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Florida lawmaker sponsored ‘radioactive roads’ bill. Mosaic threw him a fundraiser.

The fundraising event was held May 22 at a lofty Bowling Green golf getaway — formerly owned by the Tampa-based fertilizer giant.
 
The Red and Blue Clubhouse at Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green was part of the Mosaic Co.'s $160 million sale of the resort, built on 7,000 acres of former phosphate mining land in 2012. In May, Hillsborough Rep. Lawrence McClure held a fundraising event at Streamsong, paid for by Mosaic, according to a company spokesperson and campaign finance records. McClure was the sponsor of this year's controversial "radioactive roads" bill, which Mosaic lobbied.
The Red and Blue Clubhouse at Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green was part of the Mosaic Co.'s $160 million sale of the resort, built on 7,000 acres of former phosphate mining land in 2012. In May, Hillsborough Rep. Lawrence McClure held a fundraising event at Streamsong, paid for by Mosaic, according to a company spokesperson and campaign finance records. McClure was the sponsor of this year's controversial "radioactive roads" bill, which Mosaic lobbied. [ Streamsong ]
Published June 14, 2023|Updated June 14, 2023

Tampa-based Fortune 500 fertilizer company Mosaic last month hosted and paid nearly $25,000 for a fundraising event for the state lawmaker who sponsored the controversial “radioactive roads” bill recently approved by the Florida Legislature.

Campaign finance records show Conservative Florida — the political committee of Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Plant City — reported an in-kind contribution for “food, lodging and entertainment” from Mosaic on May 22. A Mosaic spokesperson said the event was held that day at Streamsong Resort, a prestigious golf getaway on former phosphate mining land near the Hardee-Polk county border, which the company sold earlier this year but still uses for events.

Mosaic “covered the cost of the event,” spokesperson Jackie Barron told the Tampa Bay Times. McClure this year sponsored a bill that would allow the Florida Department of Transportation to study the use of phosphogypsum, a mildly radioactive byproduct of Mosaic’s phosphate manufacturing process, in road construction.

That bill, which was lobbied and is supported by Mosaic, has been approved by both the Florida House and Senate but has yet to be sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. Florida environmental groups are urging DeSantis to veto the bill, claiming it could put public health at risk while Mosaic cashes in on its waste product.

In an interview, McClure denied that the event hosted at Streamsong was related to the bill he sponsored, saying it was “an annual fundraiser to support the political committee.”

“It’s not the first time Mosaic has supported me or that political committee,” McClure told the Times. “You can look across the fundraising history of Conservative Florida and see where there’s been lots of individual folks and industries that have supported the way I’ve thought about representing my district in the state of Florida.”

State lawmaker Lawrence McClure, a Plant City Republican, sponsored this year's controversial phosphogypsum bill lobbied by Mosaic.
State lawmaker Lawrence McClure, a Plant City Republican, sponsored this year's controversial phosphogypsum bill lobbied by Mosaic.

Finance records show Mosaic’s in-kind contribution accounts for more than a quarter of Conservative Florida’s May contributions, which total $92,300. The day after the fundraiser, the committee received more than $22,000 from donors.

The Mosaic contribution marks the third time since 2020 the company has supported McClure’s political committee. Mosaic wrote the committee a $5,000 check in August 2020, and the company also contributed more than $19,000 worth of “food, beverage, lodging” last year, records show.

“Mosaic, like other industries, make many contributions to organizations working to educate lawmakers on the latest opportunities and challenges facing critical industries in Florida. In fact, we have been supportive of Representative McClure for many years as he represents the very district which is home to our operations and thousands of our employees and vendors,” Barron wrote in an email.

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“It just so happens this particular year there is an effort to tackle the unnecessary stacking of a waste material dozens of other countries have already figured out how to beneficially use,” Barron said, referring to the process of storing phosphogypsum in about two dozen “stacks” across Florida.

“Mosaic supports as much research as possible, which is the focus of this legislation,” Barron said, referring to McClure’s bill.

Related: Radioactive roads? Tampa fertilizer giant Mosaic wants to start testing it.

McClure represents District 68 in Hillsborough County, home to Mosaic’s now-closed Plant City fertilizer plant, which still hosts company employees as they oversee the closure of the facility. Hillsborough is also home to Mosaic’s downtown Tampa corporate headquarters and has the largest number of company employees, Barron said. Mosaic’s influence is evident around the region, including the company’s logo displayed on the ice at Tampa Bay Lightning games and a sponsorship of a gallery space at the Florida Aquarium.

Mosaic has “a great working relationship” with McClure, the lawmaker said.

“I think that’s important, for industries in the state of Florida to have a working relationship with its government. That’s how you get commonsense government,” McClure said.

Meanwhile, Mosaic is actively seeking approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to begin testing phosphogypsum in a roadway at its New Wales facility, the Times reported last week.

The company hopes to roll out a “small-scale” pilot project at its Mulberry plant using phosphogypsum as an ingredient in three 200-foot sections of road, records show.

Phosphogypsum contains radium-226, which emits radiation during its decay to form radon, a potentially cancer-causing, radioactive gas, according to the EPA.

If federal environmental regulators approve Mosaic’s request, the pilot project would mark the first time the EPA has greenlit phosphogypsum use since its 2020 approval, and subsequent reversal, of a request to use the byproduct in American roads.

Cris Costello, a senior organizing manager at the Sierra Club, said it’s not a surprise Mosaic is offering up funding for a state lawmaker’s fundraising event.

“Mosaic gets what Mosaic wants because they spend the dollars to make it so,” she said in a statement.

An aerial view of a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry, where the Fortune 500 company wants to test putting its waste byproduct in roads.
An aerial view of a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry, where the Fortune 500 company wants to test putting its waste byproduct in roads. [ Times (2016) ]