A former legal client of Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D., Iowa) says he will not vote for him in Iowa’s Senate race, underscoring the challenges for the congressman as he seeks to edge out Republican Joni Ernst in the closely fought contest.
Braley, who spent more than 20 years working as a trial lawyer in Iowa before winning his first election to Congress in 2006, represented company executive Michael Ferrell in his 1999 lawsuit against IBP, Inc.—a leading beef packer and pork processor that was purchased by Tyson Foods, Inc. in 2001.
Although Braley assisted him in the IBP case, Ferrell said in an interview that he did not "think he would make a good senator" because he has become the "epitome of the fat cat politician." Braley has been accused of accepting millions of dollars in campaign contributions from lawyers and law firms and advocating for their interests in the House of Representatives, rather than Iowa farmers and workers.
Ferrell claimed in the case that IBP wrongfully fired him after he raised concerns about worker safety. The U.S. District Court in northern Iowa threw out most of his complaints against the company, but did permit him to proceed with the wrongful discharge claim.
When reached by the phone, Ferrell said that his lawsuit against the company failed about 10 years ago. While he said he knew that he likely "wouldn’t prevail" in the case against IBP, he thought it was "worthwhile to take them to task" due to the company’s "long history of safety violations."
He mentioned the December 1996 death of William Morris, an IBP employee at a plant in Palestine, Texas, who was killed after a structural failure threw him back into a compressor and covered him in ammonia and oil, according to the case records.
Despite once providing legal help to Ferrell, Braley does not have his vote. He will opt for Ernst, he said.
"I don’t think he would make a good senator," Ferrell said. "He’s sort of that epitome of the fat cat politician. His approach to most everything is throw money at it, and I just don’t think we need more of that."
Ferrell, who described himself as a "a big time hunter and gun collector," said he did not vote for a long period after Jimmy Carter beat President Gerald Ford in 1976. One reason is that lawmakers have failed to address the problem of entitlement spending, he said.
"I don’t see that changing," he said. "I just see that getting worse and worse."
He did vote in the last election and will do so in November, but he worried that it would be a "waste of time."
Braley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment about Ferrell’s case.
Political analysts in Iowa have turned their attention to the absentee ballots count with less than two weeks until the election. The race is expected to go down to the wire and could help determine whether Republicans retake the Senate majority.
Democratic voters have returned 98,492 absentee ballots as of Tuesday, only 170 more than Republicans. Democratic early ballots exceeded Republican ones by a larger margin in the 2010 election—by about 19,500—when absentee ballots accounted for about 32 percent of all votes.
Ferrell lives in Sioux City in western Woodbury County, where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won by only about 100 votes in 2012. County residents voted for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) by a large margin in 2010.
Ernst holds a slim 2.5 percentage point lead in the race, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average.