DAVENPORT, Iowa––Why did oil magnate Forrest Lucas form Protect The Harvest, among the most aggressive and best-funded of anti-animal advocacy fronts?
Perhaps it was just to protect the enormous Lucas Oil Products investment in Professional Bull Riders, Inc., whose Touring Pro Division bears the Lucas name. Some individual PBR stars have also been sponsored by Lucas, better known for his investments in televised motor sports and the Indianapolis Colts professional football team, whose home is Lucas Oil Stadium.
But Lucas, 70, also owns the Lucas Cattle Company, of Cross Timbers, Missouri, and has had lifelong associations with animal agriculture.
“Home was Columbus, Indiana,” Lucas told Fortune magazine interviewer Dinah Eng in 2012. “Both sides of the family were farmers. By the time I was 13, I was showing registered cattle in professional breeder shows.”
From age 15 until after his first marriage at age 17, Lucas lived and worked on a cattle ranch owned by Jacque Glen, a commissioner in Harrison County, Indiana.
Whatever Lucas’ motivation, he founded Protect The Harvest in 2011, and Protect The Harvest has now spun off a so-called “Super PAC,” a political action committee that “intends to raise funds in unlimited amounts,” according to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission.
“The Protect the Harvest Political Action Committee told the elections regulator that it intends to call for the election or defeat of federal candidates,” reported Michael Beckelemail of the Center for Public Integrity. “Which politicos will be targeted, however, is still unclear. Neither the super PAC’s treasurer, Brian Klippenstein, nor its attorney, Mark Roth, responded to requests for comment.
“Super PACs are legally allowed to solicit unlimited contributions to produce political advertisements,” Beckelemail explained, “so long as their spending is not coordinated with any candidates’ campaigns.”
Focused on HSUS
Lucas and Protect The Harvest are especially focused on the Humane Society of the U.S., mentioned three times in the eight-sentence Protect The Harvest mission statement.
Alleges the mission statement, “The animal rights movement in America, led by HSUS, has evolved into a wealthy and successful attack group determined to end the consumption of meat, threaten consumer access to affordable food, eliminate hunting, outlaw rodeos and circuses, and even ban animal ownership (including pets) altogether.”
Mentioning HSUS by name twice more in, the mission statement goes on to declare intent to create “lasting legal safeguards for farmers, sportsmen and animal owners,” and “respond to the activities of radical groups like HSUS by opposing their efforts to pass laws or enact regulations that would restrict the rights and freedoms of farmers, sportsmen and animal owners.”
The Protect The Harvest mission statement might be said to have conflated HSUS with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also mentioned on the Protect The Harvest web page; HSUS has always distanced itself from “animal rights” philosophies, and has never campaigned to “eliminate hunting, outlaw rodeos and circuses, and even ban animal ownership,” but PETA has taken all of these positions.
Neither HSUS nor PETA has ever taken a position that could reasonably be construed as “threatening consumer access to affordable food,” since plant-based diets are markedly less costly to produce than diets centered on animal products.
“We’re not PETA”
Responded HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, “We’re not PETA or Mercy for Animals, but we do stand up for livestock––the eight billion chickens raised in filthy cages, the tens of millions of pigs in tiny crates. Somebody has to speak out for them.”
Elaborated Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian, “Lucas is perhaps the biggest pro-animal abuse money man in America. With his personal net worth of $300 million and his company’s annual revenue of $150 million, Lucas in 2010 spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to bankroll the opposition to Proposition B in Missouri, which voters approved to set standards for the care of dogs in puppy mills. Lucas then supported an effort in the Missouri legislature to weaken and repeal parts of the voter-approved measure, before it even had a chance to take effect. In 2012, Lucas and Protect The Harvest spent more than a quarter million dollars opposing Measure 5 in North Dakota, which sought to establish felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses. In 2013, Protect The Harvest lobbied against a local ordinance in Crawford County, Indiana to require proper shelter for dogs and cats, and another proposal in Harrison County to promote spaying and neutering pets.”
Tanya Tuell, founder of River Valley Humane Society and coordinator of a Spay/Neuter Assistance Program operating in both Harrison and Crawford counties, had sought local ordinances to require doghouses to protect dogs from the elements on all four sides, and to have floors so that dogs are not left in ice, puddles, or mud.
Protect The Harvest in March 2013 aired 60-second radio ads throughout Oklahoma to promote legislation to revive the horse slaughtering industry, reported William Crum of The Oklahoman. Wrote Crum, “The ads accuse radicals of spreading lies about Oklahoma farmers and ranchers. HSUS is spending millions to put agriculture out of business, they say.
Klippenstein, the Protect The Harvest super PAC treasurer, “spent 26 years on Capitol Hill working for Missouri Republicans, including Senators Roy Blunt and Kit Bond,” summarized Beckelemail of the Center for Public Integrity. Protect The Harvest attorney Roth, Beckeleman continued, “is also listed as the registered agent and incorporator of the Protect the Harvest charity, according to Iowa business records.”
Lucas is the Protect The Harvest president.
The Protect The Harvest charity “raised about $927,000 between October 2011 and December 2012. A report detailing its 2013 finances is not expected to be filed with the Internal Revenue Service until later this year,” Beckeleman wrote. “FEC records indicate, however, that Lucas Oil Products contributed $200,000 to Protect The Harvest in 2012. The American Action Network, led by former GOP Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, also contributed $100,000 to the group, according to its annual tax return. A group called Missouri Farmers Care donated $35,000 Protect The Harvest in 2012.”
Missouri Farmers Care and Protect The Harvest itself have endorsed a Missouri ballot measure, backed by the Missouri Farm Bureau, which if approved by voters would amend the state constitution to guarantee that “the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed.”
The amendment could be a carte blanche protection of agricultural pollution and factory farming.
Recalled Beckeleman, “Protect the Harvest backed a similar—and successful — ballot measure in North Dakota in 2012.”
Lucas backed Steve King
The Lucas Oil Products money, Beckeleman reported, was spent “to fund advertisements critical of Iowa Democrat Christie Vilsack, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Republican Representative Steve King.”
King in early 2012 introduced an amendment to the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill that would have prohibited states from enforcing their own hen caging standards against eggs imported from out of state. The language was aimed specifically at California Proposition Two, passed by voters in 2008.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund subsequently spent more than $500,000 seeking unsuccessfully to unseat King in the November 2012 election, emphasizing King’s opposition to federal anti-dogfighting laws passed in 2007 and 2012.
King retaliated with an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill which in effect would have erased all state and local laws protecting farmed animals. This King amendment was not stripped from the House version of the Farm Bill until January 27, 2014, ten days before the long-delayed Farm Bill finally cleared both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama on February 7, 2014.