Perhaps not surprisingly – given his pro-farm stance – many of the biggest individual supporters of Congressman Dan Newhouse’s 2016 re-election bid are dairy farmers.
Newhouse, himself a Sunnyside-area farmer, has already raised more than $400,000 in campaign donations a full year before the 2016 general election.
Six of the Top 15 itemized individual contributions Newhouse received this year came from the dairy industry. A seventh is affiliated with the beef industry.
Combined, those seven dairy/beef industry contributions total $16,300 for Newhouse’s 2016 campaign.
That’s according to the Federal Election Commission’s campaign financing report updated at the end of September.
It reports all but one of the dairy/beef donations were made prior to July 7, when Newhouse proposed an amendment in Congress. The amendment would prohibit the EPA from issuing new regulations under the Solid Waste Disposal Act that apply to animal feeding operations. It would also prohibit the EPA from expanding regulations under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act to target farmers, livestock producers and dairies.
That amendment passed the U.S. House, but Newhouse’s backing of it had nothing to do with campaign contributions. That’s according to Jim Keogh of Seattle, who worked on Newhouse’s 2014 election campaign to fill the Fourth District House seat formerly held by Doc Hastings, who retired.
“Dan has for a long time known that a healthy agricultural industry is vital to Central Washington’s economy and he would support common sense regulations based on sound science regardless of whether or not anyone might contribute to his campaign,” Keogh said.
Newhouse and his congressional staff declined comment due to federal election campaign rules.
Local dairy farmers among the Top 15 contributors and amounts they’ve donated to date to Newhouse’s 2016 war chest include Jake DeRuyter of Outlook ($2,700, received after Newhouse’s EPA amendment proposal), Theresa Mensonides of Mabton (two separate donations of $2,600 each), Genny DeRuyter of Outlook ($2,600) and George DeRuyter and Son Dairy of Outlook ($2,000).
Also in the Top 15, Clyde Fox of Mount Vernon, president of Excel Dairy Service, donated $1,200 to Newhouse’s campaign.
Bradley McDowell of Yakima, CEO of Washington Beef in Toppenish, donated $2,600.
Other farm-related interests the Federal Election Commission lists among Newhouse’s Top 20 itemized individual contributions for 2015 include Patsy Mercer of Prosser ($2,700), Barth Alexander, CEO of John I. Haas (two separate donations totalling $5,200), Steve George, Yakima Valley Dairy Federation ($1,200), Othello farmer Lynn Olsen ($1,200) and Yakima County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey of SKD Farms in Toppenish ($1,000).
And it’s not just local farms supporting Newhouse.
The first-term Congressman’s biggest contribution from an authorized committee was $14,539 donated for his re-election bid by the Freshman Agricultural Republican Members Trust, based in Bethesda, Md.
Closer to home, Federal Election Commission figures show that in 2015 Newhouse received 10 campaign donations from his hometown of Sunnyside.
Those donors include Jeff Barrom (two contributions totalling $300), Ruth Barr ($250), Brenda Veiga ($500), Gene Bliesner ($500), Rick Cole ($250), Jim Trull (two contributions totalling $450), Faith Smeenk ($500) and Ted Durfey ($375).
Campaign expenses listed by the Federal Election Commission show $45,000 of Newhouse’s $222,572 in campaign operating expenditures for this year are for victory bonuses stemming from the 2014 campaign victory over Clint Didier.
“Victory bonuses are more and more common,” said Keogh, who himself received a $15,000 bonus. “In the weeks leading up to an election it allows campaigns to focus their funds on voter contact and delay staff compensation until after the election.”
As for the 2016 election, Keogh has not determined what he will be doing.
But he knows who’ll have his backing in the Fourth District.
Like apparently so many of the dairies and farms in the Yakima Valley, his choice is Newhouse.
“In one way or another I will be supporting Dan,” Keogh said.