June 25, 2018
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The Power of ADM's Influence Peddlers

Seeds of the recent Supreme Court decision granting corporations "free speech" rights
In 1995, Mother Jones magazine reported that "no other U.S. company is so reliant on politicians and governments to butter its bread," citing three core areas where ADM is supported by U.S. government programs:

  • Corn subsidies - These make a relatively small contribution to ADM's bottom line, but with its heavy focus on processing, ADM benefits from the stability they provide in a volatile market.

  • The sugar program - By limiting U.S. sugar production (and sustaining import quotas or high tariffs), the government keeps sweetener prices high, and so keeps customers such as Coca-Cola favoring ADM's corn sweeteners over previously standard cane sugar;

  • Ethanol subsidies - This is by far the most significant earner, since ADM reaps about half of the annual $3.5 billion tax credit that goes to producers of ethanol used as car fuel.

(Reports on the political and media influence of ADM include: Tim Weiner, 1 "Dwayne's World: Influence of Archer-Daniels is Wide as Well as Deep", New York Times 1/16/96; Scott Kilman, Bruce Ingersoll, and Jill Abramson, "Risk Averse: How Dwayne Andreas Rules Archer-Daniels by Hedging His Bets, CEO Works With Rivals, Gives to Both Parties and Invests in the Media," Wall Street Journal, 10/27/95.)

According to Mother Jones, ADM's lobbyists and the campaign contributions helped guarantee the maintenance of these policies for decades.

Tom Philpott reported in December of 2006 "CEO Andreas gained legendary status as a double-dealer during the Watergate investigations, when the congressional hearings revealed that he had cut the $25,000 check used by Richard Nixon's "plumbers" to finance the famous hotel break-in. From the same hearings it emerged that in 1968, Andreas had illegally donated $100,000 to Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey - Nixon's Democratic opponent in the 1968 election, and a longtime Andreas favorite."

Andreas had connections to other top politicians as well, including Bob Dole (see Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Viveca Novak," The Corporate Dole," Time 9/23/96), Soviet leaders Brezhnev and Gorbachev, as well as to top law firms and lawyers, including Robert Strauss (Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld) and Edward Bennett Williams.

During the 1992 election campaign then-ADM CEO Dwayne Andreas, along with his associates, contributed $1.4 million to party organizations and $345,000 to individual candidates; in 1994 they gave $657,000 to parties and $224,000 to individuals. In 1994, the same year President Clinton pushed through legislation requiring 30% of gasoline sold in America's most polluted cities to contain ethanol products, he was given a $100,000 donation.

ADM's political influence was again the focus of an article in Mother Jones in 1998. AARC (Alternative Agricultural Research and Commercialization) Corp - a venture capital firm wholly owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was working to boost the development of "environmentally friendly" non-food products from farm and forest materials. AARC Corp.'s chairman was Martin Andreas, Dwayne Andreas's nephew, who reportedly steered $2.4 million in AARC's research money to ADM projects or business interest.

Andreas and ADM earned hefty returns for their political investments. The grain titan is widely credited with convincing President Nixon to initiate and provide financing for a historic $700 million sale of U.S. grain to the Soviet Union in 1972 - a deal for which Archer Daniels Midland played the profitable role of middleman. The sale had a dramatic and lasting effect on U.S. agriculture. The resulting spike in demand, exacerbated by a drought the following year, sent grain prices surging. High grain prices rippled through the U.S. food system, helping (along with the 1973 OPEC oil embargo) to spark the "stagflation" that gripped the U.S. economy into the next decade.

Under Andreas, a huge investment was also made in underwriting TV broadcasts on four major networks: ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. It was this massive amount of spending that made the company's slogan, Supermarket to the World", so recognizable. (In the wake of the price-fixing scandal, when critics derided the company for its "super markup to the world," ADM changed the slogan to "The Nature of What's to Come" - ironically, in the midst of growing concerns about genetically modified food and feed.)

According to the Center for Responsive Politics (which maintains corporate political spending data), ADM's political spending dropped significantly after the 2002 election cycle. Nevertheless, the company is ranked 90th among the all-time highest list ("heavy hitters") of top donors between 1989-2010 (as of 1/11/10), giving a total of $8.3 million, with just over half (56%) going to Republicans (versus 43% to Democrats). The company's influence in the White House and on the Hill didn't seem to wane much after 2002, despite the drop in campaign donations.

Soon after taking office in 2001 (ADM dropped $100,000 on the Bush/Cheney inauguration), President George W. Bush displayed his fealty by tapping Chuck Conner -- then-president of an ADM front group called the Corn Refiners Association -- as his "special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade, and food assistance." In 2005, Conner became deputy secretary of agriculture.

Sasha Lilley, reported in June 2006 for CorpWatch that "Politicians from the Midwestern Corn Belt are some of the company's staunchest allies. Senators Richard Durbin, Charles Grassley, and Tom Harkin, and Representative Dick Gephardt have consistently supported lavish federal tax subsidies to ethanol producers, with ADM as the prime beneficiary. All are recipients of political action committee donations from the agribusiness behemoth. The Wall Street Journal has referred to the former South Dakota senator and Senate minority leader as "Archer Daschle Midland," because of his unswerving support for the interests of the company."

Astonishingly, ADM never registered an in-house lobbyist until 2006, when the secretary of the Senate assured watchdogs at Public Citizen that ADM "expects that it will have a person on staff who will meet the statutory test [to register as a lobbyist], and thus, will register in the future." (Anna Palmer, "ADM's Invisible Touch," Legal Times, April 2006)

ADM reported to the Senate Office of Public Records (database searched on 1/8/10) that it spent $2 million on lobbying by staff lobbyists between 7/1/08 and 6/30/09, including $1,020,000 in Q3 2008 alone. (ADM's in-house lobby team includes Shannon Herzfeld, vice president of Government Relations, David Woodruff, Beth Holzman and Anthony Reed.) In addition, the company reported paying Akin, Gump and Rick Carne Consulting, LLC to lobby on its behalf. (Back in 1996, it was Akin Gump that had brokered a side-deal to the $100 million price-fixing settlement with the office of then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to prevent the corporation from being barred from over $80 million in annual federal funding. Twenty years before, the company had been barred for manipulating grain shipments for the Food for Peace market. After leaving government service, Glickman and his former chief of staff both joined Akin Gump. See Lieber, Rats in the Grain, pages 317, 342).