WASHINGTON -- Leaders of Koch brothers-linked groups were so incensed that a farmer's association endorsed the Senate campaign of Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley that they're apparently trying to punish the farmers.
Braley won the backing of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, which announced last week that it favors his stance on farm policy over that of his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst.
The association is one of the most influential farmers' groups in Iowa, and endorses candidates regardless of party affiliation.
But the choice didn't sit well with Sandy Greiner, a Republican Iowa state senator. Greiner is president of the American Future Fund, a group that spent some $30 million last election cycle -- nearly all raised from the network built by the billionaire Koch brothers -- attacking Democrats or backing Republicans.
The group been mostly quiet since it was accused of funneling $4 million to an anti-labor ballot initiative in California.
But Greiner, who is a farmer herself, seems to be going after the corn growers.
According to screen grab provided to HuffPost by a Braley backer, Greiner posted a message on Facebook the day after the Sept. 2 endorsement, saying that farm families who disagree with the selection should consider "requesting a refund of your Corn Checkoff assessment," money that goes to the association.
Then, the political action committee of the American Future Fund upped the ante, commissioning a string of robo-calls to members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association that instructed them to call a specific official at the group to complain of the endorsement and ask for their money back.
“This is Brenda with American Future Fund PAC," said the Sept. 5 call, according to a transcript provided to HuffPost. "As you may have heard, the Iowa Corn Growers PAC just announced their endorsement of Bruce Braley for U.S. Senate. That’s right –- Bruce Braley, the very same man who slammed Senator Chuck Grassley for being a farmer. Farmers are the lifeblood of Iowa’s economy. And we think it’s important you know that the Iowa Corn Growers are using money raised from their donors –- hardworking farmers like you –- to support the liberal Braley, who voted for cap-and-trade legislation that would devastate Iowa farms. This cannot stand."
"Tell them that they should be supporting farmers, not trial lawyers. And if you remember, request a refund of your checkoff dollars," the spot continues. It concludes, "This call is paid for by American Future Fund PAC and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”
The call's mention of Grassley (R-Iowa) is a reference to Braley's description of him as a "farmer with no law degree." Republicans tried to use that remark to turn farmers against the Democrat. The corn association endorsement apparently undercuts that effort, and suggests the farmers who make up the group's membership are happy with Braley's record.
Greiner said via email that she is not affiliated with the American Future Fund PAC, despite being the president of the American Future Fund. She did not immediately answer a question about why she posted on Facebook about the corn growers.
Nick Ryan, the chairman of the PAC, said via email that his group is separate from Greiner's, and that he was responsible for the calls. The groups' websites are linked to one another and promote the same television ads. He also did not explain why he was targeting the farmers, but took the opportunity to slam Braley.
"Bruce Braley has a history of voting for big government policies that harm Iowa farmers," Ryan said, adding that Braley voted against a bill last week that would prevent the EPA from expanding enforcement of the Clean Water Act.