Tennessee Republican State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) doesn’t seem to understand how to get away with creepy things and bad laws in the digital age. He’s been drawing a lot of attention to himself with a twitter war with Carrie Underwood and crazy emails in which he accused animal rights activists of “rape and tape”.
Unfortunately for him, this attention resulted in a Google search during which I found out that Holt took gifts from the Farm Bureau and Farm Credit in 2012. The Tennessee Ethics Bureau said back then that so long as he wasn’t getting a gift for doing their bidding but rather being rewarded for being a great hog farmer, all was well in TN.
Okay then. Follow the events:
Holt didn’t appreciate Carrie Underwood’s tweets about his Ag Gag bill last week. He mansplained to Carrie that she should stick to singing instead of worrying about what he’s trying to get away with as an elected official, “I would say that if Carrie Underwood will stick to singing, I’ll stick to lawmaking.”
See, Holt is not only hog farmer, but he’s also trying to make it illegal to document actual incidents of animal cruelty by sponsoring Senate Bill 1248 (aka, an “Ag Gag” bill).
Proving that Republicans don’t understand the digital age, after he lost the Twitter war with Carrie Underwood last week, Holt sent an email from his public account to the Humane Society’s public policy coordinator, Kayci McLeod. In it, he wrote (my bold), “I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women. You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization and a pathetic group of sensationalists who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as “tape and rape.” Best wishes for the failure of your organization and it’s true intent.”
Republicans have a thing for referring to real women as livestock, and now live stock as real women. They also love to use the word rape to describe anything unpleasant that happens to them, while denying that Real Rape/Legitimate Rape exists when it happens to a woman. It’s best to move on quickly.
As for Holt’s claim that his bill stops animal cruelty (and since he’s a hog farmer, he has absolutely no skin in this “rape and tape” game) by forcing investigators to turn over any tape to the police within 48 hours, the limited time on investigations is obviously a hindrance to anyone doing real investigative work. This ain’t a Lila Rose production. Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society said, “This is a preemptive strike against animal welfare groups and against the press who uncover and expose illegal animal cruelty. This is an attempt to cover up abuses.”
But also, Holt has been accused of doing the bidding of the farm industry before. In January of 2012, the Farm Bureau gave him some goodies for “Excellence in Agriculture”, along with a free trip, for which he missed work as a legislator:
Andy and Ellie Holt, also from Weakley County, Tennessee won the Excellence in Agriculture Award. They will receive their choice of either a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado or 2012 GMC Sierra, courtesy of GM, plus free registration to the 2012 AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference.
Turns out they got a few more goodies:
The Holts received a John Deere Gator donated by Farm Credit, and an all expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau’s 93nd Annual Meeting in Hawaii where they won national honors. The Holts received a 2012 GM Sierra, as well as paid registration to the 2012 AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference.
Farm Credit serves ag business and corporations as well as individuals. Of note, The Farm Credit Administration (FCA) is an agency of the federal government created in 1933 that provides regulatory oversight for the Farm Credit System. Farm Credit probably shouldn’t be giving gifts to legislators, especially when there are so many individual farmers who need the help.
The about us page says Farm Credit is “a nationwide network of borrower-owned lending institutions and specialized service organizations… Congress established the System in 1916 to provide a reliable source of credit for the nation’s farmers and ranchers.” You gotta love it when government programs reward our legislators instead of hard working constituents. We could call this a “handout” but I hear that only applies if you’re a certain party.
The science denying Farm Bureau describes itself as “the voice of agriculture”, which I translate into “lobbying” group, given their legislative action page and their headquarters in DC. The New York Times shares this assessment. But they word it much nicer, “Farm Bureau is an independent, non-governmental, voluntary organization governed by and representing farm and ranch families united for the purpose of analyzing their problems and formulating action to achieve educational improvement, economic opportunity and social advancement and, thereby, to promote the national well-being.”
Just a head’s up in case you don’t believe that they are lobbying for big ag: The Farm Bureau does not believe in climate change. Allison Winter reported for Energy and Environment News in 2010, “Farm Bureau wants Congress to stop EPA on greenhouse gases”, explaining that the Farm Bureau “strongly supports any legislative action that would suspend EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.” ((2010-01-13), subscriber link)
Nashville Scene reported on Holt’s bolting from his job to hang out in Hawaii, all-expenses paid, whilst receiving gifts, “We are informed that Rep. Holt can legally accept all of this generosity from the Farm Bureau as long as he’s receiving it because he’s a fabulous pig farmer and not because the Farm Bureau wishes to curry favor with him as a legislator. That’s the word from state Bureau of Ethics director Drew Rawlins. We are certain the Farm Bureau’s motives are pure.”
Andy Holt later deleted his tweet telling Carrie to stick to singing. Now he wants Carrie to come and talk to him about the bill. Creepy, especially after he compared anti animal cruelty to rape.
Carrie was unimpressed. And instead of playing with the Republican troll, she simply educated her followers. @carrieunderwood, “Some of you are asking me what Ag Gag laws are. Here you go… #NoAgGag http://animalrights.about.com/od/animallaw/a/What-Are-Ag-Gag-Laws-And-Why-Are-They-Dangerous.htm …”
Perhaps the free car, gifts and vacation from the farm industry have nothing to do with the AgGag bill, after all, similar bills have popped up in eleven states. Indeed, the New York Times suggests that these bills seem inspired by the corporate friendly GOP ally ALEC. But we won’t know the truth unless Tennessee steps up to investigate. At the very least, lawmakers should avoid being in the position of having their integrity so easily questioned. Rape and tape, really? Why so angry, bro?
Shut up and sing.
Image: Tennessee Republican State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) getting award from Farm Bureau TN Farm Bureau
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.