There simply wasn’t anybody in the last administration* who wasn’t on the arm to someone somewhere. The former president*’s corruption was so obvious and so garish that we occasionally lost sight of how enthusiastically the rest of his band of brigands took to the conventional forms of political sleaze. I doubt we’ll ever truly get to the bottom of the wealth on which Wilbur Ross slumbered during his time as Secretary of Commerce. And, on Tuesday, in a massive investigative piece, the Washington Post teed up former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
In February 2017, weeks after President Donald Trump selected him to be agriculture secretary, Perdue’s company bought a small grain plant in South Carolina from one of the biggest agricultural corporations in America.
Had anyone noticed, it would have prompted questions ahead of his confirmation, a period when most nominees lie low and avoid potential controversy. The former governor of Georgia did not disclose the deal — there was no legal requirement to do so.
We feel it our duty to interject here. Questions similar to these were “prompted” by actions on the part of practically every Cabinet nominee in 2017. Remember Steve Mnuchin, who “forgot” to list almost $100 million in assets on his mandatory disclosure form? Ross got caught using bookkeeping chicanery to “lose” more than $2 billion in assets. Questions were prompted by all of this, and yet, Mnuchin and Ross and the rest of them were all confirmed. So the prompted questions were just so much afternoon breeze. We continue.
An examination of public records by The Washington Post has found that the agricultural company, Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), sold the land at a small fraction of its estimated value just as it stood to benefit from a friendly secretary of agriculture.
The Post found a former executive of Perdue’s company who admitted for the record that ADM sold the property to Perdue’s company for approximately 16 times less than its original estimated value. This is not a sweetheart deal. This is a marriage made in influence-peddling heaven.
The timing of the sale just as Perdue was about to become the most powerful man in U.S. agriculture raises legal and ethics concerns, from the narrow question of whether the secretary followed federal financial disclosure requirements to whether the transaction could have been an attempt to influence an incoming government official, in violation of bribery statutes, ethics lawyers say. “This stinks to high heaven,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a Georgetown University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “It deserves a prosecutor’s attention,” she added.
As the Post points out, the grain elevator alone at the facility costs twice what Perdue’s people paid ADM for the whole place. There are many people who would find this suspicious.
The story goes on to describe how, prior to selling the facility to The Man Who Would Be Ag Secretary, ADM pretty much looted the small town of Estill, South Carolina, and its people.
Hankey recalled that the initial signed deal was for $10 million, but after a troubling assessment, ADM paid $5,525,854.70 in December 2010, according to a deed. Hankey said that the potential liability from fire or accidents with the aging facility would have given potential buyers pause — and would still.
Yet Hankey had suspicions about ADM’s motives in Estill, and he turned out to be right. ADM shut down the processing business. Some 30 people lost their jobs in a town where more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to an estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It had a huge impact on the town,” Hankey said.
The sale also affected the wider region. Because it processed so much soy, the plant was a regional buyer in the market. That was a lot of capacity for local growers, who could sell to Carolina Soya instead of shipping it to big traders like Cargill or ADM. When the Estill plant closed, local soy prices fell. That meant ADM, one of the biggest players in soy processing, could purchase beans at a lower cost. “They bought the market,” Hankey said.
And at the end of this historical pipeline of raw corporate sewage were, allegedly, the greedy fingers of Sonny Perdue, an official of an administration dedicated to the gospel of Anything Goes. And, generally, it did.
You Might Also Like