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Perdue Nomination for USDA Secretary Turns Cloudy

President Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, was “mired in ethical lapses” while governor of Georgia “that raise troubling questions about his fitness to run the department,” said the Environmental Working Group.

Neither Perdue nor leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which would hold a confirmation hearing on Perdue once a background check is completed, were immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman for Perdue told the New York Times, which also reported the allegations, that political gamesmanship was behind complaints of missteps by Perdue while in office. He was the first Republican-elected governor of Georgia since Reconstruction and was in the vanguard of converting a solidly Democratic state to Republican control.

Until now, the only complaint about Perdue’s nomination was the long stretch of inaction on the nomination announced seven weeks ago. The salient points in the EWG report were Perdue’s covert role in purchase of 101 acres near a wildlife preserve just before it was sold, boosting the value of Perdue’s acquisition, and his signature of a sweeping tax law in 2005 that saved him $100,000 in state taxes.

Perdue repeatedly has said he did not know the law covered transactions like his purchase of land in Florida with proceeds from sale of land in Georgia. Previously, the break on capital gains taxes was available only on land swaps made within the state. The retroactive provision that affected Perdue was engineered by a lawmaker who also was a longtime real estate attorney for Perdue, said EWG. “Will he commit to putting his substantial agriculture-related businesses in a blind trust if confirmed as secretary of agriculture?” asked the group.

Both incidents were reported by Georgia news media during and after Perdue’s tenure in office but received little attention among the enthusiastic welcome by farm and agribusiness groups, who say Perdue would be only the third agriculture secretary to work in agriculture as an adult.

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