Washington Congressman Dan Newhouse Returns Campaign Donations From Chinese-Controlled Companies


U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse refunded $17,500 in political donations to PACs affiliated with two Chinese-controlled agribusiness giants last month, according to a new Federal Election Commission filing.

The unusual refunds of contributions stretching back as far as 2016 come as Newhouse, the Sunnyside, Yakima County, Republican seeking a fifth term this fall, has positioned himself as a hawk warning against China's growing influence on U.S. agriculture.

On March 31, Newhouse returned $16,500 in donations to a PAC for Syngenta and $1,000 to Smithfield Foods' PAC, his campaign disclosed in an FEC report filed Friday. Both companies operate in the U.S. as wholly owned subsidiaries of Chinese firms.

The refunds were among the notable highlights in FEC filings late last week documenting first-quarter fundraising and spending by congressional candidates in Washington's top 2022 midterm contests.

Derek Flint, Newhouse's campaign manager, said in a text message: "Congressman Newhouse has deep concern over the Chinese government's aggressive acquisition of American farmland. Upon learning that Syngenta and Smithfield are wholly owned by or controlled by the Chinese government, he returned their PAC contributions."

Both companies had been purchased years ago by Chinese corporations in deals widely reported in the media.

Syngenta, the Swiss pesticide and seed seller, was bought in 2017 for $42 billion by ChemChina, the Chinese state-run chemical company. Smithfield, the Virginia-based pork producer, was taken over by a Chinese company in 2013 for $4.7 billion.

Prior to the refunds, Newhouse was tied with Rep. Dan Costa, D-California, as the largest recipient of Syngenta PAC money in the 2022 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit group that tracks political spending and influence.

Newhouse has been publicly sounding the warning about growing Chinese influence in the U.S. food-supply system.

In a speech on the House floor this month, he touted proposals to stop "foreign adversaries, like communist China, from gobbling up American farmland and taking control of our food supply chain." He also highlighted the China threat on a recent Fox News appearance with host Tucker Carlson and sent a fundraising appeal this month asking for support of his efforts to "stop China from starting an agricultural monopoly" in the U.S.

While China's U.S. farmland holdings have grown rapidly in recent years — a development that has alarmed some lawmakers from both parties — they are still a tiny slice of the land, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan nonprofit research organization.

All foreign companies combined owned 2.7% of U.S. farmland in 2019, with Canada holding the largest portion of that, about 29%, according to a report by the CSIS in September. China, by contrast held just 0.05%. The foreign holdings "do not represent a substantial enough portion of food production in the United States to threaten national food security," the CSIS reported.

Newhouse, a third-generation farmer of hops and other crops in the Yakima Valley, is seeking a fifth term representing Central Washington's 4th District.

His vote to impeach former President Donald Trump last year has drawn backlash among many Republicans and a pack of GOP challengers including Loren Culp, the GOP's 2020 gubernatorial candidate, state Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, and Jerrod Sessler, a Prosser businessman.

In the latest fundraising reports, which cover January through March, Newhouse maintained his financial edge, pulling in about $236,000 in the quarter, and reported $928,000 cash on hand. His challengers have struggled to keep pace.

Culp, who was recently endorsed by Trump, raised $47,000 in the quarter but spent more than he took in and reported $26,000 in cash on hand. Sessler raised about $9,200 in the quarter but reported nearly $147,000 cash on hand. (He has largely self-funded his campaign with a $350,000 loan.) Klippert raised $5,000 and was left with $4,800 cash on hand.

Other highlights in the recent round of fundraising reports:

—In Washington's Senate race, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, the Democrat seeking a sixth term, maintained a huge cash advantage, ending the first quarter with nearly $7.9 million in the bank, compared with $2.5 million for GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley. But Smiley, a Pasco veterans advocate and first time candidate, came close to matching Murray in first-quarter fundraising, pulling in $1.66 million to Murray's $1.72 million.

—In the closely watched race for Washington's 8th District, U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, raised $1.2 million for the quarter and reported $4.9 million cash on hand. Her first-quarter haul was more than her three top Republican challengers combined. King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn raised about $260,000 and reported $467,000 cash on hand. Jesse Jensen, a combat veteran and tech manager who ran for the seat in 2020, raised $187,000 for the quarter, with $425,000 cash on hand. Matt Larkin, an attorney and businessman, raised about $106,000, with $355,000 cash on hand.

—In southwest Washington's 3rd District, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, also faces a trio of GOP challengers due to her Trump impeachment vote. Herrera Beutler, who is seeking a seventh term, raised about $605,000 in the first quarter, leaving her campaign with $2 million cash on hand.

Republican challenger Joe Kent, a combat veteran endorsed by Trump, raised more than $456,000, with $1 million cash on hand. (He has given his campaign more than $40,000 and loaned it $205,000.) Heidi St. John, a Christian author and home-school advocate, raised $226,000, with $283,000 cash on hand. State Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, who entered the race more recently, raised under $13,000 and reported $4,100 cash on hand. Brent Hennrich, a Democrat who has worked as a film equipment installer, reported raising about $32,000 in the quarter, with about $14,000 cash on hand. A second Democrat, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who with her husband runs an independent auto repair shop, raised $67,000 and reported $57,800 cash on hand.