Center wins first Pulitzer!

Black lung investigation honored

Get more award-winning investigations:

Obama's pardoned turkeys courtesy of lobbyists

Influential National Turkey Federation behind time-honored White House tradition

By

 Updated:

Lobbyists are strictly for the birds, President Barack Obama regularly asserts. But an influential lobbying powerhouse will on Wednesday provide Obama a pair of well-pampered turkeys that the president plans to pardon.

The National Turkey Federation, which raised and transported the lucky gobblers known as "Popcorn" and "Caramel" to the nation's capital, spent $105,000 on lobbying between January and September, federal records show — pressing lawmakers and agencies on issues ranging from renewable fuel standards to immigration reform.

And during the same period, the National Turkey Federation's political action committee doled out an additional $125,000. Nearly three-fourths of that sum aided Republicans.

Notable beneficiaries of the trade group's PAC money include House Minority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who has received $5,000, and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has received $2,500.

Meanwhile, embattled incumbent Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., account for more than 40 percent of the money the National Turkey Federation PAC contributed to Democrats through September.

Hagan collected $8,000 — more than any other recipient — and Pryor collected $7,000. Ten other Democratic candidates and PACs collectively received $20,000.

Popcorn and Caramel will be accompanied to the White House on Wednesday by John Burkel, a fourth-generation turkey farmer and current chairman of the National Turkey Federation.

Burkel and his birds hold the distinction of hailing from Badger, Minn., a town of just a few hundred residents near the Canadian border where turkeys outnumber humans.

He also maintains the distinction of being the top donor in Badger to politicians and political groups, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of federal records.

Since January, Burkel has donated $560 to the political action committee of the National Turkey Federation, Federal Election Commission records show. Only one other resident of his ZIP code has even contributed enough to exceed the federal disclosure threshold of $200.