Sonny Perdue’s Ties to His Family Business

Since joining the Trump administration, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s complicated network of ties to Georgia-based entities — including his family’s company, Perdue Partners — has raised questions about potential conflicts of interest as well as his working relationship with his cousin, Georgia Sen. David Perdue.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue entered the Trump administration with a long ethics recusal letter and an extensive financial disclosure report that included a web of Georgia-based entities, including Perdue Partners and AGrowStar. Perdue’s business ties have long raised concerns, even as far back as 2005 when, as Georgia governor, he made national headlines for slyly passing a “seemingly mundane” tax bill that allowed him personally to save more than $100,000 in state taxes. He also broke Georgia tradition by refusing to put his assets in a blind trust, and bought $2 million in land near Disney World from a developer whom he had appointed to the state’s economic development board. And as governor, Perdue continued to own or help run four farming-related family businesses.

Just a day after he was sworn in, he met with members of the Georgia Farm Bureau at a breakfast that also included his cousin, Sen. David Perdue. American Oversight has also obtained calendars that show him traveling back to Georgia 13 times between April and November 2017, each time at taxpayer expense. Concerns have been exacerbated by the USDA’s reluctance to release records of Perdue’s communications with his family business and external groups, including emails sent from a personal account.

With the USDA pursuing policy changes — for instance, lowering nutritional standards for school lunches — that could benefit large agribusinesses, it’s vital to know whether the secretary of agriculture’s own personal interests are influencing policy. 

LITIGATION

On April 25, 2019, American Oversight filed a lawsuit for Perdue’s ethics disclosures and his communications with Sen. David Perdue.

On Oct. 30, 2019, American Oversight sued the Department of Agriculture for emails Perdue sent and received using a non-governmental email; emails with external entities and his family at Perdue Partners; external emails sent by the Georgia offices of USDA’s Rural Development Agency and Farm Service Agency to Perdue, his businesses, and his family members; and records related to Perdue’s meetings with Fieldale Farms and the Georgia Feed and Grain Association.

WHAT WE’RE SEEKING

  • Records related to a meeting Perdue had with Brad Fairbairn of Fieldale Farms on Oct. 4, 2017, and to meetings he participated in with the Georgia Feed and Grain Association on or around June 22 and 23, 2017;
  • Communications that Rural Development Georgia State Director Joyce White or Farm Service Agency Georgia Executive Director Tas Smith had with Perdue, Perdue’s businesses, AGrowStar, or Sen. David Perdue;
  • Perdue’s official calendars since 2017;
  • Any emails sent or received by Perdue on a personal account related to official agency business, as well as emails top USDA officials had with a personal email account belonging to Perdue;
  • Records of any communications Perdue had with groups or individuals related to his ethics pledges; 
  • Perdue’s communications with outside groups or individuals;
  • Perdue’s communications with Sen. David Perdue or his office, as well as the secretary’s communications with specific industry interests;
  • All email communications between Perdue and anyone working for Perdue, Inc.; 
  • Perdue’s and other USDA officials’ communications with entities associated with a conglomerate of animal businesses; and
  • Communications from employees within the USDA’s Office of Ethics regarding Perdue’s business interests, potential conflicts of interest, or recusal decisions.

Related Documents

October 30, 2019

Complaint: American Oversight v. USDA — Perdue Emails and Georgia Industry Communications

Department of Agriculture
Litigation
August 28, 2019

FOIA to USDA for Records of Secretary Perdue Meetings

Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
August 12, 2019

FOIA to USDA Seeking Secretary Perdue’s Personal Emails Concerning Agency Business

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
August 12, 2019

FOIA to USDA Seeking Secretary Perdue’s Communications with Family Email Domain

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
August 12, 2019

FOIA to USDA Seeking Secretary Perdue’s Sent External Emails

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
August 12, 2019

FOIA to USDA Seeking Communications Between Georgia USDA Officials and Entities Linked to Secretary Perdue’s Family Business

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
April 25, 2019

Complaint: American Oversight v. USDA – Secretary Perdue Records

Department of Agriculture
Litigation
February 21, 2019

FOIA to USDA Seeking Communications Between Secretary Perdue and Senator Perdue

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
November 29, 2018

FOIA to USDA Seeking Secretary Perdue’s Personal Email Communications

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
November 15, 2018

FOIA to USDA Seeking Senior Staff Calendars

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
November 1, 2018

FOIA to USDA Seeking Records Regarding Perdue Conflicts of Interest

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
October 19, 2018

FOIA to USDA Regarding Secretary Perdue’s Recusal

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
October 16, 2018

USDA Records Regarding Sonny Perdue’s Use of Government Aircraft

Department of Agriculture
Agency Record
October 12, 2018

USDA Secretary Perdue’s Calendars

Department of Agriculture
Agency Record
June 14, 2018

FOIA to USDA Seeking Scheduler Communications

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
June 13, 2018

OGE Emails Regarding Zinke and Perdue Ethics Agreements

Office of Government Ethics
Agency Record
November 1, 2017

FOIA to USDA for Calendars of Senior Officials

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request