Bayer/Monsanto has poured money into Iowa politics for years

Iowa State Capitol with money raining down. Illustrated image

By Ty Rushing

April 8, 2024

As Bayer, the major pharmaceutical and biotech company, lobbies the Iowa Legislature to enact legislation to protect it from civil suits related to its pesticide products, it is worth noting that Bayer and Monsanto—which Bayer purchased in 2018—have collectively poured over $530,000 into the campaign coffers of Iowa’s state-level politicians since 2002.

From 2002-2018, Monsanto donated $456,641.95 to state-level politicians and Bayer has chipped in $80,250 since 2018, according to Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board records.

Some of the biggest recipients include Gov. Kim Reynolds, former Gov. Terry Branstad, current Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, Naig’s predecessor the late Bill Northey, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, and former Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.

While these sums are small for a company that had $51.61 billion in net sales in 2023, Bayer has been on the losing end of several major lawsuits over its Roundup weedkiller, which has been linked to increased cancer risk over glyphosate, one of the product’s key ingredients.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)—a division of the World Health Organization—classified glyphosate “as probably carcinogenic to humans.”

However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not concurred with this declaration, which is the argument Bayer and some Iowa lawmakers have made to justify the necessity of this bill.

Bayer is pushing similar legislation in Idaho and Missouri. It also has a registered lobbyist for the Flordia version of the bill but didn’t actively support it, according to a Bayer representative. The bill prevents residents of those states from being able to sue pesticide manufacturers if the product’s label was approved by the EPA or complies with other various federal policies.

“The EPA dictates to these companies how they must label their products and, in fact, they cannot sell their products if they aren’t labeled in the manner prescribed by the EPA,” said Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair, who has received $5,020 from Monsanto and Bayer since 2012.

There have been 165,000 Roundup lawsuits against Bayer and Monsanto—the Iowa Association for Justice said only about a fraction of 1% of suits include Iowans—and Bayer has set aside more than $10 billion for settlements.

During the April 2 Iowa Senate debate over Bayer’s bill, Sen. Jeff Edler (R-State Center), a farmer, compared the lawsuits against Bayer to an attack on the agricultural community.Roundup is widely used by farmers and agricultural workers; however, the majority of the plaintiffs in those suits are suing over the consumer home-use version.

“We’re dealing with billions of dollars of lawsuits against the farm industry,” said Edler, who received a $750 campaign donation from Bayer in 2020. “You talk about corporate chemical companies, but the reality is that money is coming out of farmers’ pockets. The price of Roundup and other chemicals has gone up exponentially because of these settlements.”

Iowa would be the first state in the nation to implement Bayer’s legislation should it pass in the Iowa House and be signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

So who are the Iowa politicians past and present who have received the most in campaign donations from Monsanto and later Bayer? It’s a wide swath, but here are the top 10 recipients all-time based on state campaign data from 2002-2023:

  1. Former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, R, $25,741.95 (Monsanto only)
  2. Current Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, R, $19,500
  3. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, R, $18,500
  4. Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, R, $18,000 (Monsanto only)
  5. Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R, $17,000
  6. Former Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D, $14,900 (Monsanto only)
  7. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R, $13,000
  8. Former Iowa Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, R, $13,000 (Monsanto only)
  9. Iowa House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, R, $12,500
  10. Iowa Sen. Dan Zumbach, R, $9,750

 

And here are the top 10 recipients who are still in office:

  1. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, R, $19,500
  2. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, R, $18,500
  3. Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R, $17,000
  4. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R, $13,000
  5. Iowa House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, R, $12,500
  6. Iowa Sen. Dan Zumbach, R, $9,750
  7. Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair, R, $5,050
  8. Iowa Senator Bill Dotzler, D, $4,900 (Monsanto only)
  9. Iowa Rep. Keenan Judge, D, $2,250
  10. Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R, $2,250

Link to the full list of Monsanto contributions: Monsanto donations

Link to the full list of Bayer contributions: Bayer Donations

 

Correction: The Iowa Association of Justice said only a fraction of 1% of lawsuits stem from Iowa; not 1.1% as originally reported. Additionally, a representative from Bayer noted a majority of the Roundup lawsuits are not from farmers or agricultural workers but stem from consumers of the consumer home-use version of the product.

Clarification: Bayer has a lobbyist registered to the Florida version of this bill, but it is not actively pushing the legislation there, according to a company rep.

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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