Dairy giant Land O’Lakes announced on Tuesday that it will no longer make financial contributions to Representative Steve King of Iowa after a gun-fueled massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue brought new attention to the Republican’s incendiary comments about race and association with white nationalism. Purina PetCare made a similar announcement Tuesday afternoon.
The murder of 11 people, many elderly, in the mass shooting this weekend resulted in the arrest of a man who allegedly made anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant rants online. King has been at the forefront of a right-wing push to end birthright citizenship, a policy President Donald Trump said in an interview with Axios he would seek to enact, despite protections under the U.S. Constitution.
King, who’s previously made derogatory remarks about immigrants, has also expressed admiration for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and tweeted support for his attacks on George Soros, a billionaire supporter of the Democratic Party who last week was one of a dozen recipients of mail bombs allegedly sent by a Trump supporter. The Iowa Republican also recently tweeted his endorsement of Faith Goldy to be the next mayor of Toronto. Goldy has been tied to white supremacists and was interviewed by the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. In 2017 she attended the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which a counterprotester was run down and killed.
King, 69, is running against Democrat J.D. Scholten, a former paralegal and minor league baseball player from Sioux City. A poll of likely voters conducted by Change Research earlier this week shows Scholten and King neck and neck with just a week until the election, with a one-point lead for King. Trump won the district by 27 points in 2016. Through Oct. 17, King raised $739,553 and had $176,311 in cash on hand. Scholten, who raised $1.7 million, had $316,358 in the bank, Federal Election Commission filings show.
“The Land O’Lakes Inc. PAC has traditionally contributed to lawmakers of both parties that represent the communities where our members and employees live and work and are also on committees that oversee policies that directly impact our farmer owners,” the company said in a statement. “We take our civic responsibility seriously, want our contributions to be a positive force for good and also seek to ensure that recipients of our contributions uphold our company’s values. On that basis, we have determined that our PAC will no longer support Rep. King moving forward.” Purina said its “PAC contributions are typically made to elected officials from both parties who represent the local communities where we have operations and associates. Representative King’s recent statements are in conflict with our values and we are no longer contributing to his campaign.” (Land O’ Lakes owns Purina Animal Nutrition, which makes animal feed. Purina PetCare, the St. Louis-based pet food company, is owned by Nestle.)
In an extraordinary disavowal this afternoon, Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a post on Twitter that “Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.” Two days ago, however, Stivers defended the continued use of Soros by Republicans in campaign ads, despite the attempted bombing of his New York home and the mass-murder in Pittsburgh.
In a post on Twitter, King said Tuesday that “Americans, all created equal by god, with all our races, ethnicities, and national origins-legal immigrants & natural born citizens, together make up the shining city on the hill.” His office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Stivers’ statement.
“Obviously, these are very serious allegations. We are always evaluating our PAC contributions and will continue to do so.”
Arden Hills, Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes, known for its dairy business, is also a 97-year-old cooperative with operations that span the so-called farm-to-fork spectrum. It owns Purina, for example, an animal nutrition company, and WinField United, which sells seeds and crop chemicals. It ranks 216th on the Fortune 500 and had sales of $14 billion in 2017.
On Monday, Judd Legum, author of the newsletter Popular Information, asked why the company had given $2,500 to King. It was retweeted 11,000 times and liked 22,000 times. Many responses included consumers saying they would stop buying the brand. King recently denied he’s anti-Semitic, according to the Washington Post.
Iowa is a center for American agricultural production—it ranks first in corn and egg production and raises a third of the nation’s hogs. Other agricultural contributors to King said they haven’t decided whether to stop financial support.
The National Pork Producers Council gave $1,000 through King’s leadership PAC in the 2018 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Its support was specific to the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, said spokesman Jim Monroe, while emphasizing that the group donates to both Republicans and Democrats. “Obviously, these are very serious allegations,” he said, regarding King’s associations with white nationalism. “We are always evaluating our PAC contributions and will continue to do so.”
The United Egg Producers said its work with King was narrowly focused on his role representing Iowa and as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, according to spokeswoman Hinda Mitchell. The group, which according to the Center for Responsive Politics made a $2,500 contribution to King’s leadership PAC for 2018, declined further comment.
Tyson Foods Inc. and the International Dairy Foods Association didn’t respond to requests for comment.