(Chuck Muth) – When Democrat Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign ran that recent TV commercial featuring Anderson Dairy telling everyone how Sen. Reid “saved” the company, I’m pretty sure they never expected it would blow up into a full-scale dairy war. But that’s exactly what has happened.
According to Anderson Dairy, Sen. Reid pushed through a special piece of legislation that exempted it from federal pricing regulations in 1999, resulting in higher profits that the company otherwise wouldn’t have received. Sounds good…on the surface.
However, a competing dairy – Ponderosa Dairy out of Amargosa Valley, Nevada – the largest in the state, which is managed by Republican state Assemblyman Ed Goedhart – maintains that what benefitted Anderson hurt Ponderosa. And Goedhart – who, in the interest of disclosure, also happens to be a client of mine – hasn’t been shy about letting everyone and their uncle know about it.
And if this was just Anderson vs. Ponderosa, some would chalk the whole brouhaha up as crying over spilled milk. But Harry Reid’s ongoing, some might legitimately say extraordinary, efforts on behalf of Anderson have hurt others, as well, including Nevada consumers who are paying artificially higher prices for their milk, butter and cheese.
In particular, Reid’s efforts have put the royal screws to another dairyman, Hein Hettinga, who operates a string of dairies throughout the West, including one in Pahrump.
According to a December 2006 story in the Washington Post, Hettinga, operating a dairy out of Arizona in 2003, “started bottling his own milk and selling it for as much as 20 cents a gallon less than the competition, exercising his right to work outside the rigid (federal government) system that has controlled milk production for almost 70 years.”
Joe Benoliel, a senior vice president for Costco Wholesale Corp at the time, told the Post that milk producers in southern California were “gouging the public on price” and were “unresponsive to our call for lower prices.” Until Hein Hettinga entered the market.
“As Hettinga’s milk began reaching Costco stores, there was a snowball effect as other milk suppliers were forced to lower their prices,” Benoliel said. This, of course, upset the “brazen” big dairy profiteers who didn’t like competition coming from outside the government-controlled Soviet-style system.
Hein Hettinga had to be stopped!
So according to the Post story, “a coalition of giant milk companies and dairies, along with their congressional allies, decided to crush Hettinga’s initiative.” For three years, they spent “millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions and made deals with lawmakers, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”
The ultimate deal was cut between Reid and Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl. “Kyl agreed to back removing all of Nevada from federal milk regulation,” reported the Post, “and Reid agreed to support legislation cracking down on Hettinga.”
On December 16, 2005, “with the Senate chamber nearly empty,” Reid “brought up the milk bill, which passed a few minutes later by ‘unanimous consent,’ a procedure that requires no debate or roll call vote if both political parties agree.”
In March 2006, it passed in the Republican-controlled House “without a single congressional hearing.”
Under the new law Hettinga was allowed to continue selling his milk at the lower price; however, the difference between his price and the higher price set by government regulation had to be paid into a “pool” shared by other dairy operators rather than into his own pocket – “a ‘crippling’ sum of up to $400,000 a month.”
All in a bi-partisan scheme to “save” one of Harry Reid’s major campaign contributors.
At least Mr. Hettinga kept a little sense of humor over getting this Reid-Kyl royal screwing. “I still think this is a great country,” the Dutch-born immigrant told the Post. “In Mexico, they would have shot me.”
But in America, Hettinga and Goedhart could end up having the last laugh on November 2nd if Nevada voters put the old special interest bull from Searchlight out to pasture.