WASHINGTON, March 18, 2015 - Agriculture producers and organizations along with food manufacturers, retailers and their associations contributed over $21.2 million to political campaigns – mostly Republican – during the two-year midterm election cycle that ended Dec. 31, 2014.

Energy sector PACs, including oil and gas companies, renewable energy producers, electric utilities and their respective industry groups, contributed almost $32 million for the 2013-2014 cycle.

According to Federal Election Commission data, compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) and analyzed by Agri-Pulse, 68 percent of Ag and food PAC contributions went to Republicans, as did nearly three-quarters – 74 percent – of energy sector dollars. The data can be accessed through a website maintained by the CRP called Opensecrets.org.

Last March, Agri-Pulse reported a similar skew for the Ag sector for the period that began Jan. 1, 2013, with most of the money finding the campaign chests of powerful incumbents. The full, two-year cycle was no different.

House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Tex., funded over half of his reelection campaign with PAC contributions, including just over $390,000 from Ag and food PACs and $92,000 from energy sector PACs.

Another top-ranking Republican who sits on the Senate Ag Committee, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, collected almost $385,000 from energy PACs and nearly $244,000 from agriculture and food PACs.

Senate Ag Committee member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., received $542,287 from Ag and food PACs, making him their top recipient by about $120,000. In second place, with $422,368 in contributions, is Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking member of the House Ag Committee.

Agriculture and food PACs’ total contributions have increased slightly each election cycle since 2007-2008, when the figure first surpassed $20 million. The total for this past election cycle, which extended for almost two months beyond the November elections, was $21.21 million.

The top contributor among agriculture-related PACs was American Crystal Sugar, which gave $2,091,499, with Democrats receiving over $1.17 million and Republicans, $914,000. Unlike most commodity PACs, those representing sugar groups often split their contributions between the two major parties, indicating the need for bipartisan support of the government’s sugar program, which maintains a minimum price for the sweetener.

The Farm Credit Council came in second with $936,537, followed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association ($845,350), Deere & Co. ($613,250) and Monsanto ($530,250).

The National Corn Growers Association’s PAC, which contributed almost $360,000 to candidates (almost $232,000 to Republicans), raised about $200,000 at an event during the 2014 Commodity Classic. At this year’s convention last month in Phoenix, the PAC raised approximately $132,000 for the current election cycle, an NCGA spokesperson said.

In the oil and gas industry, the top contributors were Koch Industries, which gave almost $1.7 million - $1.64 million to Republicans – and Exxon Mobil, which spent nearly $1.6 million.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s PAC once again topped other electric utilities’ spending with total contributions of just under $2 million, with almost three quarters of the money going to GOP campaigns. For our summary of Open Secrets data, click here.


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