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Harkin bails out illegal alien employer

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By Michelle Malkin  •  December 29, 2008 10:47 AM

I would think Iowans — and taxpayers across the country — would be rather miffed about Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin’s decision to bail out illegal alien employer Agriprocessors. Reader Scott from Kensett, Iowa, is. He sends this info from the Des Moines Register along this morning:

A controversial Postville meatpacking plant might have been forced out of business if U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin hadn’t stepped in four years ago to give it a multimillion-dollar boost with federal tax money.

The money, nearly $8 million, came from an environmental program from which Agriprocessors normally would have been disqualified. The grant and loan were used to build a sewage-treatment plant that serves only the meatpacker.

The environmental program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is designed to help small towns improve their sewage systems. The new sewage-treatment plant is technically owned by Postville, but it doesn’t serve the town’s residents. Department administrators say that fact usually would have prevented it from receiving money from the program. But Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, used his influence to exempt the project from those rules in 2004.

“It was a sleight of hand on this deal,” said Jerry Anderson, a Drake University law professor and Agriprocessors critic. “We thought it was a misuse of the law.”

Agriprocessors, once the area’s dominant employer, sank into bankruptcy after an immigration raid there in May. It now is for sale and is operating far below capacity. Before the company’s recent economic troubles, the new sewage-treatment plant helped Agriprocessors lessen water-pollution problems that had brought repeated citations from environmental inspectors. Environmentalists say the pollution was so bad that it probably would have led regulators to shut down the company.

Harkin, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, wields substantial power over the Department of Agriculture, which financed the treatment plant. He was the top-ranking Democrat on the committee in 2004, when he used an appropriations bill to direct money to the Postville project.

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