Vilsack Run Raises Ethical Questions

Christie Vilsack, wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, is currently considering running for Iowa’s newly redrawn 4th Congressional District in the upcoming 2012 election. The seat, currently held by Republican Steve King, will encompass all of Northwest Iowa.

Christie’s run raises important ethical questions for Secretary Vilsack’s role in a potential election campaign. Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor and current Secretary of Agriculture, has had an important role in the lives of Iowans and is currently responsible for many of the subsidies that flow to Northwestern Iowa. While Christie Vilsack certainly hopes to capitalize on name-recognition, both he and she must avoid major conflicts of interest. Ethics officers at the USDA have briefed Secretary Vilsack that he must treat his wife like any other candidate, and would be prohibited from using his official title at campaign events.

The scrutiny of the upcoming campaign could potentially complicate Secretary Vilsack’s official duties. With a new Farm Bill under consideration for 2012, Vilsack has stepped up his efforts to promote ethanol and renewable energy sources for agricultural production. In a rally earlier this week, Vilsack expressed his confidence that U.S. corn producers could meet the demand for both ethanol production and livestock feed.

Christie Vilsack has yet to officially declare her candidacy, but if she does, only time will tell what the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Vilsack will be on the campaign trail.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer