MN01 Special Election Fundraising : Matt Benda, Pork and Family

Jim Hagedorn’s last legislative proposal before his death, was House Resolution 931, which was to place a national debt clock in the House Chamber because “reckless spending have caused inflation to skyrocket and fueled a national debt increase that has become unmanageable“. That was Congressman Hagedorn efforts to remind Members that programmatic requests or “community project funding” come with a cost.

If you are not familiar with the terms, programmatic requests and “community project funding“, that’s today’s term for what was called “earmarks” – a metaphor for the appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district. If the “community project funding” is for any other district, it is called “pork” but if it is for a project in your district, it is considered a key component of an incumbent’s re-election strategy.

Ya gotta think that MNGOP primary candidates vying to replace Congressman Hagedorn will embrace his disdain for “pork” … although Matt Benda may do so with a snickering smiley face … cause “pork” is contributing heavily to his election campaign.

In a previous MN Political commentary, the first quarter fundraising / spending reports focused on Jennifer Carnahan, Jeremy Munson and Brad Finstad … this commentary focuses on Matt Benda.

Benda reported the most donations in terms of dollars — $161,010 listed as itemized contributions from roughly 62 people and one PAC …. with a surprising number of people giving the maximum $2,900 for the primary and $2,900 for the general election. Also surprising is the number of donors who list Jackson Minnesota for their residence. Considering that, it probably should not be a surprise that many of these people have something in common — pork and/or family.

PICTURED : Carroll and Carolyn Freking are surrounded by their children (left to right): daughter Susan and her husband, Bernie; Brad and Meg; Chris Green (Linette’s significant other) and daughter Linette.

Take the Freking’s … who own New Fashion Pork, which they describe as “a leading and successful hog production company in the United States” employing “over 400 team members, markets over 1.4 million hogs every year and owns nearly 60,000 sows in seven states.” And Matt Benda is taking the Freking’s donations — Carroll ($5,800) Carolyn ($5,800) Susan ($5,800) and her husband, Bernie Hotovec ($5,800), Brad ($5,800), Meg ($5,800) Linette ($5,800) and Chris Green ($5,800) (Linette’s significant other).

Other employed by New Fashion Pork also contributed to the Benda For Congress campaign — Jay Moore who is Director of Environmental Services at New Fashion Pork donated $2,900 as did his wife, Rhoda Moore, who works in Support Services at New Fashion Pork. James Rasmussen who works as a Manager at New Fashion Pork donated $5,800 while his wife, Dawn also gave $5,800. Vince Baack, who is Director, Finance at New Fashion Pork, donated $1,000 as did Baack Farms LLC.

Another donor to the Benda For Congress campaign is Nick Van Ohlen, who gave $1,450 for the Special Election as did his wife, Ellen Benda Von Ohlen …. who is Meg Freking’s sister. Oh, and Ellen Benda Von Ohlen happens to be Matt Benda’s older sister. Another sister, Jeanne Benda donated $2,600.

Excluding these family connections, the Benda For Congress campaign would not lead the money race …. but that does not mean that “pork” would not be an issue in this campaign.

Candidates will bemoan the rising cost of food …. and how it is impacting families … yet without addressing how the industry has changed and who is making the money. Across the country, the number of pork farmers has declined by 75 percent over the last three decades, whereas the number of hogs being raised has increased by nearly 50 percent. Now, BigPork controls two-thirds of the entire US pork market …. for example, revenue at Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, grew 6.7% and reported a profit of $1.04 billion for 2021 — a 7.2% increase. Smithfield Foods is now confronting antitrust litigation over an alleged industry wide scheme to fix pork prices (NOTE : New Fashion Pork is not part of the recent Sysco lawsuit —a top food distributor— against affiliates of Clemens Family Corp., Seaboard Corp., and Smithfield Foods Inc.)

Yet, it is a fair question to ask candidate Benda how he will consider BigPork’s interests when the Agriculture Fairness Alliance (AFA) reported that $1.2 Billion in farm subsidies were directed to pig farmers in 2020 versus other programs that increase the national debt.