Egg price gouging is issue in Senate race. Should it be?

Rep. Jim Banks, vying for a Senate job, accuses Rose Acre Farms chairman of funding his own political campaign with money obtained by price gouging.

Roy Graber Headshot
Rep. Jim Banks
Rep. Jim Banks
Jim Banks | Facebook

A few weeks ago, we reported on how John Rust, chairman of the board for Rose Acre Farms has ambitions to represent Indiana in the United States Senate.

But he won’t, if U.S. Rep. Jim Banks has anything to do with it.

Rust and Banks are both Republicans seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mike Braun.

It appears that Banks, having already secured the endorsement of the Indiana Republican Party, is the person to beat in this race. But that doesn’t mean that Banks isn’t resorting to dirty politics.

On the Banks campaign’s social media pages, the congressman accuses the Rust-led Rose Acre Farms of price gouging. “Liberal John Rust is being sued for putting personal profit over the well-being of Hoosiers, increasing prices at the peak of the COVID pandemic. Now he’s trying to use money he robbed from you to buy a US Senate Seat. He can’t be trusted,” Banks tweeted while sharing a link to a Fox News story on the topic.

And in that interview, Banks said, “I find that to be just disgusting that this guy and his family would be part of a scheme to screw people in Indiana who are trying to put food on the table, and they made it even harder on them during COVID to do that. … I’m going to make sure a guy like that never goes anywhere near the United States Senate.”

What lawsuit?

To which lawsuit Banks is referring to isn’t exactly clear. He doesn’t identify the suit when he makes those allegations.

And only one media report I saw makes mention of one. The Indiana Capital Chornicle references a lawsuit that dates back to 2011, and that suit claims the alleged gouging took place between 1999 and 2008, well more than a decade before anybody knew what COVID-19 was.

That’s not to say that lawsuits weren’t filed that accused U.S. egg producers of price gouging during the pandemic. But the lawsuits I’m aware of made accusations against Cal-Maine Foods, Dutt & Wagner, Hillandale Farms, Dakota Layers and Sparboe Farms, and not Rose Acre Farms.

If anyone would know to which lawsuit Banks is referring, it would be Rust, and perhaps he does, as he told the Capital Chronicle, “two previous juries have already determined that Rose Acres’ conduct was absolutely lawful."

And while the 2011 lawsuit has not been settled, Rust was dismissive of Banks’ claims.

“Because we’re a large farm, we get sued all the time — that’s just part of business,” he said. “You can take all that stuff and make anyone look dark and evil, but it’s patently untrue. They’re grasping at straws.”

“Jim Banks will do anything to win his next office. To him, that is more important than the truth.”

And one truth Banks left out was that Rose Acre Farms was one of numerous egg producers to contribute to the “Cracking Hunger” program, which made eggs and financial resources available to food banks during the pandemic.

Jim Banks, Letitia James are birds of a feather

Banks’ political ploy of alleging egg price gouging for his own benefit is a tactic that has been used before.

I earlier mentioned that Hillandale Farms was targeted in a lawsuit, and that was filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Hillandale denied the allegations of price gouging, but did offer a settlement to put the litigation to rest. As part of that settlement, Hillandale agreed to donate 1.2 million eggs to food banks in New York.

James turned that into a political opportunity and staged a pre-Easter press conference to build herself up and tear Hillandale down.

“Hillandale may have run afoul of our state’s price gouging laws and hatched a plan that targeted our state’s most vulnerable in its darkest hour, but, today, we’re delivering 1.2 million eggs to feed hungry New Yorkers and make things right. New Yorkers can trust that I will always stand up for our state’s working families,” James stated at the time.

James’ name may be otherwise familiar because she is a high-profile figure in the prosecution of a criminal case involving a former U.S. president – the same former president over which Banks repeatedly gushes during his Fox News interview.

But despite their political differences, we can’t overlook how similar Banks and James are.

They both accused major U.S. egg producers of price gouging when it had not been proven that they did so. And they both selfishly did so in hopes of benefiting their own political futures.

There would be nothing wrong for either of them to say they “were accused of” gouging and let the public research the matter. Shamefully, neither did. 

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