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Harris Rejects PETA Request To Return Campaign Money

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  • Billye Thompson
    Harris Rejects PETA Request To Return Campaign Money http://news.tbo.com/news/MGB5Y43LR5E.html TAMPA - U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris says she won t return $20,000
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2005
      Harris Rejects PETA Request To Return Campaign Money


      TAMPA - U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris says she won't return $20,000 in
      political contributions from New York and Iowa residents linked to a
      slaughterhouse that was the subject of an animal rights group's
      Harris got the money - 10 checks for $2,000 each from five
      individuals - during a fundraising trip to New York in December.
      Some of the donors are from a family whose contributions to
      President Bush were returned for unspecified reasons.

      Two of the donors are executives of the Agriprocessors Inc.
      slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. Two are members of the Balkany
      family of Brooklyn, who are linked by marriage to the plant's
      operators and known for abundant political contributions.

      In November, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a
      complaint against the plant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
      PETA released a videotape showing cattle with their throats ripped
      out staggering away from slaughtering machines.

      A department investigation continues, a spokesman said. Meanwhile,
      the plant has agreed to change some of its slaughtering procedures.

      The department, without identifying the plant, has sent guidelines
      to its inspectors telling them to shut down any slaughterhouse if
      they see the kind of activity described by PETA and shown in the

      Agriprocessors also is being sued by the Justice Department over
      allegedly improper discharge of wastewater into Iowa's Yellow River.

      That lawsuit is pending amid negotiations toward a settlement, said
      Bob Butler, an assistant federal prosecutor.

      Agriprocessors' attorney in that action, Jay Eaton, of Des Moines,
      said the company ``will defend itself and believes the
      allegations ... are not supportable,'' but he confirmed negotiations
      are proceeding.

      Plant officials didn't return calls to discuss the allegations or

      No Culpability, Aide Says

      PETA called on Harris and other politicians who received
      contributions from Iowa's Rubashkin family, operators of the
      slaughterhouse, to return the money. PETA contends the federal
      enforcement actions create a conflict of interest for some cash

      Garrison Courtney, a Harris spokesman, said the Longboat Key
      Republican won't return it.

      ``If PETA's allegations are confirmed, these practices should be
      terminated and those involved should be held accountable,'' Courtney
      wrote in a statement released last week. ``However, the alleged
      activity has nothing to do with the congresswoman or any campaign
      contributions she received.''

      The Iowa plant produces meat using methods supervised by Jewish
      organizations that certify food as kosher.

      Sholom Rubashkin, who runs the plant, is related by marriage to
      Orthodox Rabbi Milton Balkany, the most prominent member of the
      Balkany family.

      In August 2003, federal prosecutors charged Balkany with diverting
      $700,000 of federal grant money, intended to help disabled children,
      for his personal use, for companies run by relatives and for other
      unauthorized purposes.

      After that indictment, Bush's re-election campaign returned about
      $6,000 from the Balkanys. National Republican Party officials have
      offered no explanation.

      Charges against Milton Balkany were dropped after he agreed to pay
      restitution and admitted improperly using some of the money,
      according to news reports.

      Because of Balkany's work raising money for political figures, the
      independent political watchdog group PoliticalMoneyLine dubbed him
      ``the Brooklyn bundler,'' a reference to his ``bundling'' of
      contributions from various sources.

      His family is interested in Israel-related causes, and Harris is a
      member of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

      Kosher Techniques Defended

      PETA is known for pro-vegetarian stances and favors fundamental
      change in the way animals are treated in research and agriculture.

      Some critics have said the organization is using the Agriprocessors
      plant to attack meat consumption in general; Jewish groups have
      charged the group is attacking kosher methods or even Judaism.

      Bruce Friedrich, director of farm animal campaigns for PETA, denies

      ``Kosher slaughter in the U.S. should be better than conventional
      slaughter'' if done correctly because it is done more carefully,
      Friedrich said. ``Judaism is by far the best on animal welfare among
      the monotheistic faiths.''

      What happened at the Agriprocessor plant, he said, ``is a violation
      of both kosher and federal regulations.''

      Menachem Balkany, son of Milton Balkany and one of the donors to
      Harris, didn't return calls for comment last week. Other donors
      couldn't be reached.
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