Congress

Rep. Nunes drops lawsuit against constituents who called him 'fake farmer,' goes after 'dark money' groups

California Republican filed another lawsuit alleging racketeering against Fusion GPS, Campaign for Accountability

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dropped a conspiracy lawsuit against three of his constituents this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Devin Nunes dropped one of his ongoing lawsuits Wednesday — the one against three of his constituents who called him a “fake farmer” and petitioned, unsuccessfully, to remove the designation as “farmer” from his name on the 2018 ballot.

Nunes, a California Republican and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, had alleged that the petition was part of a coordinated campaign between the constituents and “dark money” groups and amounted to “torturous interference” and “civil conspiracy.”

The lawyer representing the constituents claimed victory on Wednesday after Nunes dropped the suit, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The defendants — retired farmer Paul Buxman, librarian Hope Nisly and agricultural scholar Daniel O’Connell — “prevailed and won without having had to square off,” said their attorney, Brian Whelan.

Last year, the defendants in Nunes’ suit called the farmer descriptor “false and misleading,” pointing to congressional disclosures showing that Nunes has not reported any income from farming in many years, the Fresno Bee reported at the time.

The petition was unsuccessful. Nunes submitted a “ballot designation worksheet” that describes him as a “partner in two farming operations.” Nunes is invested in two wineries.

The petition had been organized by the Democratic super PAC Fight Back California, according to The Fresno Bee, which might have been the basis of Nunes’ conspiracy claims.

Such a claim was ridiculous, Buxman, the farmer, told the Bee.

Buxman, who lives on Sweet Home Ranch in California’s 22nd District, does not own a computer and does not have an email address. 

“I’ve never seen a Twitter, or e-face, face deal — whatever that is,” he said. “I’m not a conspirator.”

The defendants had every right to petition the government and exercise their freedom of speech, Whelan said.

“Mr. Nunes made a statement that these important rights were to be disregarded when applied to the very powerful,” Whelan said.

As Nunes dropped the suit against his constituents, The Daily Caller, a conservative publication in Washington, reported that the California Republican had filed a new suit against ethics watchdog Campaign for Accountability and Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that bankrolled a dossier by a former British intelligence official that detailed possible ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.

Nunes has accused the Campaign for Accountability, which has dogged the congressman with ethics complaints, and Fusion GPS of racketeering.

“We gathered further evidence which supports the plaintiff’s overriding concerns that dark money is being used to influence our elections,” the Nunes campaign lawyer Peter Kapetan told The Sacramento Bee.

Nunes still has two other ongoing lawsuits.

In March, the congressman sued conservative campaign operative Liz Mair, Twitter and two parody accounts that were impersonating his mother and a cow, respectively. Nunes has claimed they were conspiring to defame him and is seeking a quarter of a billion dollars.

In April, Nunes filed another suit against Mair and Fresno Bee publisher McClatchy, again alleging a conspiracy to defame him, seeking $150 million.

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