Iowa Republican senator Joni Ernst gave her party's official response to the State of the Union address by boasting self-righteously about her humble origins and how her self-reliant, heartland-state family pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, but conveniently failed to mention that her family's farm was the beneficiary of nearly half a million dollars in federal subsidies.
Senator Ernst's speech stressed how her family had "lived within its means" and she campaigned on a promise to "cut the pork" out of government.
The truth about her family's farm roots and living within one's means, however, is more complex. Relatives of Ernst (née: Culver), based in Red Oak, Iowa (population: 5,568) have received over $460,000 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. Ernst's father, Richard Culver, was given $14,705 in conservation payments and $23,690 in commodity subsidies by the federal government–with all but twelve dollars allocated for corn support. Richard's brother, Dallas Culver, benefited from $367,141 in federal agricultural aid, with over $250,000 geared toward corn subsidies. And the brothers' late grandfather Harold Culver received $57,479 from Washington—again, mostly corn subsidies—between 1995 and 2001. He passed away in January 2003.
The Sentinel cross-referenced the Environmental Working Group farm subsidy database with open source information to verify the Culvers' interest in the Department of Agriculture's crop support program.
Sen. Ernst's family's financial interest notably came up once during her campaign. In October, Salon reported that Richard's construction company was awarded $215,665 in contracts from the Montgomery County government in 2009 and 2010, while Ernst was the body's auditor. The bids won by Culver included Federal Emergency Management Agency projects worth $204,794.
Despite Campaigning on Pork-cutting Family Living "Within Our Means," Sen. Ernst's Kin Took Over $460,000 in Farm Subsidies [Sam Knight/District Sentinel]