Blue Bunny Ice Cream Benefited From Government Subsidies While Funding Campaigns Calling For Smaller Government

Vow 13 of the FAMiLY LEADER’s anti-gay marriage fidelity pledge asks candidates to commit to “downsizing government and the enormous burden upon American families of the USA’s $14.3 trillion public debt.” The request is ironic given the GOP’s role in contributing to the nation’s deficit throughout the Bush administration and the LEADER’s own reliance on more than $3 million in government funds. As the Associated Press reported in May, the group, which is headed by three-time failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, “received more than half of its funding from federal grants over a five-year period when it operated under a different structure as The Iowa Family Policy Center” and was “among those that benefited from former President George Bush’s faith-based initiative.”

A closer look at Vander Plaats’ chief financial backers — the Wells Family who owns and operates Wells Dairy and sells its products under Blue Bunny Ice Cream label — reveals that they too have profited from some of the same government funding they paid Vander Plaats and the LEADER $456,000 to oppose.

In 2004, Wells Dairy received a total of $15,718,550 in government loans, grants, infrastructure bonds and tax credits, and promised to construct a new corporate headquarters in Iowa, preserve existing jobs, and add another 129 jobs. Wells accepted the subsidies, built the headquarters, but did not expand employment. As a result, the company returned $1,251,414 of the $15,718,550 to Iowa taxpayers as part of an agreement. Below is a breakdown of the government assistance the company received:

$2,928,000: Iowa Values Fund forgivable loan
$200,000: Physical Infrastructure Assistance forgivable loan
$200,000: ARC forgivable loan
$4,790,550: New Jobs and Income Program tax credit assistance
$250,000: from Le Mars
$250,000: from Plymouth County
$100,000: from Le Mars Business Initiative Corp.


$7,000,000: Bonds issued by Plymouth County or Le Mars to finance construction of the facility/roads

Ironically, candidates from both parties have criticized the Iowa Values Fund, characterizing the program as “corporate welfare.” Last year, Vander Plaats himself — then a gubernatorial candidate — said the fund was a “quick fix” but “not leadership.”

During a recent appearance at the Press Club in Washington, DC, Vander Plaats blamed the nation’s economic troubles on same-sex marriage, saying, “When you leave the fundamental core values issues, it will only translate into poor economic policy. And that’s what we’re seeing today.”