WASHINGTON — Arkansas poultry executive Ronald Cameron spent big on Republicans this midterm election cycle, funneling money to campaigns nationwide and pouring millions into super PACs aimed at electing GOP politicians to Congress.

Over the last two years, the Little Rock donor dished out more than $10 million across congressional campaigns, super PACs and other groups registered with the Federal Election Commission. Millions of those dollars went to groups working to elect Republicans to Congress, but Cameron’s money also went to rank-and-file conservatives and other major super PACs.

Advertisement

As the midterm election season closes out, federal campaign finance records offer a view into the breadth of political spending from Cameron, who has a history of high-dollar contributions but keeps a low public profile.

The executive’s spending comes as Republicans nationwide are pushing for majorities in both chambers of Congress this midterm election cycle. During the current Congress, Democrats held control in the Senate and wielded a majority in the House, helping President Joe Biden secure domestic policy wins.

Advertisement

Cameron, a chicken mogul, is chairman of the Mountaire Corp. Efforts to reach Cameron were unsuccessful and Mountaire did not respond to multiple interview requests. 

Mountaire, according to its website, is the fourth-largest chicken company in America and Cameron’s grandfather started the business more than 100 years ago.

Advertisement

Large donors can be looking for access to lawmakers and influence over policy, but they can also be motivated by personal enthusiasm for a party, according to experts on Congress and campaign finance observers. In the end, the specific reasonings behind large political spending can remain unknown. 

“In any individual case, it’s really difficult as an outsider to tell their motivations,” said Eleanor Powell, an associate professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

There are ideological business donors, she said, but there are also those who give money in an access-oriented pattern that shifts on which party is in power.

“In terms of giving patterns, we see evidence of both happening,” said Powell, who researches Congress and money in politics. 

Advertisement

When wealthy special interests use their ability to spend, “there’s a real risk that their voice might be heard much more loudly in later decisions,” said Elizabeth Shimek, senior legal counsel for campaign finance at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan advocacy group.

And decisions in Washington can shape prominent industries, whether through legislation or new rules from federal agencies. 

For example, congressional lawmakers are considering a bill that touches on Cameron’s industry: poultry. The bipartisan legislation, which is backed by Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, would create an office in the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would look into anti-competitive practices within the poultry and meat industries. Under the bill, a special investigator would head the office and would be armed with subpoena power. 

It’s unclear if Mountaire has a position on the legislation, and the company did not respond to questions regarding the bill. 

Cameron’s political spending is nationwide and the executive made seven-figure contributions to powerful super PACs committed to helping Republicans win congressional races. 

Super PACs, which can spend money supporting or opposing candidates, are political action committees that can receive unlimited contributions from people, corporations and other committees. 

Cameron’s money went to prominent GOP members like House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, but his money also went to lower-profile Republicans as well. His money also went to the campaigns of conservative firebrands, such as U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

During the midterm election cycle, Cameron funneled at least $3.5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC committed to electing GOP candidates to the House, according to FEC filings. 

Over the same time period, he poured at least $2.25 million into the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that’s pushing for a Republican majority in the Senate, the filings show.

The size of those overall contributions would catch the attention of political committees and GOP leadership, said Casey Burgat, director of the Legislative Affairs program at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. 

“When you can raise millions of dollars per cycle through a single source, then you’re going to cultivate that source as much as possible,” he said. 

Donors can give money to politicians who already support their views, he said, and large campaign contributions can lead to political access. 

“Our system is set up [so] that when you can provide those types of funds to campaigns, then that means you have access that people that don’t have those type of funds can’t get,” he said.