The Republican nomination contest for a US Senate seat in North Carolina has intensified in recent days after a Washington Post article detailed how farmers lost millions of dollars in company bankruptcy run in part by the family of Representative Ted Budd.
Budd, whose candidacy won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in June, came under heavy criticism from his competitors after the article published on Tuesday. Former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker, who are also vying for the nomination, jumped at the chance to accuse Budd of being a “DC insider” who defrauded the farmers.
AgriBioTech, based in Henderson, Nevada, was a “full-service seed company ‘specializing in forage and turf that has also researched and developed seed varieties and processing plants, according to a press release from the company.
Budd was not an executive of the company, but a shareholder. His father, Richard Budd, took over as chief executive in 1999 and served as chairman of the board, according to federal securities documents.
Budd was also one of 11 people who signed a loan to AgriBioTech in an attempt to save the ailing company less than a year before the company declared bankruptcy, his campaign acknowledged. AgriBioTech paid off the loan with interest, but more than 1,200 farmers in 39 states remained unpaid for more than $ 50 million in produce.
Following AgriBioTech’s bankruptcy filing in 2000, a lawsuit filed in Nevada claimed Richard Budd transferred millions of dollars from the company to his family, including Ted Budd, before reimbursing farmers for their products. In a settlement reached in 2005, the Budds agreed to pay farmers about $ 6 million without admitting wrongdoing, according to a report from the Las Vegas Sun at the time.
“I wish my efforts to save ABT were successful, but they weren’t,” Richard Budd said in a statement provided by his son’s campaign. “I did my best, but in this case my best was not enough to save the business.”
Congress responded by creating a $ 35 million interest-free loan fund to help affected farmers.
In an interview this week with Winston-Salem news channel WXII, Ted Budd said he “had never had any involvement” with the company. His campaign spokesman Jonathan Felts said in a statement that the farmers’ accusations of fraudulent transfers were “false allegations which are, unfortunately, a typical tactic in such lawsuits.”
“Ted got Trump’s approval and has the momentum to win this race,” Felts said. “Some journalists are suffering from Trump’s inconvenience syndrome and will say or do anything if they think it could hurt President Trump’s political popularity.”
McCrory, Walker’s Response
The top three Republican candidates have tried to present themselves as outsiders in Washington, and Walker and McCrory both use the Post’s story as a way to push back Budd’s efforts.
“Do we really need another Washington politician like this representing North Carolina in the United States Senate?” ” McCrory wrote on Twitter.
Walker wrote on Facebook that the report was “troubling but confirms Budd’s record: follow a lot of money and you’ll always find Ted Budd.”
“Sadly, this is not the end of the story, but the opening chapter of Budd putting the money on the principle,” Walker added. “You can’t expect to serve North Carolina in the US Senate with this lack of judgment and refusal to answer questions.”
State of the campaigns
The race for the US Senate in North Carolina will play a central role in determining which party will control the chamber after the 2022 midterm election. The primary is scheduled for March 8.
So far, Budd has taken advantage of his Trump endorsement by raising $ 700,000 in the second quarter. He also loaned $ 250,000 to his own campaign and entered the race with an additional $ 1.1 million in cash from his home groceries. McCrory raised $ 1.24 million in the second quarter and Walker has raised more than $ 1.25 million since he declared his candidacy in December.
It’s unclear what impact Budd’s connection to AgriBioTech will have on the race.
Jordan Shaw, a McCrory campaign adviser, wrote on Twitter that Budd “will need a better answer” than denying any connection with the company.