February 29, 2012

Utah Rep. Introduces Bill To Make Filming Farm Abuse A Major Crime, Praises Industry Donor “Friends” At Hearing

Undercover videos at factory farms like this would be a major offense under Mathis's legislation.

Utah Rep. John Mathis (R) has introduced a bill that would criminalize individuals who take undercover video footage at factory farms, a practice which is often done to expose the abuse of animals and conditions that would make food unsafe for human consumption. The bill would make this filming a Class A misdemeanor and a third-degree felony on the second offense, the same as assaulting a police officer.

At a hearing about his bill that took place earlier this month, Mathis praised the presence of individuals from the agriculture industry. “It’s fun to see my good Ag friends in this committee,” Mathis said. “All my good friends are here.” One can interpret Mathis’s comments as praising an industry he is ideologically predisposed to, or perhaps as the legislator complimenting his personal friends.

However, what Mathis did not reveal in his comments was that both of the apparent “friends” he was praising were also major donors to his campaign. One of the individuals who testified that day was Mike Kohler of the Utah Dairy Producers (sometimes called the Dairy Producers of Utah). The other individual who testified was Sterling Brown of the Utah Farm Bureau.

Both Kohler and Brown’s organizations gave $1,000 contributions to the Utah-based AGPAC political action committee in 2010. AGPAC was Mathis’s fifth largest single donor in 2008 and the 12th largest single donor to his 2010 campaign. It appears that Mathis’s “friends” are indeed treating him very well as he continues to legislate in their favor.