Ag PACs contributions skew heavily Republican for midterms

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 26, 2014 - Agriculture contributions to congressional candidates in the 2014 midterm cycle are tilting heavily toward Republican candidates. Little has changed since 2012, when election spending skewed toward the GOP by similar margins.

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The PACs we track every year, including those affiliated with producer organizations and farm supply and processor trade associations, have contributed over $8.3 million to federal candidates since the beginning of 2013, according to reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Nearly two-thirds of contributions have gone to Republicans, and, as usual, mostly to incumbents. The pattern is similar to 2012, but runs counter to the previous two decades when Democrats usually captured a larger share of farm and agribusiness giving.

American Crystal Sugar's PAC remains at the top ofthe agricultural list with over $1.1 million, making it the largest agricultural PAC spender this election cycle. In contrast with the majority of farm and food PACs, American Crystal Sugar has sent over 60 percent of its campaign contributions to Democrats.

Many of the PACs still have considerable funds to dole out for the November elections, and they are expected to spend them. According to FEC data updated at the end of February, the National Corn Growers Association had raised over $310,000 this cycle, while spending only $140,000 on campaign contributions thus far. It's a similar situation at the American Soybean Association, where the group's PAC had over $170,000 on hand at the end of December, when it last filed a quarterly report. The organization raised about $200,000 at a PAC event held during Commodity Classic.

Chairmen and ranking members of agriculture committees tended to be the contribution favorites, a longstanding pattern. But some other recipients stand out, including Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and others in key Senate races.

 

Kingston has received $56,100 from the farm sector, making him the second largest recipient of agriculture money after Sen. Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky. Kingston is one of a handful of GOP candidates hoping to fill the Senate seat held by Senator Saxby Chambliss, who plans to retire after this term.

Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who entered the Republican Senate primary to challenge sitting Democratic Senator Mark Udall, is also a top non-committee recipient, with $47,000 in contributions from ag-related PACs. Republican Rep. John Shimkus, running in a lopsided race in Illinois' Republican-heavy 15th district, received $52,450 from farm groups favoring retention of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), perhaps in recognition of his important position as chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

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