Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Senators DeWine and Voinovich vote to transfer federal property and land to lobbying groups


(first published on 11/13/2005)

This is a very long and detailed post. Because of the nature of the assertions against government officials, more factual information is offerred rather than less.

At BizzyBlog's (a fellow Southern Ohio Blogger) suggestion, a summary post can be found at: 'Federal land and facility giveaway to two lobbying organizations'. (Thanks for putting up with me Bizzy ;))
[Update 11/16/2005: Congresswoman Schmidt votes for provision and value of research conducted at lab]

[Update 11/19/2005: Curiouser and Curiouser]

[Update 11/19/2005: Following the money and moving to top]

[Update 11/20/2005: Value of U.S. property being conveyed and Supima property tax-exempt]

[Update 11/20/2005: President's original request (via Agriculture Department) was to sell the Western Cotton Research Lab]

[Correction 11/22/2005: Parcel #123-02-001-F listed below in 'Update 11/20/2005' is for the U.S Water Conservation Lab, not the Western Cotton Research Laboratory.]

[Update 11/23/2005: Drudge Siren added.

By having the Western Cotton Research Lab conveyed to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima the U.S. taxpayers are being cheated out of money that would otherwise have been utiilzed to build a new Cotton Research Lab. See update below for details.]

Remember H.R. 2744 (Making appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006, and for other purposes); the bill that Senator Tom Coburn's Amendment 1775 on earmarking was voted on and passed?

A review of the final bill passed by both the House and the Senate (update: and signed into law by the President on 11/10/2005 and Became Public Law No: 109-97) shows that Senators DeWine and Voinovich, along with 97 other Senators (update: Voinovich and Dewine also voted for the final conference report along with 81 other Senators), voted for a provision that transfers a federal facility and surrounding land to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima:

SEC. 783. As soon as practicable after the Agricultural Research Service Operations at the Western Cotton Research Laboratory located at 4135 East Broadway Road in Phoenix, Arizona, have ceased, the Secretary of Agriculture shall convey, without consideration, to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to the real property at that location, including improvements.
Let's look at this interesting little provision voted on by Ohio's Senators:

According to the Western Cotton Research Laboratory web site (history) the facility consists of:


  • 1.7-Ha of land
  • 1.1-Ha of adjacent farm land
  • 47,000 ft² of building space
  • 4,000 ft²of year- round greenhouse space
  • 4,000 ft² facility facility dedicated to the maintenance of colonies of various cotton insect pests

The lab is located at 4135 (more on this specific location in a moment) East Broadway Road in Phoenix, Arizona. The Google Map for this address shows that the facility represents an island of undeveloped land in a sea of developed property conveniently located close to Interstate 10 in Phoenix.

A search for the Arizona Cotton Growers Association in a white pages directory reveals that the official address for the organization is 4139 East Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040...as in right next to 4135 East Broadway Road the location for the Western Cotton Research Laboratory that will be turned over to the Cotton Growers Association and Supima.

Apparently, the Arizona Cotton Growers Association does not have a web site, but Supima does:

Founded in 1954, Supima is the promotional organization of the American Pima cotton growers. The Board of Directors of this non-profit organization is composed of Pima growers from the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. All members pay a voluntary per bale assessment to support Supima’s marketing and promotional activities.

It turns out that Supima is registrant #30771192 in the lobbying groups registered with Congress. As this article from www.cottonfarming.com notes, the Arizona Cotton Growers Association also considers itself a lobbying organization.

How much land is 2.8 Ha (1.7 Ha + 1.1 Ha)? 1 Ha = 2.471 acres. So 2.8 Ha is 6.9 acres. As noted earlier, the lab is currently located in a large tract of undeveloped land. In fact, the tract is called the Main Spring Cotton Center and appears to be a very desirable area for commercial development. What type of value are we talking about for the facilities being transferred? A 23,000 square foot facility in the Center was recently preleased for $1 million for a 10 year lease.

Here's a bit more background: In January, 2006, Congressman Ed Pastor [AZ-4] introduced H.R. 400 (Western Cotton Research Laboratory Conveyance Act) along with every other Republican and Democratic Congressman in the Arizona Congressional Delegation (talk about lobbying clout!). The cosponsors were Jeff Flake [AZ-6], Trent Franks[AZ-2], Raul Grijalva [AZ-7], J.D. Hayworth [AZ-5] Jim Kolbe [AZ-8], Rick Renzi [AZ-1] and John B. Shadegg [AZ-3] .

The text of the proposed legislation was:


(a) Conveyance Required- As soon as practicable after the completion of Agricultural Research Service operations at the Western Cotton Research
Laboratory located at 4135 East Broadway Road in Phoenix, Arizona, the Secretary of Agriculture shall convey, without consideration, to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and to Supima (the successor of the Arizona Cotton Planting Seed Distributors) all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to the real property at that location, including improvements thereon. The real property was originally conveyed to the United States by the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and the Arizona Cotton Planting Seed Distributors in 1966 for nominal consideration.
Notwithstanding that the land originally belonged to Arizona Cotton Growers and the Arizona Cotton Planting Seed Distributors (the predecessors to Supima) and that a "nominal' fee was paid for the property (both 'facts' have yet to be established), why is the federal government returning this now very valuable piece of real estate to these organizations? Both organizations have benefited from the research conducted with federal dollars.

In addition, the land appears to have been purchased by the United States...even if it was for the unspecified 'nominal consideration'. And as the provision above notes, all the new facilities on the land are being turned over as well.

The proposed legislation for H.R.400 notes that the original purchase by the U.S. occurred in 1966. The lab's web site notes that operations started in 1972.

Could it be that back in 1966 the land was provided in consideration for all the research and development that was going to be conducted and now that the the area has become developed these two organizations want their land back?

Does anyone think that the initial action of H.R.400 was self-initiated by the Arizona Congressional Delegation? Or is it more likely that the lobbying activity of both the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima had something to do with it?

As Drudge would say, developing...

Update 11/16/2005:

Congresswoman Schmidt (OH, 2nd) supported this provision via her vote on H.R. 2744 approving the Conference Report.

Porkopolis has also learned (via email from the lab's director) that over the past 5 years, the Western Cotton Research Laboratory had a total budget of over $22 million dollars; research dollars that directly benefited the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima:


  • FY 2001 $4,296,300
  • FY 2002 $4,336,200
  • FY 2003 $4,418,300
  • FY 2004 $4,668,800
  • FY 2005 $4,823,200
    Here's a copy of the lab's annual report for 2005 (pdf) which details a lot of the research work done on pest control.

    Update 11/19/2005: Curiouser and Curiouser...

    Section 783 of the final bill noted above was not the orginal wording associated with the Western Cotton Research Lab. The original bill voted out of the the Committee on Appropriations (HR 2744 RH , Report No. 109-102) had the following reference:

    SEC. 757. Notwithstanding 40 U.S.C. 524, 571, and 572, the Secretary of Agriculture may sell the US Water Conservation Laboratory, Phoenix, Arizona, and the Western Cotton Research Center, Phoenix, Arizona, and credit the net proceeds of such sales as offsetting collections to its Agricultural Research Service Buildings and Facilities account. Such funds shall be available until September 30, 2007 to be used to replace these facilities and to improve other USDA-owned facilities.
    40 U.S.C 524, 571 and 572 are rules on the Duties of Executive Agencies, General rules for deposit and use of proceeds, and Proceeds of Sale or Transfer of Real property, respectively.

    Frequent readers of Porkopolis probably know by now that the use of 'Notwithstanding' by Congress is a pet peeve of mine (see Pork in Portsmouth Part 4 on for a detailed analysis of how Congressman Portman utilized 'Notwithstanding' to change the USDA rules to benefit the City of Portsmouth).

    Here's where it starts getting interesting. Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Democrat 3-CT) submitted an amendment H.AMDT.230 to H.R.2744 which was approved in the House on 6/8/2005.

    The amendment's text was:

    AMENDMENT DESCRIPTION: Amendment deletes language which authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to sell the Western Cotton Research Center in Phoenix, AZ.

    AMENDMENT PURPOSE: An amendment to remove the authority for the Secretary of Agriculture to sell the Western Cotton Research Center in Phoenix,
    AZ.
    Here's the text from the Congressional Record (CR H4237) when the amendment was offered:

    AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MS. DELAURO

    Ms. DeLAURO. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

    The Clerk read as follows:

    Amendment offered by Ms. DeLauro:

    In section 757, strike ``and the Western Cotton Research Center, Phoenix, Arizona, and credit the net proceeds of such sales'' and insert ``and credit the net proceeds of such sale''.

    [Begin Insert]

    Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of Mrs. DeLauro's amendment to strike part of Section 757 of Title VII of the Agriculture Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2006.

    In 1966, the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and the Arizona Cotton Planting Seed Distributors deeded a piece of property located at 4135 East Broadway Road in Phoenix To USDA for $1.00 to help with the construction of the Western Cotton Research Center. With the construction of a new facility for the research center at the University of Arizona's Maricopa Agricultural Center, the research and its staff will move within the next two years, leaving this property behind.

    I think it is appropriate that this property, which abuts the headquarters of the Arizona Cotton Growers Association, revert back to that group, since they deeded this property to USDA originally for only $1.00.

    I fully support removing the language allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to sell the Wester Cotton Research Center, Phoenix, Arizona and crediting the net proceeds of that sale as offsetting collections to the ARS Buildings and Facilities account.

    [End Insert]

    Mr. BONILLA. Mr. Chairman, this is a good amendment that the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Pastor) has worked very hard on for some time and the gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro) is offering on his behalf, and we are happy to accept the amendment.

    The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro) is recognized for 5 minutes.

    Ms. DeLAURO. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for accepting the amendment.

    The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro).

    The amendment was agreed to.

    So let's net this out:

    1. The original bill introduced (H.R. 2744 RH) on 06/02/2005 from the Appropriations Committee contained language calling for the sale of the Western Cotton Research Laboratory. This was after the 01/26/2005 introduction of H.R. 400; which called for the conveyance of the facility, without cost, to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima.

    2. Democratic Representative DeLauro offers up an amendment (H.AMDT.230) on 06/28/2005 that removed the language that called for the facility to be sold just six days after it's introduced in the House by Appropriations Committee. This amendment is passed by a voice vote.

    3. Hang on now, because it gets more interesting. Democratic Congresswoman DeLauro is a fellow Agriculture Subcommittee on Appropriations member (actually the ranking member) to Congressman Bonilla who is...now get this...the Republican Chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee; the same committee from which the original language was reported from.

    So the Chairman and Democratic ranking member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Appropriations provide language to sell the lab (via the committee they both are a member of) only to have it changed on a voice vote by an amendment in the full House.

    Does it look like someone was doing her Chairman a big favor here?

    Why wasn't the language to convey the facility originally included by the subcommittee in light of the fact that it was introduced as H.R. 400 back in January?

    Mr. Bonilla himself noted that Mr. Pastor, H.R. 400's original sponsor, had "worked very hard on for some time" on that provision. It stands to reason that Mr. Bonilla knew about this provision and had an opportunity to have it reviewed and discussed in subcommittee rather than having it passed by a voice vote via an amendment offered by a Congresswoman from half a continent away from the district in which the facility was located.

    Mr. Kolbe notes in his statement above that the land was originally given to the U.S. for $1. Did Supima and the Arizona Cotton Growers Association get any tax benefits for that 'gift'?

    (Update: As noted below, Mr. Kolbe was the third highest beneficiary of the campaign contributions from the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and the National Cotton Council of America at $7,125 behind J.D. Hayworth at $8,925 and Pastor at $21,500)

    Update 11/19/2005: Following the Money...

    Pop quiz: What are lobbying groups known for other than lobbying?...time's up!

    Answer: Campaign contributions.

    A review of Federal Election Commission records reveals that the original sponsor and cosponsors of H.R. 400 (the precursor to H.R. 2744 which contained the original language calling for the conveyance, not selling, of the lab) had a total of $54,573 contributed to their campaigns since 1997 by either the Arizona Cotton Growers Association (ACGA) or the National Cotton Council of America (NCCA).

    The Arizona Cotton Growers Association (ACGA) (as per page 1 of this document):
    ...assisted in the formation of the Supima Association of America, and other groups such as The National Cotton Council.
    Remember that Supima, along with the ACGA, is the organization that is getting the lab.

    Not all the Arizona Congressmen that originally cosponsored H.R. 400 voted for the final passage of H.R. 2744 or the House-Senate Conference report on the bill (see details below).

    Here are the details on campaign contributions, since 1997, from ACGA and NCCA along with the votes for the Arizona delegation associated with H.R. 2744:
    Update 11/20/2005: Value of U.S. property being conveyed and Supima property tax-exempt

    A review of the property records at the Maricopa County Treasure's Office reveals that:

    Update 11/20/2005: President's original request (via Agriculture Department) was to sell the Western Cotton Research Lab

    The President's Agriculture budget request for 2006 originally had the following provision (see page 201):

    SEC. 725. Notwithstanding 40 U.S.C. 524, 571, and 572, the Secretary of Agriculture may sell the US Water Conservation Laboratory, Phoenix, Arizona, and the Western Cotton Research Center, Phoenix, Arizona, and credit the net proceeds such sales as offsetting collections to its Agriculture Buildings and facilities account. Such funds shall be available until September 30, 2007 to be used to replace these facilities and to improve other USDA-owned facilities. (Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005.)
    Sec. 725 ended up as Sec. 757 in the HR 2744 RH , the bill reported out of the Appropriations Subcommittee; which was then removed via a voice vote (see Update 11/19/2005: Curiouser and Curiouser); which then became Sec. 783 in the final bill (H.R. 2744):

    SEC. 783. As soon as practicable after the Agricultural Research Service Operations at the Western Cotton Research Laboratory located at 4135 East Broadway Road in Phoenix, Arizona, have ceased, the Secretary of Agriculture shall convey without consideration, to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to the real property at that location, including improvements.
    Correction: 11/22/2005: Parcel #123-02-001-F listed above in 'Update 11/20/2005' is for the U.S Water Conservation Lab, not the Western Cotton Research Laboratory.

    Parcel #123-02-001-F was incorrectly listed as a parcel being conveyed to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima. The parcel contains the facilities of the U.S Water Conservation Lab, which was referenced in the original budget request as a facility to be sold (see Update 11/20/2005: President's original request (via Agriculture Department) was to sell the Western Cotton Research Lab).

    The U.S. Water Conservation Lab, unlike the Western Cotton Research Laboratory, will be sold as per Sec. 761 of the final approriations bill (H.R. 2744):

    SEC. 761. Notwithstanding 40 U.S.C. 524, 571, and 572, the Secretary of Agriculture may sell the US Water Conservation Laboratory, Phoenix, Arizona, and credit the net proceeds of such sale as offsetting collections to its Agricultural Research Service Buildings and Facilities account. Such funds shall be available until September 30, 2007 to be used to replace these facilities and to improve other USDA-owned facilities.
    As the Google Map shows, both facilities are literally just a stone's throw away from each other.


    [Update 11/23/2005: Drudge Siren added.

    By having the Western Cotton Research Lab conveyed to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima the U.S. taxpayers are being cheated out of money that would otherwise have been utiilzed to build a new Cotton Research Lab.]

    Porkopolis has put together a final piece of the puzzle in this mystery and it's not pretty if you're a taxpayer.

    It took a bit to see the 'forest for the trees', but evidence is provided here that shows that Congress went against the original intent of the President to sell the Western Cotton Research Lab and then use the proceeds to fund a new facility.

    A sister facility, the U.S. Water Conservation Lab is being sold, as per the original request, and the proceeds of this sale, unlike those of the Western Cotton Research Lab, will be utilized for the new joint facility.

    As noted in [Update 11/19/2005: Curiouser and Curiouser], Sec. 757 of the original bill voted out of the Committee on Appropriations (HR 2744 RH , Report No. 109-102) had the following reference:
    SEC. 757. Notwithstanding 40 U.S.C. 524, 571, and 572, the Secretary of Agriculture may sell the US Water Conservation Laboratory, Phoenix, Arizona, and the Western Cotton Research Center, Phoenix, Arizona, and credit the net proceeds of such sales as offsetting collections to its Agricultural Research Service Buildings and Facilities account. Such funds shall be available until September 30, 2007 to be used to replace these facilities and to improve other USDA-owned facilities.

    Note the "Such funds shall be available until September 30, 2007 to be used to replace these facilities...". This represents the original intent as expressed in the President's budget, see: [Update 11/20/2005: President's original request (via Agriculture Department) was to sell the Western Cotton Research Lab]

    But as we now know, the final appropriations bill (H.R. 2744) ended up with two different provisions for each of the facilities; the Western Cotton Research Lab and the U.S Water Conservation Lab---one sold away (Sec. 761) and the other given away (Sec. 783)

    Sold away:
    SEC. 761. Notwithstanding 40 U.S.C. 524, 571, and 572, the Secretary of Agriculture may sell the US Water Conservation Laboratory, Phoenix, Arizona, and credit the net proceeds of such sale as offsetting collections to its Agricultural Research Service Buildings and Facilities account. Such funds shall be available until September 30, 2007 to be used to replace these facilities and to improve other USDA-owned facilities.

    Given away:
    SEC. 783. As soon as practicable after the Agricultural Research Service Operations at the Western Cotton Research Laboratory located at 4135 East Broadway Road in Phoenix, Arizona, have ceased, the Secretary of Agriculture shall convey, without consideration, to the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to the real property at that location, including improvements.

    As has been shown in [Update 11/19/2005: Following the money and moving to top] , the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and the National Cotton Council of America have made substantial contributions to Congressman Pastor, the original sponsor of a bill ( H.R. 400) to give the site away to the the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima.

    There may or may not be a connection to the conveyance and the political contributions documented. At a minimum, they allow for suspicion and a plausible motivation for having an act of Congress and a President's signature sought in the conveyance of a valuable piece of real estate to two lobbying organizations.

    H.R. 400 noted that the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima originally donated the land to the U.S. government, but they also received the benefit of a lot of U.S. taxpayer funded research, see: [Update 11/16/2005: Congresswoman Schmidt votes for provision and value of research conducted at lab].

    And now the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima will continue to benefit from U.S. taxpayer funded research in a brand-spanking-new facility at the U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center:

    The U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center will integrate the Western Cotton Research Laboratory and the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory on a 20-acre site at the University of Arizona, Maricopa Agricultural Center. The 97,000 ft2 research center will house 31 research scientists and over 90 research and administrative support personnel. The mission of the new research center is to develop sustainable agricultural systems, protect natural resources, and support rural communities in arid and semi-arid regions through interdisciplinary research. Research topics include crop management, integrated pest management, irrigation technology, remote sensing, water reuse, crop breeding and physiology, and global climate change. The new facility is scheduled to be completed in mid-2005.
    At least two reports (1st, 2nd) note that this facililty will cost $28 million in federal dollars. (More will be reported here in the near future from a Freedom of Information Act request detailing the prorated cost of the Western Cotton Reserch Lab.)

    This press release from Congressman Pastor in 2001 details the reasons for the new joint facility.

    Here in lies the cheating asserted by Porkopolis:

    Whatever the proportional cost associated with the Western Cotton Reserch Lab, U.S. taxpayers won't have the benefit of sale proceeds from the old lab that could have and should have been utilized to offset the costs of the new facility, as originally intended, because that facility now belongs to two lobbying organizations; the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and Supima.

    There are many people we can thank for this starting with:

    1. Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Democrat 3-CT) who submitted an amendment H.AMDT.230 to HR 2744 RH which was approved in the House on 6/8/2005; via a voice vote. See [Update 11/19/2005: Curiouser and Curiouser] for the full details.

    2. All the wimps in Congress that voted via a voice vote instead of getting their votes on record for this amendment...you all know who you are.

    3. Congressman Kolbe of Arizona who stood up in support of the amendment when it was offered by Congresswoman DeLauro.

    4. Congressman and Chairman Bonilla who also stood in support of the amendment even though he had an opportunity to include it in HR 2744 RH, the bill voted out of his subcommittee.

    5. Congressman Pastor who Congressman Bonilla noted "has worked very hard on for some time" for the conveyance as evidenced by H.R. 400.

    6. All of our Representatives that claim to represent us but allowed H.AMDT.230 to pass via a simple voice vote.

    7. All the non-sponsoring Representatives (original vote, conference vote) and Senators (orginal vote, conference vote) that voted on a piece of legislation with provisions like this without apparently reading it. (Porkopolis is prepared to be corrected on this assertion. If you learn that your representative voted for this conveyance with full knowledge of its implications, please post a comment or email me with the details. Email is delgados129 *At* hotmail.com )

    8. The President, who signed this bill into law.

    There's more to come on this...so stayed tuned to this post.

    3 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Nice work.

    You have to wonder if there is a "follow the money" thing going on with this. It's so bleeping brazen.

    Tom
    BizzyBlog

    November 13, 2005 at 11:22 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Whoa.

    There are a lot of reasons to be PO'd about it.

    Two of the biggest are:
    - The brazen disregard for the President's wishes.
    - The fact that the Supreme Court's failure to allow line-item vetos fores the President to take an all-or-none approach on mult billion dollar appropriations with hundreds or even thousands of line items.

    The CT-AZ connection and the brazen lobbying suck too.

    This is a big MEGO (my eyes glaze over), that deserves a "boiled down to its essence" post.

    Tom
    BizzyBlog

    November 23, 2005 at 6:45 PM  
    Blogger Porkopolis said...

    MEGO point well taken...I'll work on a summary post using the most recent update as the basis.

    November 23, 2005 at 7:15 PM  

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