Few people have played as big a role in Marco Rubio’s rise in national politics as Jose “Pepe” Fanjul. With his brother Alfonso, Fanjul runs one of the biggest sugar companies in the country, with brands like Domino and Florida Crystals. He’s a prominent Palm Beach socialite whose friends include the former king of Spain. In 2009, he marshalled both his money and his connections to help Rubio’s long-shot bid for the U.S. Senate. Rubio later thanked the Fanjul family in his autobiography, “for believing in me early on when few did.”
For his part, Rubio believes in sugar. As a Republican senator, he twice voted with Democrats to preserve government aid even as he railed against “corporate welfare” in other parts of the economy. He calls preserving U.S. sugar subsidies a matter of national security.
“Otherwise, Brazil will wipe out our agriculture—and it’s not just sugar, it will be citrus and everything else—and then they control our food supply,” Rubio said at a forum last August. “We’re at the mercy of a foreign country.”