Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The land was worth millions. A Big Ag corporation sold it to Sonny Perdue’s company for $250,000

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“Corruption” with a capital “C.” Desmond Butler reports in the Washington Post:

It was a curious time for Sonny Perdue to close a real estate deal.

In February 2017, weeks after President Donald Trump selected him to be agriculture secretary, Perdue’s company bought a small grain plant in South Carolina from one of the biggest agricultural corporations in America.

Had anyone noticed, it would have prompted questions ahead of his confirmation, a period when most nominees lay low and avoid potential controversy. The former governor of Georgia did not disclose the deal — there was no legal requirement to do so.

An examination of public records by The Washington Post has found that the agricultural company, Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), sold the land at a small fraction of its estimated value just as it stood to benefit from a friendly secretary of agriculture.

Perdue did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the real estate deal. Jackie Anderson, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based ADM, denied that the company sold the property at a discount, saying that ADM began negotiations with Perdue’s former company, AGrowStar, in 2015 — well before Trump was elected — and could not find another buyer.

“This was nothing more than a business decision to sell a significantly underperforming asset,” she said.

Danny Brown, the former president of AGrowStar, confirmed negotiations began in late 2015. But Brown said ADM wanted $4 million for the plant — 16 times what Perdue’s company ultimately paid for it.

The timing of the sale just as Perdue was about to become the most powerful man in U.S. agriculture raises legal and ethics concerns, from the narrow question of whether the secretary followed federal financial disclosure requirements to whether the transaction could have been an attempt to influence an incoming government official, in violation of bribery statutes, ethics lawyers say.

“This stinks to high heaven,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a Georgetown University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “It deserves a prosecutor’s attention,” she added. “Only a prosecutor with the powers of the grand jury can find out, in fact, whether there was a quid pro quo that existed at the time of the deal.”

Public officials are barred from accepting anything of value if the benefit is given “with intent to influence.” ADM, which spent millions of dollars lobbying the U.S. government during the Trump presidency, certainly had many interests before the USDA during Perdue’s tenure.

“We did not receive any special favors from Mr. Perdue during his administration,” Anderson said, “and it is unfair and inaccurate to imply that we did.”

ADM sold the plant in Estill, S.C., to Perdue’s then-company, AGrowStar, for $250,000 — a fraction of what county and independent appraisers say it is worth. Six years earlier, ADM had paid more than $5.5 million for the same land, a figure that closely matches assessments by independent experts contacted by The Post, who analyzed the value based on state records and drone footage of the property.

Months after Perdue took over the U.S. Department of Agriculture, his family trust sold AGrowStar to a group of investors along with all of its real estate for an undisclosed amount. According to Brown, AGrowStar sold for about $12 million.

The real estate sales illustrate the limits of the financial disclosure rules intended to reveal potential conflicts of interest before confirmation. Officials are not required to detail their companies’ transactions or any business deals completed before their confirmations. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2021 at 9:01 am

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