The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board has set new guidelines for farmers who want to make political campaign contributions. The board has ruled that family farm corporations must strictly follow Iowa’s law banning corporate contributions to campaigns or political action committees.
Executive director Charlie Smithson says an exemption in the law for those corporations had caused some uncertainty over the years. "The problem was that, in the campaign laws, it was permissible for yard signs to be placed on the family farm corporations, which is unusual, because no other corporation can have signs on its property," Smithson said.
The board has clarified that – while yard signs at the family farm are permissible – financial contributions from the corporate accounts of family farms are not. Smithson says the yard sign exemption created some confusion for the ethics board.
"The staff had struggled through the years, meaning, could family farm operations make contributions to campaigns and PACS," Smithson explained. "Sometimes we allowed it and other times, depending who was in charge, we didn’t."
The board will publish a formal rule explaining the clarification and conduct public hearings for farmers and farm groups to weigh in on the matter. For the current election season, Smithson advises family farms to put up yard signs if they wish, but make contributions only from personal accounts, not from any corporate funds.