Yesterday the Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Republican Bill Northey, got an endorsement from a Democrat in his effort to get rehired by Iowans. Jerry Crawford is not just any Democrat. He is a close friend of Hillary Clinton, and Tom Vilsack, and has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns. So what is he doing on WHO TV
talking about Bill Northey, instead of the Democratic candidate, Francis Thicke
If blood is thicker than water, money in politics is thicker than that. When it comes to agricultural issues in Iowa, politics is a blood sport, played for keeps. If you think this is inside Iowa baseball, you should know that Iowa agriculture is the engine that brings GMO foods to your table, that is killing the Gulf of Mexico, and that can send contaminated eggs across the country and as far away as Guam.
Crawford has donated thousands of dollars to Iowa Democrats. That is why the only sound you hear this morning regarding the endorsement of Northey from the Iowa Democratic Party is crickets. This is not a surprise unless you think that principles are more important in politics than money.
At the grassroots many people advocate giving directly to candidates who share your views, and not to party institutions like the IDP, DCCC, DSCC, or the DNC. Here's why. They take your dollars and do some good things with them, but they also take dollars from people like Jerry Crawford. And if you think that they will help a candidate that Jerry Crawford doesn't like, you aren't paying attention.
When former Governor now US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack ran in 2001, Crawford was his top donor
, giving $31,000. He was Hillary Clinton's Midwest campaign chairman and “good friend
.” He also chaired the Iowa campaigns of Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Michael Dukakis. After Barack Obama beat Clinton for the nomination, Crawford stepped up and donated $10,000
to the Obama Victory Fund. So his Democratic roots in Iowa run deep, and he has supplied both national and Iowa Democrats with liberal amounts of cash
In addition to supplying the Vilsack campaigns (1998 to 2002) and Heartland 527-PAC with more than $150,000 in donations, Crawford was listed as the Heartland PAC treasurer on documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service. He also served on the board of directors for the Democratic Governors Association, and has been called “one of the leading Democratic strategists in Iowa.” Crawford has been chairman of the Polk County Democratic Party, and has served as state chairman or legal counsel for presidential campaigns in Iowa for nearly as long as the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses have held influence.
In December of last year, as the Department of Justice was preparing to come to Iowa with hearings on antitrust issues in the agriculture industry, Crawford signed up as a lobbyist for Monsanto, which holds patents on most of the corn and soybeans grown in Iowa. The hearings were jointly sponsored by the USDA and the DoJ. USDA is led by Crawford's friend, Tom Vilsack
Because of its market dominance, it is impossible to imagine a discussion on crop seeds that does not include both criticism and applause for the work of Monsanto and, by that same token, impossible to imagine a discussion that does not also include criticism and applause for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
When he was nominated to President Obama’s Cabinet, many of Vilsack’s critics pointed to the fact that he was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization for his “support of the industry’s economic growth and agriculture biotechnology research.” The former Iowa governor’s critics have long argued that he gave too much preference to agribusiness in general — and to Monsanto in particular.
Although any investigation stemming from the planned workshops will be initiated and managed by the Department of Justice, the fact that they are being jointly sponsored by the USDA is raising some flags simply due to Vilsack’s connection to agribusiness and biotechnology.
Crawford is not just a registered lobbyist
for Monsanto. He is Jack DeCoster's lawyer
. DeCoster is the poster boy for the perils of poorly-regulated factory farming, whose farms supplied the salmonella-contaminated eggs that made people sick in August.
Jack DeCoster and his various family enterprises own factory farms that have had more regulatory attention than any others in several states, including Iowa, which named him a “habitual violator” in 2000. But all has been forgiven. The Iowa Independent
tallies $572,100 in donations from various DeCoster family members to Democrats between 1999 and 2010. DeCoster also benefited from lax oversight by the Republican in charge of Iowa Agriculture, Bill Northey, seen here extolling the glories of factory farms that supply eggs to all the McDonalds west of the Mississippi:
This is one farm, that has two and a half million layers, that produce a million eggs a day, for the egg mcmuffins, the breakfast burritos, and a million eggs a day for the liquid eggs. And that one farm produces all the eggs. We have two and a half million layers at that farm, we have 57 and a half million other layers in this state.
Last week Northey appeared on Iowa Public Radio and was asked whether he would support local control over factory farms. He unequivocally rejected
the idea (MP3 file in link). Regulation at the state level is friendlier to factory farming than regulation by local boards of supervisors who have to live in the communities where these industrial operations are constructed. Francis Thicke followed Northey in the IPR interview
, and just as unequivocally stated he is for local control
over where these fetid polluting blights on the landscape are sited.
Thicke, a 27-year dairy farmer hoping to unseat incumbent Republican Bill Northey, said the issue is of vital importance to rural Iowa and simply an example of “democracy in action.”
“Iowans know what works best in their communities, and politicians who favor taking away this right are serving corporate interests, not the citizens of Iowa,” he said. “It is important to protect Iowa citizens from the impacts of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) on neighbors’ quality of life, health and property rights.”
In 1995, the legislature passed, and then-Gov. Branstad signed, House File 519, a bill that stripped all local authority from regulating factory farms. Since 1994, the year before the bill was signed, the number of hog farmers in Iowa has dropped from 29,000 to 8,300 as the industry continues to consolidate.
With clients like Monsanto and DeCoster, Crawford could hardly be expected to support the Democrat who wants to decrease their influence and give more power to citizens. That is why he appeared on WHO
, a station with wide reach in Iowa and friendly to Republicans, touting Northey as his candidate.
wants to change Big Agribusiness As Usual. That is why he has been endorsed by writer Michael Pollan
, 350.org's Bill McKibben, former Texas Ag Commissioner and populist Jim Hightower
, Fred Kirschenmann of the Leoppold Institute and others
. Polling shows that he could beat Northey, and that is why Big Ag has been pulling out all the stops, going so far as to send a lont-time Democratic activist to the airwaves to praise his opponent. The conflict Crawford's endorsement represents can be summed up by the ad Francis is running on TV right now:
You can help Francis Thicke get elected tomorrow. Go to his campaign website and sign up
to make calls from wherever you are. If you are in Iowa and you have not showed up at your local Democratic HQ and volunteered, it is not too late to call and doorknock. And if you want to help Francis get some more radio time:
Disclosure: I am a volunteer, a donor, and a believer in the value of having a consumer and farmer advocate like Francis Thicke in public office. I do not work for the campaign. I just took time away from GOTV to write this diary because I think Crawford's endorsement is an outrage and Iowa Democrats should call him out for the industry shill that he is.