Bill Gates Land Purchase in North Dakota triggers Probe
Trusts and corporations can’t own ranches or farmland in North Dakota, state authorities say
North Dakota’s attorney general has sent a letter to Red River Trust, an outfit linked to billionaire Bill Gates, over its recent purchase of a large potato farm. Attorney General Drew Wrigley’s office warned the trust of potential violations of state and federal law and asked for more information.
Corporations or limited liability companies are “prohibited from owning or leasing farmland or ranchland in the state of North Dakota” or “engaging in farming or ranching,” according to the letter sent by Wrigley’s office to Red River Trust in Kansas, the agricultural news website AgWeek reported on Wednesday.
The letter’s existence was confirmed by the Bismarck-based TV station KFYR, which published a copy of the first page. The letter, dated June 21, was also sent to Campbell Farms offices in Grafton, North Dakota. AgWeek revealed on June 13 that Red River had bought the company from the brothers Bill, Greg and Tom Campbell in November 2021, paying $13.5 million for 2,100 acres of their potato-farming operation.
Bill Gates acquired six parcels of land in Pembina County. Tuesday, the office of the Attorney General sent out a letter asking the Red River Trust to confirm how the company plans to use the land and if it meets any of the exceptions to the North Dakota Corporate Farming Laws. pic.twitter.com/MGGFKV16mm
— DOCTOR FROM LONG ISLAND NEW YORK (@Doctorfromliny) June 22, 2022
The law also places “certain limitations on the ability of trusts to own farmland or ranchland,” said the letter, addressed to Red River trustee Peter Headley. “Our office needs to confirm how your company uses this land and whether this use meets any of the statutory exceptions.”
If Red River can show that it has such an exemption, the AG’s office will close their probe, but if they are found to be violating the law, they will have to sell the land within a year or face a penalty of “up to $100,000,” according to the letter.
Gates, who made his fortune at Microsoft, retired to pursue a variety of causes – from vaccines around the world to buying up land in the US – through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has suggested his interest in agriculture had to do with seeds and biofuel, and advocated for switching to synthetic meat as a way to combat climate change.
Using a network of corporations, trusts and asset management companies, the software mogul had acquired more than 240,000 acres (over 97,000 hectares) of farmland as of 2021, with LandReport.com dubbing him “America’s top farmland owner.”
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Voters in several states nationwide head to the polls in primaries and in a special general congressional election in Texas on Tuesday, further testing former President Donald Trump’s endorsement strength and perhaps foreshadowing a looming red wave in November. Primaries in South Carolina, Nevada, Maine, and North Dakota take center stage on Tuesday night, as does a special congressional general election in Texas.
In South Carolina, two hotly contested congressional primaries have Trump facing off against incumbent Republicans. In the first district, Trump has endorsed Katie Arrington against Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC). Mace, who has the support of former governor and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, has sharply criticized Trump in routine television appearances and has voted for a number of controversial things, such as January 6 committee contempt proceedings against former Trump officials. For Arrington, a win would put her back on track to win a seat she was the nominee for in 2018, but lost to now former Democrat Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC). Arrington’s loss came not just amid that year’s blue wave, but also after she had shocked the world and defeated then-Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC)–the former governor who resigned that office amid a sex scandal then orchestrated his own comeback years earlier–to only days after the primary survive a deadly car accident that immobilized her for most of that year’s general election.
Elsewhere in South Carolina, Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC)–one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump the second time after the events of Jan. 6, 2021–is in grave danger of losing to state Rep. Russell Fry in the primary. Trump, who backed Fry, could take out the first of these ten impeachment Republicans at the ballot box with a candidate he endorsed here. Several other impeachment Republicans–Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Fred Upton (R-MI), and John Katko (R-NY)–called it quits without even facing voters. Only Rep. David Valadao (R-CA)–who did not face a Trump-backed primary challenger, even though he had a weak challenger–has survived a primary among the impeachment Republicans, and Valadao seems to get a pass from many Republicans given the competitiveness of his district. If Rice goes down, that would make him the first impeachment Republican to go down by the hands of voters, and would also mean 50 percent of the ten have already gone down about 18 months after the vote, with several others in serious trouble–most notably Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).
Out in the Silver State, Nevada GOP primary voters will select their nominees in two banner top-of-the-ticket races–for governor and for U.S. Senate. Trump has weighed in here in both races, backing Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo for governor and former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt for U.S. Senate. GOP primaries in the First, Third, and Fourth Congressional Districts could also set the stage for a red tsunami in November, as all three of these U.S. House seats held by Democrats are viewed by analysts as probably competitive in November, especially with close statewide races.
In Maine, former GOP Gov. Paul LePage is formally seeking the GOP nomination for governor again and former Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) seeks to return to Congress to represent the all-important Second Congressional District. This is a district Republicans view as particularly competitive, as Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) has made clear with his voting record–which breaks with national Democrat leaders more than any other Democrat currently in Congress–and as evidenced by the fact Trump won it in both 2016 and 2020. Maine splits its electoral votes by congressional district in presidential elections–the only other state that does that is Nebraska–so Trump actually won one vote from Maine both times thanks to the Second Congressional District voters. North Dakotans will also vote on Tuesday, and while there are no major national races there, the state could provide some signs of intensity going into November.
Perhaps most importantly on Tuesday, voters in Texas’s 34th Congressional District will vote in a special congressional election. The district was represented by Democrat Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX), who bailed on national Democrats early to go work for lobbyist firm Akin Gump, a move that set up this special election. Republicans are hopeful they can flip this seat on Tuesday, with Hispanic candidate Mayra Flores leading the charge in recent polling that has her close to winning it outright. If she gets more than 50 percent of the vote, she will avoid a runoff–but she does appear per polling to be in the lead regardless. If she wins without a runoff, this would be the first seat Republicans have flipped back from Democrats into GOP hands since the November 2020 elections–and could foreshadow things to come in November. What’s more, Flores would enter the general election with the power of incumbency in a district that will be decidedly more Democrat-friendly in November, thanks to redistricting–this special election is under the old lines–as she faces off there against Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) who switched districts, abandoning his old one to run here instead in November. This could also set the tone for GOP gains with Hispanic voters along the border, and comes just weeks after the tragic shooting at an elementary school in nearby Uvalde, Texas.
The polls close in South Carolina at 7:00 p.m. ET, Maine and Texas at 8:00 p.m. ET, Nevada at 10:00 p.m. ET, and the hours vary in North Dakota by county.
Follow along here for live updates as the results pour in from across the country.
UPDATE 9:13 p.m. ET:
With 24 percent reporting now in South Carolina’s first district, Arrington has cut Mace’s lead to less than 8 percent now. Mace, at 52.8 percent, is less than 8 percent–and less than two thousand votes–higher than Arrington’s 45.2 percent. And, as we’ve been noting all night, still no Beaufort County yet.
UPDATE 9:11 p.m. ET:
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) won his primary, which was unsurprising since he did not face a credible or serious challenge:
Hoever is one of just a handful of GOP senators who voted for the 2013 “Gang of Eight” amnesty plan for illegal aliens left in the U.S. Senate. There were 14 GOP votes for that bill, and in the nine years since nine of those 14 have one by one either passed away or lost their elections or stepped aside. That’s a pretty devastating rate, but Hoeven holds on for now–and it remains to be seen if he will ever face a real challenge from the right.
UPDATE 9:07 p.m. ET:
Still nothing from Beaufort, but Arrington with the latest batch of votes just sliced Mace’s lead down to just 9 percent–or about two thousand votes–with just 23 percent reporting. This one could get super close.
UPDATE 9:04 p.m. ET:
In South Carolina’s first district, with 20 percent reporting, Mace is hanging tough with her lead–but still nothing in yet from Arrington country Beaufort County.
UPDATE 9:02 p.m. ET:
In South Carolina’s 7th district, with 30 percent reporting, Trump’s pick Fry is inching ever closer to that 50 percent threshold to avoid the runoff with Rice–he’s now at 47.2 percent.
UPDATE 9:01 p.m. ET:
Polls are closed now in North Dakota, at least part of the state, and some results are trickling in. There really are not many major competitive races here, but Trump does have some endorsements on the line.
UPDATE 8:59 p.m. ET:
With 41 percent reporting now in Texas’s 34th district special election, the GOP’s Flores has expanded her lead to a full percent. She’s at 47.2 percent while Democrat Sanchez has slipped to 46.2 percent.
UPDATE 8:57 p.m. ET:
Others are picking up on the Texas situation:
So far in the #TX34 special, Mayra Flores (R) leads Dan Sanchez (D) 48%-45% (50% needed to avoid a runoff). But given that Sanchez only leads by 2 pts in Cameron Co., Flores has a great path to get past 50% tonight. Would be watershed flip for GOP.
This would be a serious rebuke of Democrats and a monster pickup for Republicans if Flores pulls this off.
UPDATE 8:55 p.m. ET:
A substantial batch of votes just came in in Maine’s second district, and now Poliquin leads by almost 20 percent with about 3 percent reporting.
UPDATE 8:42 p.m. ET:
Republicans are privately very confident about the chances of Flores to win outright tonight in Texas, which would be a disaster for Democrats heading into the midterm season:
In the #TX34 special election, Republicans have to like the close early vote in Cameron County [Sanchez (D) +2%]. Not the perfect comparison, but former Democratic incumbent @FilemonVela won that by 26 points in 2020.
The early vote numbers are very bad for the Democrats, and Flores is actually leading those right now with still no in-person votes reported. Flores could be headed for a historic night here in Texas.
UPDATE 8:39 p.m. ET:
Even if impeachment backer Rice survives tonight to live to see a runoff, he still looks like dead man walking there and would need a miracle to come out of that victorious:
A very strong same-day showing in Horry could put Fry within reach of 50% — the threshold for an outright win. Even if Rice can hold him to a run-off, these are troubling numbers for the incumbent, since the rest of the field has also campaigned against his impeachment vote.
Fry, meanwhile, has a clear path to completely avoiding a runoff altogether tonight.
UPDATE 8:37 p.m. ET:
With 16 percent reporting now in South Carolina’s first district, Mace’s lead is back to less than 10 percent. Mace, at 53.7 percent, has about a 1,600 vote lead over Arrington’s 44 percent. Still nothing from Arrington-heavy Beaufort County, either which might be problematic for the congresswoman.
UPDATE 8:33 p.m. ET:
There are still just over 100 votes reported in total so far in Maine’s second district GOP primary but Poliquin has pulled ahead of Caruso there.
UPDATE 8:32 p.m. ET:
Mace just got a bump in South Carolina’s first with the latest batch of votes, scooting back up to a 15 percent lead. She has 56.4 percent as compared with Arrington’s 41.2 percent.
UPDATE 8:31 p.m. ET:
With 18 percent reporting now in South Carolina’s 7th district, Fry has increased his lead and now has 45.8 percent as compared with Rice’s 28 percent. Still a long way to go but looks bad for the impeachment crowd tonight.
UPDATE 8:29 p.m. ET:
In Texas, the GOP’s Flores has pulled ahead of Democrat Sanchez by about a half of a percent with 36 percent reporting now.
UPDATE 8:27 p.m. ET:
Don’t look now, but Mace’s lead in South Carolina’s first has been cut dramatically down to just over a thousand votes–and still nothing reporting from Arrington’s stronghold of Beaufort County. With 9 percent reporting according to the New York Times, Mace has just 54.3 percent and Arrington is quickly gaining on her with now 43 percent. It is clearly very early there, and this could come down to the wire.
UPDATE 8:24 p.m. ET:
The first votes are coming in in Maine’s second district GOP primary, where Liz Caruso leads former Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) by just 7 votes. It’s very early here. Elsewhere in Maine, because they ran unopposed, former GOP Gov. Paul LePage and Democrat Gov. Janet Mills are now officially the nominees for governor of their respective parties.
The first votes are also coming in in Texas’s 34th congressional district special election, with 34 percent reporting. Republican Mayra Flores and Democrat Dan Sanchez are in a dead heat here, with Sanchez leading for now with 47.8 percent to Flores’s 45.2 percent.
UPDATE 8:20 p.m. ET:
In South Carolina’s 7th district, Fry’s lead is maintaining at around 15 percent above Rice. Fry, at 44.7 percent, leads Rice’s 29.7 percent by just under two thousand votes.
UPDATE 8:17 p.m. ET:
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the House Majority Whip, has easily fended off a primary challenge in South Carolina’s sixth district–with more than 93 percent of the vote with just over 4 percent reporting according to the New York Times:
The New York Times now has those same vote totals and percentages in South Carolina’s first district as Decision Desk HQ does in the tweet below, but the Times says that it is just with 6 percent reporting not 16 percent. That means this race is getting tighter fast.
UPDATE 8:10 p.m. ET:
Arrington’s position is not improving much but is slightly as more votes roll in–Decision Desk HQ has 16 percent reporting and Mace still at 60 percent:
South Carolina GOP Gov. Henry McMaster is officially the GOP nominee again for another term.
UPDATE 7:45 p.m. ET:
Mace has a huge lead to start the night in South Carolina’s first congressional district, with 68.4 percent of the votes counted so far compared to Arrington’s 30.1 percent with just 2 percent reporting. A lot can change and fast here, though, as it’s still very early with just a couple thousand votes counted so far.
UPDATE 7:42 p.m. ET:
More are coming in in both competitive South Carolina GOP congressional primaries and it’s a mixed bag to start the night for Trump:
Very first votes coming in from SC-7 GOP primary — looks like early vote from Darlingon and Chesterfield Counties, about 1,700 total:
Russell Fry 40% Tom Rice 25% Barbara Arthur 20% Garrett Barton 10% Ken Richardson 2% Mark McBride 2%
The very first results are in now in the 7th congressional district of South Carolina and Trump-backed Russell Fry has a sizable early lead over impeachment backer incumbent Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC). With just 1 percent reporting according to the New York Times, Fry has 32.4 percent to Rice’s 26 percent. Still very early here but decent start for Trump and Fry.
UPDATE 7:33 p.m. ET:
It is also worth noting that Nikki Haley went all in against former President Donald Trump here. Here is an image and video of her campaigning in person with Mace long after Trump endorsed Arrington:
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), it is worth noting, is already officially the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate this year as he seeks another term in office. He ran unopposed in the primary, and is the odds-on favorite to win the general election. His national star continues to rise inside the GOP, too, and he is widely viewed as a potential presidential or vice presidential candidate down the road.
UPDATE 7:24 p.m. ET:
The first votes are now coming in on the GOP side, and Gov. McMaster is way out in front as expected. These votes are outside the primetime congressional primary battles so still waiting.
UPDATE 7:21 p.m. ET:
We’re still awaiting GOP primary results but the very first South Carolina results–from the Democrat primary–are trickling. In the biggest race on the Democrat side, former Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) is facing Mia McLeod–the first black woman to run for governor–in the gubernatorial primary. Only a couple hundred votes are in here. The winner of that primary is very likely to face Gov. Henry McMaster, who is very likely to fend off a primary challenge tonight.
UPDATE 7:07 p.m. ET:
From President Trump’s team, here are the former commander-in-chief’s endorsements on the line tonight nationwide:
Nevada-Senate: Laxalt, Adam Nevada-Governor: Lombardo, Joe – North Dakota-Senate: Hoeven, John North Dakota-AL: Armstrong, Kelly – South Carolina-Senate: Scott, Tim South Carolina-Governor: McMaster, Henry South Carolina-Attorney General: Wilson, Alan South Carolina-01: Arrington, Katie South Carolina-02 : Wilson, Joe South Carolina-03 : Duncan, Jeff South Carolina-04 : Timmons, William South Carolina-05 : Norman, Ralph South Carolina-07: Fry, Russell
UPDATE 7:05 p.m. ET:
Polls have closed in South Carolina, and results are expected imminently. Stay tuned for those and as soon as they start trickling in we should start having a picture of what will happen in those two important congressional primaries.
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