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April 1998 – Hog Lobby vs. the NC House GOP Leadership

April 23, 1998


Boss Hog is pouring thousands of dollars in political donations into a tiny state House district to defeat a legislator the pork industry considers its arch enemy.

The legislator, Rep. Cindy Watson (R-Duplin), is already bearing the brunt of an “issue” ad campaign sponsored by the hog lobby Farmers for Fairness. The group recently said it is spending about $10,000 a week in ads in Watson’s district, which includes parts of Duplin, Jones and Onslow counties.

An analysis of new campaign disclosure reports shows that donors related to four of the state’s largest hog producers gave $15,150 to Johnny Manning, Watson’s opponent in the upcoming Republican primary. (That’s 75% of the $20,307 Manning raised through March 1998.)

Manning, who is a contract hog grower for Murphy Family Farms, received $7,200 from company CEO Wendell H. Murphy and nine of his relatives. Wendell Murphy is on the Forbes’ magazine list of billionaires; he runs the world’s largest hog production operation.

According to the analysis by Democracy South, a Chapel Hill campaign finance watchdog, the Murphy donations all arrived on March 23, 1998 and included checks from Wendell Murphy’s sons, brother, sister-in-law, daughter, son-in-law, and nephews.

In addition, on the same day, Manning recorded donations of $1,800 from Louis and Gordon Maxwell of Goldsboro Milling, $2,800 from William H. Prestage of Prestage Farms, and $3,000 from Ronald G. Brown of Browns of Carolina. The three companies, along with Murphy Family Farms, are founding members of Farmers for Fairness.

The state Board of Elections ruled earlier this month that Farmers for Fairness is a political action committee, which means it cannot pay for the ads with corporate dues that are treated as a tax-deductible business expense. But the group says it will appeal the ruling and continue its advertising, even if it means the Republicans lose their slim majority in the state House.

Apparently aware of the high stakes involved in the primary challenge to Watson, several GOP House members have made sizeable donations to Rep. Watson. The largest two are $4,000 apiece from House Speaker Harold Brubaker and Rep. Ed McMahon (R-Charlotte); neither man faces an opponent in their own bids for re-election.

Seven other representatives gave Watson’s campaign from $200 to $1,500 for a total from GOP House members of $13,200 (61% of the $21,689 she has raised so far for her re-election campaign).