Patrick Bosold – Move to Amend | Saturday, June 18, 2022 | Ames, IA
How did Iowa come to be so burdened with CAFOs? What do special interest money in our political process, and constitutional rights for corporations, have to do with the situation we find ourselves in today?
A report by the Environment Iowa Research & Policy Center in 2011 included an analysis of agribusiness campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures. The findings included:
- Over the 2000-2010 decade, ten large agribusiness interests gave $35 million to congressional candidates – led by the American Farm Bureau, which gave $16 million.
- Agribusiness interests gave more than $120 million to state-level candidates, party committees and ballot measures, including $250,000 in campaign contributions to Governor Terry Branstad in the last election of the 2000-2010 decade.
- From 2005 to 2010, the 10 leading agribusiness interests spent $127 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies, fielding 159 lobbyists in 2010.
- Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau led the pack, fielding 80 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., in 2010.
More recently, Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has received $300,000 in campaign contributions from Iowa Select, fought to keep meat packing plants open during the COVID pandemic, prioritizing agribusiness CAFO operators like Jeff Hansen and Iowa Select, who would lose millions if their CAFOs became overloaded with market-ready animals. At a 2019 gala for the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation, Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds contributed an afternoon’s tour of the capitol and governor’s mansion, led by Reynolds herself. Iowa Select requested her presence at the 2019 gala the day after Reynolds won her election — likely aided by the Hansens’ six-figure campaign contribution.
And what were the money flows like in the 2019-2020 election cycle? State House of Representatives, 100 seats: $29,910,590; State Senate, 50 seats, $11,493,218.
And how have constitutional rights for corporations contributed to the expansion of CAFO agribusiness in Iowa?
Corporations have hijacked the First Amendment in multiple ways. Their constitutional “right” to donate (or invest) in political campaigns (i.e. political free speech) is the most widely recognized. “Commercial,” “negative free speech,” and “religious” rights represent other aspects of the First Amendment that have been used by corporate entities to defy the legitimate rights of people to know factual information; the authority of government to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents; the provision of basic health needs of employees; and the ability to hold corporations publicly accountable.
Hijacking of 4th Amendment by corporations for their use includes privacy and prevention of search & seizure protections that are used to thwart inspections – including corporate farms.
The 5th and 14th Amendments have also been hijacked by corporations to protect their rights at the expense of individuals, communities and the environment.
Corporations have claimed their constitutional rights have been violated to overturn democratically enacted ballot initiatives, including constitutional amendments passed by voters in S. Dakota and Nebraska banning nonfamily farm-owned agri-businesses violates the Commerce Clause – which was agreed to by Federal Courts.
The case before SCOTUS about California’s humane treatment of animals requirements: corporations that use CAFOs to product pork will claim that their constitutional rights under the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause are being violated. “California’s Proposition 12, a Health & Safety Code amendment that bans the sale of pork, eggs, and veal if the animals were bred in conditions that don’t meet the state’s minimum space requirements. The state’s voters overwhelmingly approved the change in 2018, but the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) say it is an unconstitutional state regulation of out-of-state farmers.”
What can We the People do about special interest money in our political process, and constitutional rights for corporations? We can work to pass the We the People Amendment (HJR48), which declares that Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights and that Money is Not Free Speech. The Resolution has 93 co-sponsors in the House, but none from Iowa.
I close with this quote by Wendell Berry, U.S. novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer
“Though the corporations, by law, are counted as persons, they do not have personal minds, if they can be said to have minds. It is a great oddity that a corporation, which properly speaking has no self, is by definition selfish, responsible only to itself. This is an impersonal, abstract selfishness, limitlessly acquisitive, but unable to look so far ahead as to preserve its own sources and supplies. The selfishness of the fossil fuel industries by nature is self-annihilating; but so, always, has been the selfishness of the agribusiness corporations”