Senator Joni Ernst claims a hard knock life; turns out to be untrue

Published: Jan 22, 2015 13:38pm EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Politics

Please Note: This article was updated Jan 22, 2015 @ 01:38pm EST

 

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is currently best known as the woman who used images of her castrating a pig in a political ad that, according to The Washington Post, “transformed” the Senator’s uninspiring primary campaign into one that helped propel her to the senate.

In that ad she stated that because her family learned to “live within our means,” the federal government should “do the same.”

However, her self-created image of a simple farm-raised woman may come crashing down around her after a rhetoric filled speech in response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday evening.

In Ernst’s speech, she claimed to have grown up poor in rural Iowa and was taught how to live within her means from her farmer parents. Ernst is opposed to government subsidies and handouts and has stated previously that people who work hard should be rewarded, while those who don’t shouldn’t be given handouts by the federal government.

During a GOP primary debate, Ernst said she is “philosophically opposed” to federal farm subsidies. However, she added, she would continue to support them if elected.

“Reality is that with the subsidies, unless we’re eliminating all of them across the board at the same time for every sector out there, then I’ll go ahead and support those subsidies,” she said.

While her response speech Tuesday, as well as her persona of being a simple farm-raised Iowan, touched on all the right issues the GOP wanted to deliver to Americans, much of Ernst’s back-story may not be entirely accurate. In fact, it may have been falsely created or exaggerated as a means to present a false image of a person within the Republican Party in an effort to rebrand the GOP in a sense.

According to public records, between 1995 and 2009, Ernst’s family received upwards of $500,000 in federal government “handouts” as part of a federal program supporting farms and farmers with subsidies.

Ernst claimed, in her response speech, to have had only one pair of shoes growing up and that her family didn’t have much, but worked hard for what they did have.

“I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry,” she said. “But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet. Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.”

While it is true Ernst’s family had a farm and worked hard, she never once mentioned the amount in federal government aid money her family applied for and received.

Farm subsidy records show that Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, received $38,395 in commodity subsidies and conservation payments to support his crops. Her uncle, Dallas Culver, received $250,000 in federal corn subsidies and $117,141 in additional aid. Her grandfather on her father’s side, Harold Culver, received $57,479 in aid between 1995 and 2001.

For her family to have lived, or at least done farming, in Red Oak, Iowa that had a population of less than 6,000 people at the time, to have received that amount in federal aid and willfully give the impression she grew up poor appears disingenuous at best.

In reality, it could be viewed as disrespectful and ignorant of those who have previously gone through financial hardship in the country, or currently do. Making claims about living within your means, another way of saying you grew up barely scraping by, is an attempt to connect with middle- and lower-class families all across the country.

Further highlighting her family’s financial plight, Ernst’s father was awarded more than $200,000 in local government contracts in 2009 and 2010 while she served as auditor for Montgomery County. Iowa state law prohibits the awarding of contracts to any individual or business where a county official or employee “had an interest” in the contractor.

While Ernst may not have played a direct role in awarding the contracts, the fact is she violated Iowa state law at the time.

Her previous ethically ambiguous actions before Tuesday’s speech notwithstanding, promising that the new Republican-controlled Congress would “propose ideas that aim to cut wasteful spending and balance the budget,” comes across as more rhetoric lacking meaningful and realistic plans to make it happen.

At least, to make it happen and not put the burden of those budget cuts on the backs of middle- and lower-class Americans, as has been the case with previous Republican-controlled  government’s.

Additionally, the financial benefits Ernst’s family enjoyed during her formidable years growing up and early on into her political career does undermine her claims of having “lived within her means” and that she is committed to doing anything about wasteful spending. 


 

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Lance Rinker
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