UPDATED: Big Ag’s Bet on Blanche Lincoln Pays Off

Wednesday, September 09, 2009 at 12:28 pm

With the news that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) will be leaving his post to take the helm of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee following the death of that panel’s previous chairman, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is set to take Harkin’s place on the Agriculture Committee. While the move caught many by surprise — Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) was first in line to take Kennedy’s place at HELP, but it was reported yesterday that he will remain chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee — it appears that the agriculture industry may have been betting all year that Lincoln would assume the top role at Agriculture.

According to the campaign contribution-tracking watchdog Center for Responsive Politics, Lincoln, who is up for re-election in 2010, leads all members of Congress so far this year with at least $306,500 in donations from agribusiness-connected individuals and political action committees. By comparison, she received a total of just $251,500 from the agribusiness sector from 2005 to 2008. During the 2007-2008 cycle, Lincoln was not even among the top 20 Senate recipients of agribusiness contributions.

As Kate noted, Lincoln’s move could have major implications for pending climate legislation, the No. 1 item on Big Ag’s agenda this year. Lincoln has referred to cap-and-trade — a component of the already-passed House climate bill, which would limit carbon emissions and create a system in which polluters are required to purchase tradeable permits for the carbon they emit — as a “complete non-starter,” citing the interests of her constituent farmers. Harkin, on the other hand, has expressed general support for cap-and-trade legislation, though he has taken issue with specifics in the House proposal. If Lincoln does indeed take the helm of the Ag Committee, the outlook for moving meaningful climate legislation through the Senate — already an uphill battle, to say the least — will likely become a bit bleaker.

Following a phone conversation with the Center for Responsive Politics, the numbers in this post have been updated for accuracy.

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Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

I think Blanche Lincoln is caught between a rock and a hard place. After years of taking money from Big Corporate and ignoring the needs of the people of Arkansas she finally realizes she is cornered. She cannot give the money back and she cannot undue 12 years of failing the people of Arkansas. While she may have had a chance with a less devisive Administration, the extreme policies of the liberal left have put her in a place where she has to oppose her own party's wishes as well as Arkansans. The last few weeks she went to three town hall meetings. It is worthy to note, one of the places she went to was Russellville. This is the second time in a month she has been there. Her last visit was over three years ago, it is a wonder she could find it on the map. Why Russellville? Because she needed to go to the hometown of the one serious threat for her senate seat. Trevor Drown along with 95% of the registered voters are independents. They refuse to identify with either party. It has gotten to the point in Arkansas that no politican is trusted and it is now time for leaders. One’s like Drown with Combat Experience, Small Business Experience and a common man of the people. One who knows and will remember what it is like to be an Arkansan.

Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

“devisive Administration, the extreme policies of the liberal left”
Way to turn a rather nondescript post into testament to ignorance.

Comment posted September 11, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

The truth about Blanch Lincoln:

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