Iowa Dem Receives Endorsement From Far-Left Group Behind Anti-Ethanol Lawsuit

Sierra Club supports anti-ag policies, as well as Dem Rep. Finkenauer

Former representative Abby Finkenauer (D., Iowa) / Getty Images
June 10, 2020

Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D., Iowa), who has positioned herself as a champion of local agriculture, received the endorsement of a far-left environmental group considered hostile to the economic interests of Iowa farmers.

Sierra Club, a liberal environmental activist group, announced its endorsement of Finkenauer on Tuesday. While the endorsement is likely to boost her fundraising appeal among national liberals—85 percent of the Democrat's campaign funds have come from outside of Iowa in the 2020 cycle—it could muddy her pledge to "fight like hell" for Iowa farmers.

Finkenauer has positioned herself as a supporter of Iowa agriculture, touting her "working class" background. Sierra Club has long taken positions that threaten the state's farm economy, however, including criticizing the production of ethanol because of its environmental impact. In 2017, the group launched an anti-ethanol lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, arguing that the biofuel has caused "the elimination of vast native landscapes for the production of corn" and "contributed to severe algal blooms in water bodies including the Great Lakes and … Gulf of Mexico."

Iowa produces nearly 30 percent of all U.S. ethanol, supporting roughly 42,000 jobs and accounting for $4.7 billion in state GDP, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Republican Ashley Hinson, who is challenging Finkenauer in the state's First Congressional District, said the endorsement "makes it clear that [Finkenauer] stands with liberal environmentalists and not Iowa Farmers."

"The Sierra Club passionately supports the Green New Deal and increased regulations that would bankrupt the renewable fuels industry," campaign manager Jimmy Peacock said in a statement. "How can Congresswoman Finkenauer say she supports Iowa Farmers while she consistently turns her back on them for political gain?"

Finkenauer and Sierra Club did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to opposing ethanol production incentives vital to the Iowa economy, Sierra Club also supports "minimizing the production and consumption of domestic animals" to "reduce greenhouse gas production." The group encourages Americans to "eliminate meat and animal products" from their diets in order to reduce "greenhouse gas impacts, water pollution and inhumane treatment of animals." Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production and hog and egg production, and the state ranks second in commercial red meat production.

Sierra Club is also a vocal proponent of far-left congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D., N.Y.) $94 trillion Green New Deal, which calls for the "economic transformation" of the United States. Finkenauer has danced around the legislation since its introduction in February 2019, stressing the need to get "creative about how we actually address environmental concerns" without directly supporting or opposing the controversial bill.

Finkenauer will take on Hinson, a former Cedar Rapids news reporter and state representative, in November. The Iowa Republican won her June primary handily, receiving 78 percent of the vote. The Cook Political Report rates the race a "toss up."