published Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Millions in federal contracts flowed to Scottie Mayfield


by Chris Carroll
 Republican primary candidate for Congress Scottie Mayfield
Republican primary candidate for Congress Scottie Mayfield
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

MAYFIELD CONTRACTS

Year // Contracts // Amounts

2001 // 2 // $58,000

2002 // 0 // $0

2003 // 0 // $0

2004 // 1 // $104,230

2005 // 4 // $282,085

2006 // 4 // $232,326

2007 // 8 // $395,483

2008 // 8 // $1,538,953

2009 // 4 // $1,721,383

2010 // 5 // $1,440,647

2011 // 1 // 1 // $1,814,771

Total 47 $7,587,878*

*Note: Government calculations show $7,587,876, possibly due to rounding.

Source: www.usaspending.gov.

Like many Republicans campaigning for smaller government, congressional candidate Scottie Mayfield routinely criticizes the federal bureaucracy and what he calls "Washington's outrageous spending."

But Mayfield appears content with at least one of Uncle Sam's recurring expenses -- federal contracts to the family dairy.

Since 2000, Mayfield Dairy Farms LLC has received more than $7.5 million from 47 government contracts and transactions, federal records show. The Department of Defense awarded 37 of those contracts and 99 percent of the money.

At a March fundraiser, Mayfield said defense "is the No. 1 reason we have a federal government."

Mayfield is challenging U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District Republican primary. In speeches and position papers, the dairy executive attacks "Washington's outrageous spending" and promises to allocate tax dollars more carefully "than the incompetent crowd in Washington."

Overall since 2000, Dean Foods Co., Mayfield Dairy Farms' parent company, has received more than $306 million from more than 7,000 government contracts for its many subsidiaries, according to federal databases and company records.

About 58 percent of Dean's contracts were not competitively bid, government databases show.

"Information on relationships with our customers, beyond what we disclose in our filings, is proprietary," said Liliana Esposito, a Dean spokeswoman.

Mayfield's history as a government contractor doesn't end at the federal level. Since 2007, Tennessee has paid more than $175,000 directly to Mayfield Dairy Farms. Databases don't identify a clear purpose for the state contracts, but most of the federal contracts are for milk, eggs and juice on military bases and in prisons.

By its very nature, the government must contract for goods and services it doesn't have the time or means to produce. But one 3rd District observer said Mayfield's experience as a government breadwinner puts him on the wrong side of his own rhetoric.

"It makes it a little more challenging to sell the 'small government' pitch," said Chattanooga Tea Party spokesman Brendan Jennings. "He might have trouble with that."

Congressional ethics experts and conservative activists said the contracts raise several questions:

• If elected, how would Mayfield exert his legislative influence over agencies that previously awarded contracts -- and may continue to award contracts -- to Mayfield Dairy Farms?

• How does Mayfield reconcile his pleas for reduced federal spending with his company's history of contracting with the federal government at a rate of nearly $700,000 per year?

• How long has Mayfield Dairy Farms been in the government contracting business? (Federal databases extend back only to 2000.)

Numerous lawmakers at the state and federal levels have private business investments, and they often deal with potential conflicts of interest through the use of a blind trust or ceding control of their finances to a third party while they are in office.

Questions about how Mayfield would handle that and the other issues went unanswered last week. Multiple emails and phone calls to Mayfield strategist Tommy Hopper and campaign spokesman Joe Hendrix were not returned.

Congress controls funding levels for all the agencies and departments with which Mayfield has contracts -- Defense, the federal prison system and the Department of Veterans Affairs among them -- but experts said no ethics laws would force Mayfield to recuse himself from votes that directly could benefit Mayfield Dairy Farms or other dairies.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, said House recusal rules apply on votes "when you're doing something that really affects only your personal wealth."

"It might be the wiser course to recuse himself from votes that would heavily affect his former employer," she said. "On the other hand, the rules allow him to say he knows more about dairy farming than most people."

Ron Bhalla and Weston Wamp also are challenging Fleischmann in the Republican primary, while Democrats Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor are competing for their party's nomination. Independent candidate Matthew Deniston also is in the race.

Primaries are Aug. 2.

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