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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