Early in the hush-hush negotiations to buy U.S. Sugar, Gov. Charlie Crist dropped by a fundraiser for the small but powerful Everglades Foundation.
At the ritzy Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, the governor hobnobbed with gossip-page lovebirds Chris Evert and Greg Norman, celebrity magnate Donald Trump and the not-so-famous but even richer Paul Tudor Jones II, a Wall Street wizard and avid tarpon angler who chairs the nonprofit foundation.
Behind the glitter was a more telling measure of the foundation's clout: Crist's office put his hosts in the loop on the secret sugar talks well before the February shindig -- and before many of his own top administrators.
Audubon, Sierra and many other brand-name environmental groups have sparred with the sugar industry. But the low-profile Everglades Foundation has played the biggest role, and spent the biggest bucks, trying to cut Big Sugar down to size. Led by Jones, prominent activists Mary Barley and Nathaniel Reed and a small group of directors and staff members, the Palmetto Bay-based foundation has never been more influential.
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