The farm bill that President Barack Obama signs today will violate his own promises of transparency.Continue reading
As senators cast their votes today on the 1,139-page, $955 billion farm bill, the unseen backdrop is the more than $26 million in campaign cash that agribusiness has pumped into their political campaigns. All but two members of the current Senate have received money from these donors who represent every possible agriculture concern, from sugar growers to dairy farmers to chemical manufacturers and more.
It’s an axiom of agriculture politics that agribusiness interests concentrate their generosity on members of key committees who write and fund the farm bill. As the graphic below shows, the current Senate is no ...Continue reading
It's deja vu all over again as the Senate debates the farm bill this week--just as it did nearly a year ago without any legislation ultimately passing--and one of the hot button issues remains the crop insurance program whose cost has been steadily rising to more than $14 billion in 2012. The Senate bill reforms but also expands the Depression-era program; President Barack Obama has called for additional cuts and several senators are offering amendments to reform it.
On the other side are the agricultural trade associations representing the crop insurers and the farmers that make use of ...Continue reading
As the Senate debates the farm bill this week, a once-every-five-years lobbying extravaganza that sets policy on farm subsidies, food assistance, nutrition, and myriad other agricultural programs, here's a quick look at some of the big money interests that are involved, as well as pressure points for transparency, or the lack of it.
The money. Agribusiness has already sunk $39.2 million in direct contributions to federal candidate and party coffers this election cycle, nearly three-fourths of that to Republican interests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2008, the last presidential election cycle, which also happened to ...Continue reading
E-mails obtained by the Associated Press indicate how Abramoff’s team used the lure of campaign contributions to obtain an earmark for a school construction project desired by the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan
Abramoff’s team worked with Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to get the Senate Democrats, then in control of the Senate, to request the money. Abramoff also turned to Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) to write the earmarked provision for the money. The plan hit a snag when a lone GOP House staffer, Joel Kaplan, objected to the money. That is when the e-mails become of interest:
Aside from the Republican Party getting involved in Abramoff's contribution-for-action scheme two specific lawmakers come up for scrutiny in the e-mails:
A staffer for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Jonathan Poe, suggested Abramoff's team compile a list of tribal donations, comparing Republicans with Democrats, to help make the case for lawmakers to overrrule Kaplan, the e-mails state.
Poe's "suggestion for me was to have a list of money contributed by tribes broken down 'r' to 'd' so that I can make the cleanest argument that we are about to let the Senate Democrats take credit for the biggest ask of the year by the most Republican-leaning tribes," Abramoff lobbying associate Neil Volz wrote.
Abramoff's team obliged, creating a tally that showed his tribal clients overwhelmingly donated to Republicans — $225,000 compared with $79,000 for Democrats.
The Abramoff team's pressure came the same day the NRCC, the GOP's fundraising arm for Republican House candidates, held its major fundraising dinner with President Bush. The Saginaw were a dinner sponsor, donating $50,000.
Nothing is coming up Burns these days. Continue reading
In early 2003, Kaplan's new boss, House subcommittee chairman Charles Taylor, R-N.C., ended any problems in the House when he signed onto the Saginaw money. Burns' office took up the fight in the Senate.
Both oversaw subcomittees that controlled Interior's budget, and the two lawmakers wrote a letter in May 2003 in an effort to overcome resistance inside Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, which was arguing the Saginaw shouldn't qualify for the school program.
The blunt letter has caught federal investigators' interest because it referenced correspondence that had been drafted inside Interior but never delivered. Federal agents are investigating whether an Interior official leaked the draft to Abramoff's team so it could be used by the lawmakers to pressure the department.
In addition, both Burns and Taylor got campaign money around the time of their help.
A month before the letter, Abramoff's firm threw Taylor a fundraiser on April 11, 2003, that scored thousands of dollars in donations for the lawmaker's campaign, including $2,000 from Abramoff and $1,000 from the Saginaw. The tribe donated $3,000 more to Taylor a month after the letter.
Burns, likewise, got fresh donations. Several weeks before the letter, Burns collected $1,000 from the Saginaw and $5,000 from another Abramoff tribe. The month after the letter, the Saginaw delivered $4,000 in donations to Burns.