Land O'Lakes pulls backing for Iowa's King over racial remarks

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Rep. Steve King of Iowa lost the dairy brand's support on Tuesday.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa lost the dairy brand's support on Tuesday. Credit: Bloomberg

Dairy giant Land O'Lakes announced Tuesday that it will no longer make financial contributions to Representative Steve King of Iowa after a gun-fueled massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue brought new attention to the Republican's incendiary comments about race and association with white nationalism.

The murder of 11 people, many elderly, in the mass shooting this weekend resulted in the arrest of a man who allegedly made anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant rants online. King has been at the forefront of a right-wing push to end birthright citizenship, a policy President Donald J. Trump said in an interview with Axios he would seek to enact, despite protections under the U.S. Constitution.

King, who has previously made derogatory remarks about immigrants, also expressed admiration for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and tweeted support for his attacks on George Soros, a billionaire supporter of the Democratic Party who last week was one of a dozen recipients of mailbombs allegedly sent by a Trump supporter. The Iowa Republican also recently tweeted his endorsement of Faith Goldy to be the next mayor of Toronto. Goldy has been tied to white supremacists and was interviewed by the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. In 2017, she attended the white supremacist Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which a counter-protester was run down and killed.

"The Land O'Lakes Inc. PAC has traditionally contributed to lawmakers of both parties that represent the communities where our members and employees live and work and are also on committees that oversee policies that directly impact our farmer owners," the company said in a statement. "We take our civic responsibility seriously, want our contributions to be a positive force for good and also seek to ensure that recipients of our contributions uphold our company's values. On that basis, we have determined that our PAC will no longer support Rep. King moving forward."

"Obviously, these are very serious allegations. We are always evaluating our PAC contributions and will continue to do so."

Arden Hills, Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes, known for its dairy business, is also a 97-year-old cooperative with operations that span the so-called farm-to-fork spectrum. It owns Purina, for example, an animal nutrition company, and WinField United, which sells seeds and crop chemicals. It ranks 216 on the Fortune 500 and had sales of $14 billion in 2017.

On Monday, Judd Legum, author of the newsletter Popular Information, asked why the company had given $2,500 to King. It was retweeted 11,000 times and liked 22,000 times. Many responses included consumers saying they would stop buying the brand. King recently denied that he is anti-Semitic, according to the the Washington Post. A call to King's campaign seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

Iowa is a center for American agricultural production—it ranks first in corn and egg production and raises a third of the nation's hogs. Other agricultural contributors to King said they haven't decided whether to stop financial support. King, 69, is running against Democrat J.D. Scholten, a former paralegal and professional baseball player from Sioux City.

A poll of likely voters conducted by Change Research earlier this week shows Scholten and King neck and neck, with a one-point lead for King. Trump won the district by 27 points in 2016.

The National Pork Producers Council contributed $1,000 through King's leadership PAC in the 2018 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It's support was specific to the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, said spokesperson Jim Monroe, while emphasizing that the group donates to both Republicans and Democrats. "Obviously, these are very serious allegations," he said, regarding King's associations with white nationalism. "We are always evaluating our PAC contributions and will continue to do so."

The United Egg Producers said their work with King was narrowly focused on his role representing Iowa and as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, according to spokeswoman Hinda Mitchell. The group, which according to the Center for Responsive Politics made a $2,500 contribution to King's leadership PAC for 2018, declined further comment.

Tyson Foods, Inc. and the International Dairy Foods Association didn't respond to requests for comment.

—Bloomberg News

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