After she came in third in the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President received contributions of $2,300 each from Peter and Alina DeCoster of Clarion.
Peter and Alina are the son and daughter-in-law of Austin “Jack” DeCoster, the 5th largest egg producer in the U.S., who is now at the center of the 550 million-egg recall. Peter is the chief operating officer for the egg empire.
The $4,600 the couple gave to Clinton’s campaign was unusual in that the DeCosters do not make many political contributions. Last cycle, for example, the only other contributions Peter and Alina made were to the United Egg Association’s political fund for $5,000 each.
But, according to a database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics, the DeCosters do not show up as contributors to any other campaigns, including a search of both candidate committees and so-called soft money that is often donated for independent political expenditures.
Nor does their father, the more infamous Austin “Jack” DeCoster.
By mid-decade, he’d established himself as one of the largest egg producers in the U.S. with 7.5 million chickens in Iowa and 5.5 million in his home state of Maine. He was also big, even by Iowa standards, with 27,000 hogs. His Wright County Egg operation boosts 13 acres under roofs.
DeCoster, who has declined to be interviewed by the media since the egg recall began, is not someone you are going to see at a political fundraising event. His encounters with government have been frequent and costly.
Health and safety violations at his Turner, Maine operation in 1997 cost him $2 million to settle violations so severe that then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich called DeCoster out for running a “sweatshop.”
The same year a hog manure spill in Iowa required him to pay a $10,000 fine, and he went on in 2000 to be labeled as a “habitual violator” of environmental regulations for problems that included hog manure runoff into waterways. As a result, he couldn’t expand and faced increased fines.
In 2002, DeCoster Farms settled an Equal Employment lawsuit for $1.5 million with Mexican women employees who sued for sexual harassment, including rate, abuse, and retaliation by some of the eggplant supervisors.
And then earlier this year, his Maine Contract Farming paid a $100,000 fine and $25,000 in penalties over state charges of animal cruelty brought after an animal rights group secretly made a videotape of abuses.
See Prior Food Safety News coverage of the nationwide egg recall and Salmonella outbreak.