Climate Super-PAC Calls USDA Nominee Clovis a “Bush-League Rush Limbaugh Clone”

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Sam Clovis speaking at a rally for Donald Trump at Iowa State University in January 2016. Photo: Alex Hanson/Flickr

In an email Monday, Climate Hawks Vote, a super-PAC based in Agoura Hills, California, drew attention to a letter Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, sent to her supporters opposing former Morningside College economics professor and talk radio host Sam Clovis’ nomination to be the top scientist at the US Department of Agriculture despite having no relevant background in food policy or science as required by law.

The email pointed to a petition signed by over 36,000 people opposed to Clovis’ nomination, thanked Stabenow, and slammed Clovis for his “ugly history of racist, bigoted, and anti-science rants.”

During his time hosting the radio talk show “Impact with Clovis,” which aired on Sioux City channel KSCJ, Clovis made dozens of outrageous assertions, among them calling progressives “race traders” and “race traitors” and claiming President Obama was a “Maoist” with “communist” roots. Clovis also floated birther conspiracy theories, called climate change “junk science,” said former US Attorney General Eric Holder was a “racist black,” and suggested that legalizing protections for LGBT citizens would lead to pedophilia.

“We thank Sen. Stabenow for opposing Sam Clovis, a bush-league Rush Limbaugh clone with an ugly history of racist, bigoted, and anti-science rants,” said Brad Johnson, the executive director of Climate Hawks Vote, in a statement. “Clovis is a radical threat to the services the Department of Agriculture provides for rural and urban Americans. As the climate crisis grows, we need the leadership of scientists, not racist conspiracy theorists.”

In her letter, Stabenow — a leading opponent of Clovis from the outset from her position as a ranking member of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee — called on President Trump to withdraw Clovis’ nomination. “If he does not,” she wrote, “I will lead the opposition and promise to bring his troubling record to light.” Stabenow also pointed to a 2008 law passed as part of that year’s Farm Bill. The law states that the position Clovis was tapped for, the USDA’s under secretary of agriculture for research, education, and economics, is intended for the department’s “chief scientist,” who must be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

Clovis was a major Trump backer during the 2016 campaign, serving as his national co-chair and angering Morningside College administrators for his leading role in devising Trump’s Muslim travel ban. He told GOP opponents of Trump to support him or “just shut the hell up,” and also reportedly recruited Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy adviser who came under FBI surveillance over his ties to Russia, after vetting him through a Google search.

Climate Hawks Vote spent about $30,800 in support of Democrats and $3,000 opposing Republicans during the 2016 election cycle. None of the super-PAC’s money targeted Iowa politicians, although several congressional representatives here are climate deniers, including Sen. Joni Ernst and Congressman Rod Blum.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.