The Florida Republican has filed an amendment to a Senate jobs bill that would upend the formula the two terrorities rely on to secure taxes from run production. Rather than a formula based on how many barrels of rum produced -- the change would base tax dollars on population -- and ostensibly benefit more heavily populated Puerto Rico -- which has been lobbying Congress furiously to torpedo a deal between rum producer Diageo and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"We need a better methodology for distributing assistance," LeMieux spokesman Ken Lundberg said. "Right now, the formula doesn’t make sense. Providing assistance based on population instead of the amount of rum produced is a better course."
The Virgin Islands is already peeved with Bill Nelson for considering legislation that would benefit Puerto Rico. The intervention in the rum wars is nothing new for Florida lawmakers -- they've been active in the war over the rights to the name of Havana Club rum for more than a decade. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz became the latest to get involved Wednesday, pushing a bill that critics say singles out Bacardi for special treatment.
"It boils down to one issue,'' she said at a hearing Wednesday. "Whether our nation will continue to uphold the principle that trademarks stolen in another country will not be recognized in the United States."
Diageo last week sought to link the two disputes, accusing Bacardi of "working behind the scenes'' to scuttle the tax incentives Diageo would get for moving production of Captain Morgan rum from PR to the USVI.
A number of lawmakers were clearly on Bacardi's side: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told Bacardi's rival Pernod Ricard vice president Mark Orr that he "had a hard time not seeing Fidel and Raul'' when he looked at him at the witness table.