Local News

State Board: Farmers For Fairness is a Political Action Committee

Posted April 3, 1998

— The State Board of Elections ruled Saturday that Farmers for Fairness is a political committee that is trying to influence the elections of Republican Representatives Cindy Watson, Bobby Ray Hall and others.

Political Action Committees are groups that raise money in support of a particular candidate or cause, and by law they are required to disclose where they get their contributions.

The two day hearing focused on whether Farmers for Fairness, a coalition of the state's largest pork producers, violated state elections law.

Duplin County Representative Cindy Watson, a vocal critic of the hog industry, filed the complaint after the group ran several ads blasting her for supporting tougher hog regulations.

Watson said, "I have never disagreed with freedom of speech, and I don't think that was the question ever in my mind. I still don't question what they say or what any group says. It was just whether corporate money was used to buy the ads and do the polling; that was my question, and it's been answered today."

The committee also found Farmers for Fairness spent money which impacted the election of candidates, and failed to tell the state board of elections. However, the board said that the group did not knowingly break the law.

President of Farmers for Fairness Nick Weaver said, "It's interesting to note that the board spoke to no criminal or willful violation. That is a victory."

Farmers for Fairness plans to appeal, but if the courts upholds the rulings, it could have major implications for other groups.

Joe Cheshire,the groups attorney, said, "Although the board ruled Farmers for Fairness is a PAC, the group still considers today a victory since it was found that they didn't willfully violate criminal laws."

Cheshire said that the group plans to appeal the ruling based on the constitutionality of the statutes.

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