2004 Profile in Courage Award recipient Paul Muegge with Caroline Kennedy, May 24, 2004.

Background

In 1998, Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge brought regulation to an industry that had long dictated its own terms to Oklahoma legislators. Muegge took on the powerful hog industry and angered the state's many hog farm workers by sponsoring legislation to regulate hog production, a billion-dollar industry in the state. The enormous negative environmental impact of industrial hog waste had been well documented when Muegge wrote and passed a law requiring hog producers to limit their exposure to neighboring properties, submit to mandatory soil and water testing, and assume the costs of the new regulations. Muegge, a Democrat, represented a Republican-leaning district that was known to be more conservative than voter registration figures indicated. During his 1998 re-election campaign, he became the target of a relentless assault by a well-financed challenger with ties to the hog and poultry industries. Muegge surprised many political observers by eking out a third term in the senate; his margin of victory was 67 votes. After nearly losing his seat, Muegge continued his fight to hold chicken and hog producers accountable for ground and water pollution associated with industrial animal farming, and launched new efforts to curb the anti-competitive business practices of the industry. He retired from the Oklahoma legislature in 2002, but he remains involved in rural agriculture and development issues.