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A look at how many biotech bucks make it into politics

By Michiel Wackers
CropChoice reporter

(February 20, 2002—CropChoice News) – Given the ongoing role that money plays in U.S. political life, it’s hardly surprising that biotechnology companies contributed $633,850 to politicians at the federal level in the current and previous election cycles in the hopes of continued federal support for genetically modified crops.

Monsanto, Aventis Crop Science, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and Cargill all broke records for donations in 2000, giving a total of $497,850 to politicians, political action committees (PAC), and political parties. Cargill and ADM led the donation pack. Cargill gave out $197,000 in donations – $47,000 to Democrats and $150,000 to Republicans. ADM gave out $202,450 in donations – $95,000 to Democrats and $107,450 to Republicans. Monsanto and Aventis CropScience were not all that far behind with $74,900 and $23,500, respectively.

Members of the agricultural committees in the House and Senate were prime donation targets. One dollar in six went to a member of these committees, totaling $101,450 in the 2000 election cycle. While many received only a $500 or $1,000 donation, there were a few who seemed addicted to biotech bucks. The top three recipients were: Sen. E. Benjamin Nelson, D-Neb. with $16,000, Rep. Calvin Dooley, D-Calif. with $12,500, and Rep. Charles Stenholm (-TX) with $11,500. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft received $18,000 from Monsanto, ADM and Cargill toward what turned out to be a failed re-election bid.

Not only did companies give generously, but executives also pitched in. Monsanto President and CEO Hendrik Verfaille has given out $27,500 over the past two election cycles to the likes of House Minority Leader Rep. Gephardt, D-Mo., Rep. Dooley D-Calif., U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft, President Bush and Sen. Hutchison (-AR), to name a few. The Chairman and CEO of Cargill, Warren Staley, has generously donated $13,550, including a $10,000 soft money gift to the Republican National Committee.

Which PACs and which politicians have started the 2002 election cycle off early and have tapped into the financial resourses of Monsanto, Aventis, ADM, and Cargill? While actively seeking funds does not begin until late spring and early summer, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has raised $10,000 from just these four companies. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., have received $9,000 and $7,000 respectively. With ADM having already given out $109,000, the 2002 election cycle is looking like biotechnology and agribusiness companies will continue their push to influence agricultural policy.