in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other earlier voting states.” [Patricia Murphy, Daily Beast, 3/14/16]

MARCO RUBIO WAS SLAMMED FOR FAILING TO RESPOND TO TREASURE COAST ISSUES

WPBF: Marco Rubio Was “Met By Protestors” After He Toured Treasure Coast Algae Bloom. “U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was met by protesters after he finished a boat, ground and air tour of the algae bloom that has been spreading in area waters on the Treasure Coast over the last week. Rubio ended his tour at Central Marine at 200 NW Alice Ave. in Stuart, where the algae bloom is especially bad.” [WPBF, 7/1/16]

Republican Indian Riverkeeper Executive Director Marty Baum: “We Have A Flint, Michigan, Going On Here In Florida In Slow Motion And Marco Rubio Hasn’t Done Shit.” “If Sen. Marco Rubio loses the Florida primary next Tuesday, it won’t be because of the number of campaign offices he opened or the TV ads he didn’t buy. Instead, it likely will be because of the kind of senator that Rubio’s Florida constituents believe he has been. Frustrated residents of several coastal Florida communities say they see a man who is friendly but unread, ambitious but unengaged, and widely discussed nationally but almost entirely absent from his own state as it suffers from an ongoing ecological and economic disaster. ‘We have a Flint, Michigan, going on here in Florida in slow motion and Marco Rubio hasn’t done shit,’ says Marty Baum, executive director of the Indian Riverkeeper in Jensen Beach, Florida. Baum is the sort of salty environmentalist you’d expect to criticize a Republican senator. But he’s  a lifelong Republican, angry with what he sees as a disaster unfolding in front of him and few leaders, especially Rubio, doing anything to stop it.” [Patricia Murphy, Daily Beast, 3/14/16]

“Indian River Lagoon Advocates Ask: Where Is Rubio?” [Vero Beach Press Journal, 9/28/14]

Rivers Coalition Chairman Leon Abood: Marco Rubio “Keeps His Head Down And Doesn’t Even Acknowledge There’s A Problem” With Indian River Lagoon. “During this summer’s Indian River Lagoon crisis, U.S. Sen Marco Rubio — Florida’s most notable name on Capitol Hill — was neither vocal nor visible on the issue. Rubio, a potential Republican presidential candidate, prioritizes trying to delete or delay ‘Obamacare.’ He also plays a key role in immigration reform efforts. His lack of outcry for the lagoon leaves river advocates with a lingering question — ‘Where is Rubio?’ ‘He keeps his head down and doesn’t even acknowledge that there’s a problem,’ said Leon Abood, chairman of the Stuart-based Rivers Coalition, whose mission is to stop the Lake Okeechobee freshwater discharges that pollute the St. Lucie River, estuary, lagoon and beaches.” [Vero Beach Press Journal, 9/28/14]

Indian River Lagoon Activist Blasted Marco Rubio Over His Failure To Respond To Toxic Water Situation: “Where Have You Been For The Past 13 Months?” “After criticizing him for more than a year, Indian River Lagoon activists come face-to-face with Sen. Marco Rubio as he arrives at Stuart City Hall. ‘Where have you been for the past 13 months?’ called out one protester. Another held a wanted poster with Rubio’s face on it, calling him ‘No Show Rubio’ and accusing him of ‘murder of our rivers.’ Last summer, there was an uproar after polluted Lake Okeechobee water was discharged and dumped into local waterways, creating toxic algae.” [WPBF, 6/20/14]

Indian River Lagoon Activists Slammed “No Show Rubio” For His Failure To Respond To Lake Okeechobee Toxic Water Concerns. “After criticizing him for more than a year, Indian River Lagoon activists come face-to-face with Sen. Marco Rubio as he arrives at Stuart City Hall. ‘Where have you been for the past 13 months?’ called out one protester. Another held a wanted poster with Rubio’s face on it, calling him ‘No Show Rubio’ and accusing him of ‘murder of our rivers.’ Last summer, there was an uproar after polluted Lake Okeechobee water was discharged and dumped into local waterways, creating toxic algae.” [WPBF, 6/20/14]

Treasure Coast Resident Stan Buis On Marco Rubio’s Visit To Stuart To Talk Toxic Water Issues: “Too Little, Too Late…It Seems Awfully Odd With An Election Year Coming Up.” “He came, he saw, now what?  That's the question for people on the Treasure Coast. On Friday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to Stuart to hear about last year's toxic water issues and the fear it could happen again.  Rubio admits he should have come sooner…Some people say his visit is long overdue. ‘Too little, too late,’ says resident Stan Buis, ‘It seems awfully odd with an election year coming up.’” [WPTV, 6/20/14]

Treasure Coast Business Owner Irene Gomes On Marco Rubio’s Visit To Stuart To Talk Toxic Water Issues: “Say Anything You Want To Say…It's What You Do.” “He came, he saw, now what?  That's the question for people on the Treasure Coast. On Friday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to Stuart to hear about last year's toxic water issues and the fear it could happen again.  Rubio admits he should have come sooner…He vowed to take action. People here hope he keeps his word. ‘Say anything you want to say,’ says local business owner Irene Gomes, ‘It's what you do.’ ‘Talk is cheap,’ says resident Don Voss, ‘We wanna see him walk the walk.’” [WPTV, 6/20/14]

Treasure Coast Resident Don Voss On Marco Rubio’s Visit To Stuart To Talk Toxic Water Issues: “Talk Is Cheap…We Wanna See Him Walk The Walk.” “He came, he saw, now what?  That's the question for people on the Treasure Coast. On Friday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to Stuart to hear about last year's toxic water issues and the fear it could happen again.  Rubio admits he should have come sooner…He vowed to take action. People here hope he keeps his word. ‘Say anything you want to say,’ says local business owner Irene Gomes, ‘It's what you do.’ ‘Talk is cheap,’ says resident Don Voss, ‘We wanna see him walk the walk.’” [WPTV, 6/20/14]

EDITORIAL BOARDS SLAMMED “NO SHOW” MARCO RUBIO ON INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

“Editorial: Jury Is Still Out On Rubio's Commitment To Indian River Lagoon.” [Editorial, Stuart News, 1/16/15]

Stuart News Editorial: “Marco Rubio Was A Latecomer To The Party” On Indian River Lagoon Toxic Water Issues. According to an editorial in the Stuart News, “U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was a latecomer to the party. There is some evidence he has finally arrived. Let’s hope so. The Indian River Lagoon needs all the help it can get — and Rubio is in a pre-eminent position to help the embattled waterway, which now faces a fresh assault from Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday it would begin discharging water from the lake into the St. Lucie River.” [Editorial, Stuart News, 1/16/15]

“Editorial: Marco Rubio Nonresponsive To Florida's Concerns.” [Editorial, Stuart News, 3/16/15]

Stuart News Editorial: Marco Rubio Was “AWOL During The Discussions And The Legislative Proposals” On How To Fix Indian River Lagoon Pollution “And Has Remained So.” “Last summer, when the Treasure Coast faced an environmental and economic crisis with the pollution of the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, politicians on the left and right stepped up to work on potential solutions. Republican Gov. Rick Scott visited and promised help. Florida’s senior U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, visited and also attended a bipartisan hearing on the issue co-chaired by Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Rubio was AWOL during the discussions and the legislative proposals and has remained so.” [Editorial, Stuart News, 3/16/15]

2013: Vero Beach Press Journal: “During This Summer’s Indian River Lagoon Crisis, U.S. Sen Marco Rubio — Florida’s Most Notable Name On Capitol Hill — Was Neither Vocal Nor Visible On The Issue.” “During this summer’s Indian River Lagoon crisis, U.S. Sen Marco Rubio — Florida’s most notable name on Capitol Hill — was neither vocal nor visible on the issue. Rubio, a potential Republican presidential candidate, prioritizes trying to delete or delay ‘Obamacare.’ He also plays a key role in immigration reform efforts. His lack of outcry for the lagoon leaves river advocates with a lingering question — ‘Where is Rubio?’ ‘He keeps his head down and doesn’t even acknowledge that there’s a problem,’ said Leon Abood, chairman of the Stuart-based Rivers Coalition, whose mission is to stop the Lake Okeechobee freshwater discharges that pollute the St. Lucie River, estuary, lagoon and beaches.” [Vero Beach Press Journal, 11/10/13]

Naples Daily News Editorial On Indian River Lagoon Toxic Water Issues: “When It Comes To Visibly Addressing This Issue, Critical To The Region, There's Been A Washington No-Show: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.” “Southwest Florida can thank three-fourths of its Congressional delegation for public attention to the latest harm coming to our coastal estuaries, beaches, waters and economy. Yet when it comes to visibly addressing this issue, critical to the region, there's been a Washington no-show: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. Late last month, the South Florida Water Management District began emergency pumping of Lake Okeechobee because the state's extremely wet January sent lake levels rising to a concerning level. While the water district is responsible for the pumps, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determines when water is released — and how much — if the lake level gets so high the berm surrounding it is considered at risk of failure. The lake's emergency releases primarily go in two directions. One is the St. Lucie Canal, toward the central east coast and the polluted Indian River Lagoon. In the opposite direction is the Caloosahatchee River toward Fort Myers and eventually into the coastal estuaries of Southwest Florida, including south Lee County.” [Editorial, Naples Daily News, 2/9/16]

  • Naples Daily News Editorial: “A Year Ago, Rubio Told A Gathering Of Florida Reporters He Was ‘Still Very Committed’ To Introducing A Bill To Give The State Control Over Water Releases From The Lake. That Was Before He Was Running For President.” “A year ago, Rubio told a gathering of Florida reporters he was ‘still very committed’ to introducing a bill to give the state control over water releases from the lake. That was before he was running for president. Among his campaign supporters are the Fanjul family, which operates a sugar and real estate conglomerate.” [Editorial, Naples Daily News, 2/9/16]

  • Naples Daily News Editorial: “Rubio's Speeches, His U.S. Senate Website, Blog And Public Statements Of Late Are Focused On International And Domestic Affairs Or The President, Not Florida.” “A year ago, Rubio told a gathering of Florida reporters he was ‘still very committed’ to introducing a bill to give the state control over water releases from the lake. That was before he was running for president. Among his campaign supporters are the Fanjul family, which operates a sugar and real estate conglomerate. Rubio's speeches, his U.S. Senate website, blog and public statements of late are focused on international and domestic affairs or the president, not Florida. His attention this month turned to Iowa, where he finished third, and New Hampshire, where polls showed he was in a horse race for second place pending Tuesday night's results.” [Editorial, Naples Daily News, 2/9/16]