The Vilsack payments, first reported by Politico.com, do not represent the kind of high-dollar payments the president-elect had in mind, the Obama transition team told reporters Thursday. They said Mr. Obama’s concerns focused on payments to millionaire farmers and large corporations.
Mr. Vilsack collected $42,759 in subsidies from the department between 2000 and 2006, or more than $6,100 a year, according to Agriculture Department records.
Mr. Vilsack couldn’t be reached for comment.
The subsidies to Mr. Vilsack come from the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which pays him and his wife not to farm parts of 592 acres they own in an effort to protect the environmentally sensitive land.
The farm’s value, according to Federal Election Commission records, has been estimated between $500,000 and $1 million.
Mr. Vilsack’s employment at Dorsey & Whitney, an international law firm with offices in the District also could be a problem. Mr. Vilsack is a partner and head of the trial department at the firm’s Des Moines office .
The firm is involved in federal lobbying activities and collected more than $3.5 million since 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks political money. It has represented, among others, the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-Op, Solargenix Energy, United Utilities, Chicken of the Sea International, the National Education Association, and numerous Indian tribes.
A spokesman told the Associated Press that Mr. Vilsack didn’t lobby on agriculture matters and doesn’t have a conflict of interest.
Mr. Obama had promised to “free the executive branch from special interest influence,” saying no political appointee would be allowed to work on “regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.”
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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