Espy Contacts Appropriate, Tyson Repeats With AM-Espy
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) _ Tyson Foods Inc. had ties to the Clinton administration long before Mike Espy took over as Agriculture Secretary.
The chairman of the poultry company, Don Tyson, is a longtime Clinton backer. And James Blair, Tyson’s general counsel, and his wife, Diane, are close friends of the Clintons.
But it has been Espy’s ties to Tyson that have put the company in the news lately. An independent investigation has begun over Espy’s acceptance of tickets to sports events, travel and lodging from Tyson and other agribusinesses.
Espy denied any wrongdoing, and has repaid more than $7,600 in expenses, but he resigned Monday, saying the investigation was proving too distracting.
Following the resignation, Tyson reiterated its denials of wrongdoing.
″We would reiterate that we are convinced that our contacts with the secretary were handled appropriately and that at no time did we ever seek special or preferential treatment from anyone at the USDA,″ Tyson spokesman Archie Schaffer III said in a statement.
Last spring, Espy denied assertions that Tyson was blocking reforms intended to assure the safety of the nation’s poultry supply. Critics contended that Tyson had used its clout to slow the USDA’s development of new inspection rules and avoid surprise inspections of its plants.