March 2, 2012

Industry Donated Heavily To Iowa Lawmakers Who Pushed For Bill To Criminalize Undercover Farm Investigations

Industry Donated Heavily To Iowa Lawmakers Who Pushed For Bill To Criminalize Undercover Farm Investigations
What is the industry trying to hide with its "Ag Gag" bills?

Earlier this week, Republic Report investigated legislation being pushed by Utah Rep. John Mathis (R) to criminalize the documentation of farm abuse in his state. Mathis has been rewarded lavishly by campaign contributors for the bill, and he even invited them to testify in its favor, calling them his “good friends.”

Similar “Ag Gag” bills are being sponsored in states around the country, with the Associated Press locating at least seven other legislatures considering similar measures.

In Iowa, both the Senate and House have passed different versions of these bills taking aim at farm investigators (the Senate version does not criminalize filming but does make it illegal to go undercover at a factory). The bills were primarily pushed by two legislators, Democratic Sen. Joe Seng and Republican Sen. Annette Sweeney, who served as the floor managers for them.

Iowa’s transparency laws allow the public to see where lobbyists for various clients stand on the bills being debated. A cursory review of this list shows that many of the lobbyists in favor of the bill represented organizations that also donated to Seng and Sweeney. Here are a few of the powerful interests who pushed the bill and the money they gave to these lawmakers:

Iowa Corn Growers Association: Three separate lobbyists from this corn lobby declared themselves in support of the “Ag Gag” bill. This lobby donated $2,500 to Seng in his 2010 run for office, making up almost 8 percent of his total campaign funding. The same lobby donated $2,000 to Sweeney during that timeframe.

Iowa Farm Bureau Association: This group had four lobbyists declared in support of the legislation. It donated $1,254 to Sweeney in the last election season

Monsanto: This giant corporation’s lobbyist in the state of Iowa is David Tierney, who was for the legislation. It gave $500 to Sweeney in her last election.

Iowa Turkey Federation:  This group’s lobbyist, Jill Altrringer, supported the Ag Gag bill. The group gave $300 to Sweeney.

Agribusiness Association of Iowa: This group had multiple lobbyists in favor of the the bill. It gave $300 to Seng.

Civil liberties and animal rights activists are urging Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad (R) to veto the Ag Gag bill if it comes to his desk. Yet their pleas may fall on deaf ears — the governor was a huge recipient of agribusiness cash in the last election. One can only hope he will reject this corporate attack on free speech and the public’s right to know how their food is made.