Nebraska Farmers Union Asks State Senators to Return Smithfield PAC Donations, Declare Conflict of Interest, or Not Vote on LB176

LINCOLN– Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) released a copy of the letter they circulated to State Senators asking them to consider returning their Smithfield Foods, Inc. contributions to their campaigns, file a conflict of interest form, or to simply not vote on LB176 scheduled for debate tomorrow, Thursday, January 21st.

LB176 is the bill sponsored by Sen. Schilz that is being strongly lobbied by Mueller Robak who has a $5,000 per month contract beginning in January of 2015 to represent Smithfield Foods Inc. the nation’s largest hog producer and processor that would allow hog processors to directly own hogs in Nebraska.

The data Nebraska Farmers Union obtained from the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission revealed that 20 State Senators have received a total of $12,200 in recent political campaign contributions from Smithfield Foods, Inc. with all of the contributions coming in early January 2016 with the exception of one $1,000 contribution to Senator Ken Schilz in 2015.

Three State Senators have received $1,000 political campaign donations from Smithfield Foods, Inc.:  Sen. Ken Schilz in 2015 and Senators John Murante, Chairman of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and Jerry Johnson, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee in early January.

Four Senators received $750 each in political campaign donations from Smithfield Foods, Inc.: Senators Rick Kolowski, Tommy Garrett, Jim Scheer, and Dan Watermeier.

Twelve Senators received $500 each in political campaign donations from Smithfield Foods, Inc.:  Senators Nicole Fox, Curt Friesen, Tyson Larson, Mark Kolterman, Heath Mello, Joni Craighead, Dan Hughes, Patty Pansing Brooks, Laura Ebke, Brett Lindstrom, Adam Morfeld, and Burke Harr.

Senator John McCollister received a $200 political campaign contribution from Smithfield Foods, Inc.

NeFU President John Hansen said “Given the history of large amounts of corporate ag money being invested in political campaigns and high priced lobby firms, we are simply saying that in order to protect the public perception of the objectivity of the Legislature, we hope that many of the checks are returned.  If the checks are kept, we suggest that at a minimum, a conflict of interest filing should be considered.  Another simple option would be to vote “Present” but not cast a yes or no vote on LB176.  Our organization has been and continues to be a strong defender of our unique unicameral system of government and the hard working men and women that make the sacrifice to serve.  NeFU has also been a long-time supporter of transparency and clean government measures.”

Hansen noted that Smithfield’s Accountability and Disclosure filing was sought after several Senators had noted in recent meetings on LB176 that the proponents were getting good sized campaign contributions.  “$11,200 of campaign contributions to support corporate pork legislation in one month is not chicken feed,” he concluded.