October 21, 2016
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Black Chambers Of Commerce Call On Senator To Abandon Anti-U.S. Virgin Islands Position


LeMieux Backs Puerto Rico-Sponsored Legislation That Damages U.S. Economy

African-American Business Groups Align Behind USVI Economic Development Agreements

WASHINGTON,  -- The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) and the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce today called on Florida's Senator George LeMieux to abandon his support for legislation that would severely damage the economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

Sen. LeMieux recently joined a campaign promoting federal legislation to undo two economic development agreements in the USVI at the behest of a group of Puerto Rican leaders and lobbyists. The campaign consistently disseminates misinformation and falsehoods to gain support and to pressure federal leaders to join its efforts targeting the USVI. The National and Florida Black Chambers of Commerce urge Sen. LeMieux to see the merits of the USVI's economic strategy, which uses tools provided by Congress to benefit the territory and United States.

The USVI has signed public-private partnerships with Diageo, maker of Captain Morgan rum, and Fortune Brands, maker of Cruzan Rum and Ronrico, that ensure both companies stay in the United States for the next 30 years. Sen. LeMieux voiced his support for Puerto Rico's attempts to unwind the agreements, even if it forces Diageo off American soil to a foreign country, taking jobs and economic impact overseas. This is bad for America's economy and the USVI's residents.

The letter from NBCC President Harry Alford and Florida Black Chamber of Commerce President Eugene Franklin raised questions about Puerto Rico's attacks against the USVI. It asked Sen. LeMieux to confirm he has reviewed the recent Congressional Research Service report that stated Puerto Rico's legislation is counter to the rum excise tax cover-over economic development program's intent and would ultimately damage both Puerto Rico and the USVI.

"Senator LeMieux's backing of Puerto Rican interests deeply concerns African-American business leaders and their employees," said Alford. "The USVI's agreements keep companies in the United States and help the USVI recover from the fiscal downturn.

"Bonds have been issued by the USVI and construction is underway. The economic future of nation's only black-majority territory is under threat of implosion if LeMieux gets his way in Congress," commented Franklin. "Florida's African-American community needs to stand up to Senator LeMieux and the campaign targeting the USVI. Harming the USVI simply to please a faction of powerful Puerto Ricans is bad for African-Americans, bad for both territories' rum industries, and bad for the U.S. economy."

Full text of the letter to Senator LeMieux follows:


The Honorable George LeMieux

United States Senate

356 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator LeMieux:

The Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, along with the National Black Chamber of Commerce, is deeply troubled by your public support for Puerto Rican legislation (H.R. 2122) targeting the U.S. Virgin Islands' (USVI) economic development agreements. Puerto Rican officials are waging a campaign against the USVI based on misinformation and demagoguery. On behalf of Florida's African-American business community, we stand behind the USVI's public-private partnerships benefiting the United States, the companies, their employees and their communities.

The USVI's rum partnerships are good for America's economy, modernize the U.S. rum industry, improve the environment with cleaner and more sustainable facilities, and provide new hope for one of America's poorest jurisdictions. These investments with Diageo (Captain Morgan's owner) and Fortune Brands (Cruzan Rum's owner) preserve and create U.S. jobs and economic impact by keeping exclusive production of the rum brands in the United States for 30 years. At a time of national economic challenges, we believe that our leaders should be praising these deals, not criticizing them.    

We sincerely hope you will reconsider your position on H.R. 2122 and will not use this serious economic and public policy issue to advance your own political career. Puerto Rico's overt and vitriolic attacks are merely sour grapes because that territory lost out in the marketplace when Diageo decided to move Captain Morgan production from Puerto Rico. The public-private partnerships with the USVI ensure Puerto Rico's business failures do not result in Diageo heading offshore.

We respectfully would like to request answers from you on the following questions:

  • You publicly state your support for H.R. 2122. Are you aware that a recent analysis by the independent and reputable Congressional Research Service concluded that H.R. 2122 is counter to the intent of the original rum excise tax cover-over program, that the legislation would hurt both the USVI and Puerto Rico, and that cover-over revenue does not constitute U.S. taxpayer dollars?
  • Were you aware that Diageo has publicly stated it will not return to Puerto Rico? Given their business-driven decision, by advocating the Puerto Rican position, you are supporting Puerto Rico's desire to see Diageo locate in a foreign country. Are you willing to lose U.S. jobs and economic impact to satisfy Puerto Rican interests?
  • Puerto Rico and its lobbyists and allies have launched a campaign against the USVI and have issued demands of Congress. Are you aware of the extent of the attacks and deliberate spread of misinformation used to promote H.R. 2122? Have you closely examined the self-interested motivations of the Puerto Ricans involved?


We appreciate your quick response to these questions.  

Public-private partnerships like the USVI's benefit the United States by boosting economic activity, maximizing local government revenue and improving residents' lives. We hope you will reconsider your support for H.R. 2122 and will closely evaluate the legislation's negative impact on the USVI, a territory facing severe economic challenges that has found a proactive solution to these difficulties, and on the United States as a whole. H.R. 2122 hurts economic development efforts at a time when government and business leaders need to be aligned in doing everything possible to stabilize and grow our country's economy.


Eugene Franklin

President and CEO

Florida Black Chamber of Commerce

Harry C. Alford

President and CEO  

National Black Chamber of Commerce


SOURCE Florida Black Chamber of Commerce / National Black Chamber of Commerce


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