July 13, 1995
Hog Money Pollutes General Assembly
North Carolina’s billion-dollar hog industry, the focus of heated debate over environmental regulations, has given more than $130,000 to candidates for the General Assembly during the past four years, a new study says.
The report by the non-partisan Institute for Southern Studies found that:
** Although hogs are raised primarily in eastern North Carolina, more than half the current legislators (92 of 170) got money from the pork industry’s executives, lobbyists, political action committees, hog farmers, and their families.
** Hog operators rank among the state’s biggest individuals contributors. Two of the four families that gave the most money to members of the 1995 General Assembly are headed by Wendell H. Murphy and William H. Prestage, two of the state’s (and the nation’s) largest hog farm operators.
** During the 1994 elections, Prestage personally gave $500 or more to 17 different legislative candidates and at least $250 to 4 others.
** The volume of campaign money from hog-related donors has more than doubled in the past two years, as pressure for more regulation has increased.
“Pork money in politics has become another form of hog pollution,” said Bob Hall, a research analyst at the Institute, the Durham-based organization that compiled the figures from reports filed with the N.C. Board of Elections.
“This much money flowing into campaigns from one industry poisons the political process and the debate over its proper regulation,” Hall said.
Studies show that hog farms in eastern North Carolina produce as much raw sewage as 15 million people — more than twice the state’s population. But, says Hall, “The legislature treats these animal factories like a small family farm and thereby exempts them from almost all regulations.”
The 1991 law that shields large-scale animal farms from local zoning regulations was co-sponsored by Wendell Murphy when he was a state senator and is known as “Murphy’s Law.” Murphy’s family and executives of Murphy Family Farms, the nation’s largest hog producer, have given legislative candidates $25,339 since 1991.
Hundreds of neighbors of hog farms have attended rallies and asked lawmakers to repeal Murphy’s Law, widen buffer zones around factory farms, and increase state regulation of their waste. But all proposals for reform have been shunted to study commissions — until three lagoons spilled 35 million gallons of animal waste in late June and early July.
“Eastern North Carolina is getting dumped on — literally — but our legislators are out joy riding in the jet planes owned by these hog companies,” said Gary Grant, coordinator for Concerned Citizens of Tillery in Halifax County and a leader in coalitions pressing for hog regulation and campaign finance reforms.
In June, owners of two of the largest hog farms in the state loaned their jet planes to state Senators to fly to a Democratic fundraising event in Charlotte. The two men — William Prestage and Wendell Murphy — head families that ranked as the 3rd and 4th biggest donors to winning legislators in 1994, according to research conducted by the Institute and Charlotte Observer.
A third jet plane was loaned by Roger W. Bone, chief lobbyist for the N.C. Pork Producers Association, who has given legislative candidates $6,315 since 1991.
“The lust for campaign money is still blocking a common-sense solution,” said Grant. “It’d be much cheaper to charge industrial hog operators a fee and regulate them like other major polluters, but now our poorest citizens must pay the price in ruined quality of life, lost health, and millions in clean-up costs.”
“The hog industry has targeted eastern North Carolina,” Grant emphasized. “They think they can get away with unsafe operations here, because we are so poor, because we are more often black, Native American or Latino — and powerless people traditionally offer the least resistance. But as these operations do their damage, they’re harming everyone’s future, including taxpayers statewide.”
Other leaders from communities affected by the rapidly expanding hog industry echo Grant’s call for reforms that go beyond the “stop-gap” and “toothless” measures proposed by the General Assembly and Governor Jim Hunt.
Key Proposals are:
** Repeal “Murphy’s Law” and empower local governments to regulate through zoning the location or expansion of factory farms.
** Establish 1,500-foot buffer zones around hog farms with enforcement and Penalties for violators (the newly passed bill lacks any penalty for violators)
** Require waste management training for operators of lagoons and waste spray or treatment systems with the requirement that operators pass a training course administered by NC Department of Environmental & Natural Resources (not a no-grade program run by the Agriculture Department, as legislators currently propose).
** Establish buffer zones, emission standards and monitoring to protect wetlands, groundwater, air, surface water, public buildings, churches, and schools.
** Collect fees from large generators of animal wastes to finance regulation, inspection, and enforcement of water/air quality standards. Let a very profitable industry pay its way, rather than shift its environmental costs onto others.
** Impose a moratorium on new hog production/processing facilities until emission standards and an enforcement program are in place to offset their high health risk.
Don Webb, Alliance for a Responsible Swine Industry (919) 238-2684
Teresa Vick, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense Fund (919) 539-4076
Bill Holman, Sierra Club and NC Conservation Council (919) 755-1329
Institute research on campaign finance topics is supported by grants from the Florence and John Schumann, Z. Smith Reynolds, and Arca foundations.
The Pollution of Hog Money: A Summary
Even after animal-waste spills three times the size of the Valdez disaster, the North Carolina General Assembly avoids real solutions, choosing instead to pass measures without real teeth.
A review of campaign finance reports for the 1992 and 1994 elections helps shed light on the political activism of the hog industry:
Pork interests contributed a total of $132,220 to legislative candidates in the 1992 and 1994 election cycles, including $54,132 from the N.C. Pork Producers Association’s political action committee.
An analysis of all contributors to the 1995 General Assembly members reveals that hog producers rank among the biggest individual donors (excluding what legislators and their families gave to their own campaigns). Based on research by the Institute and Charlotte Observer, the ranking of the four top donor families is –
Donor Family and Amount Given to Winning Legislators
• The Popes (Art and parents Mr. & Mrs. John) — $21,950
• Zeb Alley, the top-rated lobbyist in N.C. — 12,356
• William H. Prestage, sons Scott & John — 9,750
• Wendell H. Murphy and family members — 8,639
Looking at contributions to winning and losing legislative candidates, Murphy Farms family members and executives gave $25,339 in the 1992 and 1994 elections. William H. Prestage and his two sons, owner/executives at Prestage Farms, gave $14,250 during the same period; the Matthews-Faison families of Carroll’s Foods gave $8,300; and Goldsboro Milling’s Maxwell family donated $5,350.
Hog-industry contributions to legislative candidates jumped 132% between the 1994 and 1992 elections, perhaps in response to new pressures to regulate hog operators. Candidates in 1994 received $92,388 while those in 1992 got $39,832.
Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Charles W. Albertson received the most money — $13,694 during 1991-1994. Albertson (D-Duplin) replaced retiring Senator Wendell Murphy in 1992 and was named committee chair in his first term by Marc Basnight — the second highest winning recipient of hog money at S8,100.
Hog-related donors gave to candidates in both parties, but particularly to influential Democrats, and to winners: Over two elections, they gave 180 winners $97,739 and 43 losers $34,480; 156 Democrats received $105,381 while 67 Republicans got $26,839.
Research is based on reports filed with the state Board of Elections and likely underestimates the volume of hog-related money because (1) most contributions of $100 or less are not identified by donor and (2) donor occupations are not recorded and may only be identified through directories in general categories.
A report from the Institute for Southern Studies