One of the newest hashtags on Twitter, since the State of the Union address, is #breadbags, thanks to Senator Joni Ernst. In the Republican reply to President Obama on Tuesday evening, Ernst talked about growing up poor in Iowa, and how she, and other children, would wear bread bags on their shoes to keep their feet dry. But here’s something that Ernst didn’t tell the audience on Tuesday: her family has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm subsidies over the years.
Ernst was elected on a platform that called for cutting “porkbarrel” spending in Washington. She even had a campaign ad that featured her with a tool used for castrating pigs, and she promised to go to Washington and “make ’em squeal.” But Ernst’s interest in cutting spending doesn’t seem to apply to her own family.
The District Sentinel reports that, between 1995 and 2009, Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, received almost $40,000 in federal subsidies. Her uncle, Dallas Culver, received $367,141 in federal agricultural aid. Her grandfather, Harold Culver, received over $57,000 between 1995 and his death in 2003.
Despite her family’s record of receiving federal agriculture subsidies, Ernst said, during a Republican candidates’ debate last May, that she is “philosophically opposed” to the program. She did say that she supported subsidies that allow farmers to purchase crop insurance.
Apparently, Ernst’s objections to farm subsidies are not supported by others in her family.
Government that helps me=good, government that helps you=bad?
Maybe we can give Joni Ernst a pass on the farm subsidies. After all, it was her family who received them, not she or her husband. But, the farm subsidies are not the only way Ernst’s family has benefited from government money.
Last October, “Salon” reported that a construction company owned by Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, received more than $200,000 in county contracts while she was the Montgomery County, Iowa, auditor. This despite an Iowa conflict of interest law that forbids county contracts from being awarded to companies in which county employees have a direct or indirect interest. According to Salon, that law applies if five percent or more of a company is owned by a county employee, or an immediate family member, including parents.
The contracts were all awarded between 2009 and 2010. The bulk of the money came, once again, from the federal government, in the form of FEMA payments to repair flood damage. In addition, Richard Culver received another $10,871 from the Department of Homeland Security. Although the money came from the federal government, it was awarded to Culver by the county commissioners. Ernst did not have a vote on the contracts, but, as Salon observes, the county’s awarding the contracts to her father while she was a county employee was a violation of the conflict of interest law.
So, it appears that, like a number of other Republicans, Ernst is happy to cut “wasteful” spending when that spending is being directed to someone else, but she has no problem with federal dollars going to her family. As the District Sentinel observes, the whole issue of her family receiving farm subsidies hurts her claim that her family “lived within their means.”
Maybe she should have put that hog castrator to work at home before she brought it to Washington.
Image via KTLA