GOP GREENS AND GREENSCAMMERS
AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Originally published in the summer 1998 issue of REP’s The Green Elephant newsletter
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
If so, Republicans for Environmental Protection should feel highly flattered.
Top-level Republican insiders have finally gotten the message that their anti-environmental agenda isn’t playing well with the American people. Some insiders are so afraid of another purge of anti-environmental Republicans in this fall’s congressional elections that they’ve created their very own “grassroots environmental” organization, called “Coalition of Republican Environmental Advocates” (CREA): a transparent attempt to fool voters who care about environmental protection.
If this new organization were what it purports to be, REP would welcome it as an ally and rejoice that GOP leaders would now hear even louder the pro-environment message that our members have been sending them for years. Unfortunately, CREA shows no signs of being either grassroots or pro-environment. The word greenscam comes first to mind.
The program for CREA’s June 15 $100,000 kickoff fundraiser shows why.
The absence from its member list of proven conservation leaders like Senator John Chafee and Representatives Sherwood Boehlert, John Porter, Christopher Shays and Connie Morella… says a lot about CREA.
The presence of open anti-enviros like Representatives Tom DeLay, Don Young and Helen Chenoweth… says a lot about CREA.
Equally revealing is the fact that among the contributors at the fund-raiser were many lobbyists for the oil, timber, chemical and other special interests (see chart below) that have pushed lawmakers hard to relax environmental protection and remediation standards that a huge majority of Americans, whatever their political leanings, strongly support.
CREA claims to advocate free market solutions and local control of environmental issues. It’s ironic, then, that its congressional members have such a long history of voting for corporate welfare for the ranching, logging, mining and other extractive industries. Their enthusiasm for taxpayer-soaking corporate subsidies betrays a lack of sincerity in their alleged support for the free market.
Furthermore, those same House members approved a bill last winter that would allow developers to go over the heads of local zoning officials, straight to the federal courts, if they don’t get what they want from local government. What does that say about their new organization’s professed belief in local control?
Those same House members are also known for what might be called legislative burglary: trying to pass measures that could not otherwise attract a majority vote, by tacking them onto disaster relief bills, appropriations bills, and other must-pass legislation. These surreptitious “riders” can be attached at any point in the legislative process, even when it is too late for full debate. Their purpose is to avoid public awareness of what the lawmakers are doing.
In recent months, CREA members have attached to House bills riders that order roads cut through pristine Alaskan wildlife habitat in Denali National Park and the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge; allow the military to conduct low-level bombing runs over Idaho’s spectacular, wildlife-rich Owyhee Canyonlands; and delay by almost ten years a plan to eliminate dirty air in our national parks.
If this sort of chicanery is what CREA’s congressional members believe in, it’s hard to understand their claim to being defenders of our environment.
President Theodore Roosevelt made conservation a top national priority.
CREA’s members do not.
So REP suggests that voters take CREA’s new “Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Awards” (and any candidate endorsements that CREA might make) with a very large grain of salt.
Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, famously said:
“You can fool some of the people all the time, or all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
The creation of a pseudo-environmental, pseudo-grassroots organization by anti-environmental party insiders suggests that they have forgotten the wisdom of both Lincoln and Roosevelt.
A LITTLE RECENT HISTORY
Late in 1995, as his flock was suffering a pasting from cartoonists, conservationists and constituents, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (now a member of CREA’s Honorary Board) issued a private memo (soon leaked to the press) in which he urged GOP representatives to create photo opportunities that would enhance their green image at home. Congressmen were advised to plant trees at staged press conferences, give conservation awards as conspicuously as possible for local projects, and otherwise show their “interest” in environmental protection. Then, having pacified the natives, the flock could return to Washington to continue undermining three decades of landmark conservation and environmental-protection legislation.
The photo-op strategy failed. That leaked memo became part of Washington folklore, and Mr. Gingrich admitted to a group of editors in an on-the-record meeting that same fall:
“We blew it. Give us low marks. We messed up on the environment.”
Republican voters weighed in on the subject that year as well, with 55% of them telling GOP pollster Linda DiVall that they didn’t trust their own party to do the right thing for the environment. Ouch!
One would think that after such a frank confession by their Speaker, a public rebuke by their own partisan voters, and the 1996 defeat of several “Dirty Dozen” colleagues, the GOP’s notoriously anti-environmental right wing might start questioning the wisdom of its own thinking.
Apparently not. Judging from this year’s congressional activities, the thinking continues unchanged.
Anti-environmental “stealth riders” were all over this summer’s Interior Appropriations bills. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been slashed. Most environmentally-harmful corporate welfare lives on. And yet, with another election looming, GOP insiders seem desperate to fix their anti-enviro image any way they can.
Hence the invention of CREA.
ON THE HORIZON: DUELING ENDORSEMENTS
“Republicans for Environmental Protection” endorses GOP candidates who share REP members’ concern for environmental protection and will vote to conserve our natural resources, not squander them.
On the horizon, no doubt, are conflicting (and confusing) endorsements in some GOP primaries. Voters may well find Candidate X endorsed by “Republicans for Environmental Protection” and Candidate Y endorsed by “Coalition of Republican Environmental Advocates.”
Or… in GOP primaries or general elections, voters may have to choose between a candidate endorsed by the Sierra Club and/or the League of Conservation Voters and one endorsed by CREA.
Or… elected officials not known for pro-conservation voting records will make a good gesture or two in their own districts, opening the door for CREA to give them its “Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award.”
Recipients can then campaign for re-election, well insulated from criticism about their votes on the most important environmental legislation facing the country today. CREA’s new awards are clearly designed to diminish the impact of the League of Conservation Voters’ Scorecard.
AS ALWAYS, FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED.
We believe that GOP voters concerned about the environment will learn to look for the endorsement of Republicans for Environmental Protection, not the self-endorsements of a group of greenscamming “environmental advocates.”
WHAT REP MEMBERS CAN DO
Members of Republicans for Environmental Protection, the authentic voice of pro-conservation Republican voters across the country, must be both watchful and vocal.
Keep an eye out for CREA activity in your community. If you see CREA making an endorsement or giving one of its “Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Awards,” please let REP know right away.
Thank the “true-green” GOP lawmakers whose names appear below, for refusing to let themselves be used to enhance CREA’s fake-green glow of enviro-respectability.
Continue to insist that Republican leaders address in an honest, straightforward way the American people’s desire for meaningful environmental protection, instead of trying to pull the wool over our eyes with yet another cynical public relations scheme.
IT’S WORTH NOTING THE DIFFERENCES:
legal status & funding : 501(c)(4) non-profit organization funded by member dues and contributions
membership : rank-and-file Republicans in 47 states plus mayors, city councilmen, county commissioners, state senators and representatives, local party officials and distinguished individuals like Theodore Roosevelt IV and Gordon K. Durnil
leadership : a member-elected Board of Directors consisting of nine Republican voters plus grassroots state coordinators throughout the country
legal status & funding : Political Action Committee (PAC) openly funded by: National Mining Assoc., American Forest Paper Assoc., Chemical Manufacturers Assoc., Chlorine Chemical Council, National Coal Council, Amoco, ARCO, Texaco, Ford Motors, Coors Brewing Co., Edison Electric, etc.
membership : Colorado-based property-rights and “Wise Use” advocates • lobbyists for extractive industries and others regulated by the federal government • lawmakers with anti-environmental voting records: Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, Don Young, Larry Craig, Helen Chenoweth, Dirk Kempthorne, Jennifer Dunn, Richard Pombo, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Bill Archer, John Shadegg, Tom DeLay, etc.
leadership : an Advisory Committee consisting of CO Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell; CO Rep. Scott McInnis; CO Attorney General Gale Norton (once an aide to Interior Secretary James Watt); Grover Norquist (a registered lobbyist for British Petroleum America, Distilled Spirits Council, Seagrams and Microsoft); etc.
plus: a Steering Committee that includes lobbyists for Amoco, Texaco, Shell Oil, Total Petroleum, Lion Oil, General Motors, International Council of Shopping Centers, Smith & Wesson, Inland Steel, Hydrocarbon Trading and Transport, etc.
REP thanks these ”True-Green” Republicans for NOT serving on the host committee for CREA’s $100,000 fundraiser:
U.S. Senate: John Chafee (RI), Judd Gregg (NH), Jim Jeffords (VT), William Roth (DE) and Olympia Snowe (ME)
U.S. House of Representatives: Charles Bass (NH), Brian Bilbray (CA), Sherwood Boehlert (NY), Tom Campbell (CA), Mike Castle (DE), Vern Ehlers (MI), Michael Forbes (NY), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Wayne Gilchrest (MD), Ben Gilman (NY), Porter Goss (FL), Jim Greenwood (PA), Amo Houghton (NY), Nancy Johnson (CT), Sue Kelly (NY), Scott Klug (WI), Rick Lazio (NY), Jim Leach (IA), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Connie Morella (MD), John Porter (IL), Rob Portman (OH), Jack Quinn (NY), Jim Ramstad (MN), Marge Roukema (NJ), Mark Sanford (SC), Jim Saxton (NJ), James Sensenbrenner (WI), Christopher Shays (CT), Christopher Smith (NJ) and Jim Walsh (NY)