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PolitiFact Florida Dissects Claim About Putnam and Algae; And Was CIA Director Really A Communist?

Jul 27, 2018

Was a former CIA director really a card-carrying member of the Communist Party? And is state agriculture commissioner and candidate for governor Adam Putnam partly resposible for all that green algae oozing out of Lake Okeechobee and fouling the coastline?

Democrats are disparaging Putnam with the name "Algae Adam,"  saying he backed a water bill in 2016 that gutted water quality regulations. WUSF's Steve Newborn gets to the bottom of these claims with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida.

The Democratic Governors Association slammed Putnam, a Republican, in a July 10 press release, saying he cheered on weakened water quality regulations and lax oversight that they say contributed to the mess in Lake Okeechobee.  

The Democrats further pushed the point on "Algae Adam" in a Medium post on July 13: "As Agriculture Commissioner, Putnam backed a water bill that gutted water quality regulations."

Did Putnam back a bill that "gutted" water regulations, and what does that have to do with the toxic situation in Lake Okeechobee? Here's PolitiFact Florida's investigation:


Putnam backed a bill in 2016 that changed the oversight of water quality conditions across the state. Supporters of the measure say the law was crafted to try and reduce pollution and improve water quality. Environmentalists say the law ended up doing the opposite.

For years, pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and human and animal waste have been pumped into Florida’s springs and water resources. SB 552, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in 2016, came about as a way to address the pollution and over-pumping, including at Lake Okeechobee, though whether it helps the situation is debated.

The measure, among other things, required the Department of Environmental Protection to define the standard for what counts as "harmful to the water resources;" revised Florida statutes so that there would be stricter requirements for certain sized wells; and required that water management districts adopt recovery and prevention policies. It also established water-flow levels for springs. 

The bill overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the Legislature with just two dissenting votes from House Democrats.

Putnam did not have a vote, but he did vouch for the bill. (Putnam also supported a very similar piece of legislation, HB 7003, in 2015.)

Putnam backed a bill in 2016 that changed the oversight of water quality conditions across the state. Supporters of the measure say the law was crafted to try and reduce pollution and improve water quality. Environmentalists say the law ended up doing the opposite.

For years, pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and human and animal waste have been pumped into Florida’s springs and water resources. SB 552, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in 2016, came about as a way to address the pollution and over-pumping, including at Lake Okeechobee, though whether it helps the situation is debated.

The measure, among other things, required the Department of Environmental Protection to define the standard for what counts as "harmful to the water resources;" revised Florida statutes so that there would be stricter requirements for certain sized wells; and required that water management districts adopt recovery and prevention policies. It also established water-flow levels for springs. 

The bill overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the Legislature with just two dissenting votes from House Democrats.

Putnam did not have a vote, but he did vouch for the bill. (Putnam also supported a very similar piece of legislation, HB 7003, in 2015.)

There's no doubt that Putnam supported a bipartisan law that made changes to state water policy. But the group's attack ignores the regulations and procedures that remain in place.

This statement is partially accurate. We rate it Half True.

Moving from green to red, Congressman Ron DeSantis, who's running against Putnam for the Republican nod, reached back into the Cold War for this comment he made to Fox News:

"John Brennan was a disaster as CIA director," DeSantis said on Fox News on July 16. "He was a disaster as the counterterrorism official. He was a member of the Communist Party during the Cold War. So this is not exactly the guy I would listen to about Russia."

A CIA director being a card-carrying Communist? Here's PolitiFact Florida's take:

Long before his appointment as CIA director in 2013, Brennan took a required polygraph test before entering the agency.

Brennan discussed the test at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual conference in September 2016, CNN reported. He was a panelist in a discussion about diversity in the intelligence community. Brennan was asked about whether past activism would create a barrier for diverse candidates seeking to enter the intelligence community later in life.

According to Brennan, the polygrapher asked him, "Have you ever worked with or for a group that was dedicated to overthrowing the U.S.?"

Brennan said he was apprehensive — he had voted for Gus Hall (of the Communist Party) for president in 1976, which was while the Cold War was underway. (The Cold War is generally defined as running from 1947 to 1991.)

Brennan told the polygraph operator that he had voted for Hall, but added that he was never a member of the Communist Party. Speaking at the conference, Brennan said he was relieved to have been accepted into the CIA, because he worried about having compromised his chances by being forthcoming.

Brennan’s former CIA deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro told PolitiFact Florida that it wouldn’t make sense for someone who was a secret communist to out themselves repeatedly.

Brennan has openly confirmed voting for a Communist Party candidate for president in 1976. But the DeSantis campaign did not provide evidence that he was a card-carrying party member, and we did not find any.

Voting for a particular candidate in a party does not make the voter a member of that party.

Because it contains an element of truth but twists facts to give a different impression, we rate this claim Mostly False.