The world’s largest ethanol producer is one of Newt Gingrich’s biggest donors, reports USA Today. A long-time supporter of the controversial subsidy, Newt is also the only GOP candidate to unequivocally support ethanol subsidies.
The political action committee of ethanol producer Poet and its employees — including CEO Jeff Broin — have donated $20,000 to Gingrich’s campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, this makes Poet and people connected to the company the second largest donor to his campaign.
But the ties go deeper. Broin also serves as the chairman of ethanol lobbying firm Growth Energy, the same firm that hired Gingrich as a consultant in 2009. From 2009 until early 2011, Growth Energy paid Gingrich $575,000. It was one of many gigs that earned Gingrich millions in the years after he left Congress.
It’s a tradition that every four years, candidates come to Iowa to swear allegiance Iowa corn growers and the ethanol subsidy — a 45 cent tax break for each gallon of ethanol blended with gasoline. But this year is an exception because the party, under increasing influence from the Tea Party, has pivoted on the subsidy. This summer, many Republicans in Washington voted to end the $6 billion-per-year ethanol subsidy. Though it ultimately survived, subsidies have become a rallying call for fiscal conservatives looking to cut waste and Tea Partiers who don’t want government ‘picking winners and losers.” No other candidate is as uncompromisingly for the subsidy than Newt. Mitt Romney, who has been vague on the issue, most recently says that while he initially supported the subsidy, should not “go on forever” — hardly a comforting position for Iowa farmers. Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul have all come out against the subsidy.
While Iowa voters still like it, it’s no longer a popular position and one that Newt will have to justify going forward.
This was evident in an interview with Glenn Beck on Monday, where Newt sparred with his host on this issue. Beck called the subsidy ‘crony capitalism’ and a cause of ‘out-of-control spending.’ Newt’s response, a response he has given many times, was to stress that ethanol helps America become energy independent. In addition, he told Beck, government investment isn’t always bad — likely an even harder sell to the Tea Party crowd: “We’ve always believed that having a strong infrastructure and having a strong energy system are net advantages because they’ve made us richer and more powerful than any country in the world,” he told Beck. “The Erie Canal was built that way.”
Newt’s pro-ethanol view, however, hasn’t hurt him yet in Iowa or elsewhere as he continues to rise in the polls.