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Dire Straits was wrong: It’s ‘Money for Something’

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In Congressional District 29 in New York state, farmers don’t grow many beets, sugar or otherwise. In the district’s counties — Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chemung, Monroe, Schuyler, Steubens and Yates — only 19 farms produced beets on approximately 350 acres, according to the 2002 U.S. Census of Agriculture.

Yet my congressman, the Hon. John R. “Randy” Kuhl (R-Hammondsport), has received in the 2006 election cycle $6,500 from PACs associated primarily with Midwest sugar and sugar beet cooperatives, according to FEC filings as of May 29. Here’s the money and where it came from:

• $2,000 from the American Crystal Sugar Co.
• $1,500 from the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative.
• $1,000 from the American Sugarbeet Growers Association. [This link shows the interconnections among sugarbeet associations.]
• $1,000 from the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative.
• $500 from the American Sugar Cane League. [This group represents Louisiana sugar interests.]

The farms in District 29 don’t produce much tobacco, either. Yet Rep. Kuhl has received $6,000 from the tobacco lobby:

• $3,000 from RJ Reynolds Tobacco.
• $2,000 from Altria Group.
• $1,000 from Lorillard Tobacco.

Why all this money from lobbyists for farmers who grow things that New York state doesn’t? Why do they give him money?

Could it be because he serves on the House Committee on Agriculture? And specifically on the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture, whose oversight responsibilities comprise “Livestock; poultry; meat; seafood and seafood products; inspection, marketing, and promotion of such commodities; aquaculture; animal welfare; grazing; fruits and vegetables; marketing and promotion orders”?

Individuals and PACs who give money to legislators have ends in mind, be they noble or ignoble. Incumbents need the means to remain in office that the money represents. So they trade: Money for access. (Rep. Kuhl is seeking re-election.)

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Rep. Kuhl has raised $708,542 in this election cycle, $498,351 from PACs. That’s about 70 percent of the money he’s raised.

So when push comes to shove, who gets the most — and the most timely — access? Voters in District 29? Or those PAC interests that have contributed so heavily to his campaign?

Examine his FEC filings at opensecrets.org. Plenty of other examples of PAC money will be found. If Rep. Kuhl is not your House legislator, check out yours.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 30, 2006 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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