Rep. Reid J. Ribble, a first-term Republican from Wisconsin, was all smiles leaving the home of a Capitol Hill lobbyist for a fundraising party in the lawmaker’s honor Tuesday evening.
He had reason to be pleased. Hosted by, among others, the political arm of the country’s largest milk processor, Texas-based Dean Foods, the fundraising party no doubt contributed thousands of dollars to Mr. Ribble’s campaign fund.
But the fundraising party also was held just two weeks after the Justice Department and the attorneys general for Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin announced a big legal settlement with Dean Foods. They had accused the company of serious antitrust violations that threatened to drive up milk prices for consumers across Wisconsin.
The company vowed to fight the charges, but agreed to settle and sell one of its plants in Wisconsin to avoid a long court battle, according to reports.
Mark Castel, senior farm analyst for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit industry watchdog group that has criticized Dean Foods, said the congressman’s fundraising activities raise concerns. “It doesn’t make us feel comfortable that when we approach him with an issue that a lobbyist has beaten us to him with a $1,000 check,” Mr. Castel said.
But a spokesman for Mr. Ribble said the congressman’s fundraiser doesn’t give Dean Foods or any other contributor an advantage over members of the public in getting the lawmaker’s attention on important issues.
“Agriculture is such an important economic factor in the 8th Congressional District that we regularly meet with entities of all shapes and sizes, from larger companies like Dean Foods to farmers working on 40 acres selling to local shops,” said Ribble spokesman Brandon Moody.
“Regarding the fundraiser, it’s pretty simple. Like most members of Congress, Congressman Ribble receives support from those who tend to agree with his values and vision for government,” Mr. Moody said. “Congressman Ribble believes in a smaller, more efficient government that reduces spending and regulation and fosters an environment for business owners to create jobs.”
“Those are unrelated issues,” she said of the settlement.
“Like many companies, we work to educate members of Congress” on issues, she said.
Ms. Esposito said Dean Foods took part in the fundraiser because Mr. Ribble is a new member of Congress from a state that is key to the dairy industry, and he sits on a House subcommittee overseeing dairy issues.
The Ribble fundraiser was held in the Capitol Hill home of John Bode, who is registered to lobby for, among others, McDonald’s, Kraft Foods and the National Meat Association.
The invitation for the Ribble fundraiser, obtained by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, was billed as “A Taste of Green Bay Reception” in Mr. Ribble’s honor. It listed Mr. Bode as a host along with political action committees for Dean Foods, the American Beverage Association and the International Dairy Foods Association.
The suggested contributions for attendees ranged from $500 to $2,000, with checks payable to Mr. Ribble’s congressional campaign.View Entire Story
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Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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