The Snake River Sugar Company Political Action Committee could potentially triple its reach if the Federal Election Commission issues a favorable advisory opinion sought by the PAC.
Snake River Sugar PAC is currently prohibited from soliciting and receiving contributions from members of its seven sugarbeet grower associations who are incorporated. If the FEC agrees the grower groups are a trade association, the PAC will be allowed to solicit stockholders, and executive and administrative personnel of incorporated growers.
Currently, the PAC may only receive contributions from individuals who are not incorporated. That subset of the cooperative represents an estimated 25 percent of the 805 growers in the seven associations, said John McCreedy, the PAC treasurer and vice president of the Snake River Sugar Company.
"I can't tell you what this would do to our numbers, but I would expect to see contributions increase," McCreedy said Friday.
Snake River Sugar PAC was founded in 1998 and has grown to be Idaho's No. 3 PAC, trailing the J.R. Simplot PAC and Micron PAC. The PAC favors incumbents and leans Republican, but in the 2004, 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles gave more to Democratic members of Congress. In the 2010 cycle, the PAC spent $63,500 on federal candidates. (Simplot's 2010 spending was $153,700, Micron's $67,628.)
Snake River includes farmers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The seven grower associations are Nyssa-Nampa, Elwyhee, Upper Snake River Valley, Minidoka County, Cassia County, Twin Falls County and Northside.
The FEC made the request public last week, which was supported by a 141-page filing available on the FEC's website. The advisory opinion is due Aug. 24.
The company's request cites the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Assocation, which the FEC determined was a trade association in 2005. That allowed members of the coop to contribute to the American Crystal Sugar PAC, which represents sugarbeet growers in the Midwest. The ruling made a substantial difference for American Crystal Sugar PAC, which had typically spent between $300,000 and $600,000 on federal races through the mid-2000s, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By 2006, the PAC's spending rose to $1.1 million. In 2008, the PAC spent $1.9 million; in 2010, $2.1 million.
The Idaho-Oregon-Washington grower group is not as large as Red River Valley, but McCreedy said Snake River Sugar PAC hopes to contribute more to candidates favorable to the industry. Sugar growers have been under siege from the food, candy and soft drink industry in alliance with budget hawks, who seek to lift tariffs on foreign sugar. The growers won a key victory earlier this week in a House committee.
"This will expand our ability to raise funds," McCreedy said. "We'll continue to support candidates who support American agriculture."
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