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Will the Real Ron Wyden Please Stand Up?

 

In these days of brand politics, all senators must have a motto. For Ron Wyden (D-OR) it’s the ecumenical slogan, “Standing up for ALL of Oregon.” It’s right there at the top of his recent Press Release proudly proclaiming his and Sen. Diane Feinstein’s (D-CA) crucial role in persuading the Senate to adopt their version of the deceptively titled Healthy Forests Initiative.

ALL Oregon? Hmmm? How does that rhetoric stack up to reality? Did ALL Oregon support this raid on our public lands? Hardly. Polls show that the majority of Oregonians opposed it. So, which Oregon does the Senator represent?

Maybe it’s the Israeli lobby? Wyden’s their Number One Senate PAC money recipient in a state that’s two percent Jewish. Probably not.

Maybe it’s the Telecommunications Industry? Again, Wyden’s their Number One PAC guy, as well. The Oregon Business Journal lists but one Telecom with an Oregon Headquarters. So, again, probably not.

Could it be Used Car dealers? He’s Number Three for them.

How about Dentists? He’s their Number Two man in the Senate.

Dietary Supplements? Number Three again. (No word on whether he’s being called before the Grand Jury along with Barry Bonds.)

Perhaps the Sierra Club which along with the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) have blindly endorsed the senator in every political race he’s ever run.

Maybe the National! Association of Police Organizations which made him their Senator of the year?

Nope.

One has to go to Wyden’s other Number One Senate PAC ranking — Big Timber! Yep. That’s right. Sen. Ron Wyden hauled in more money from Timber PACs than any other Senator this election season. (<Source:http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/recips.asp?In d>=A10&cycle=2004&recipdetail=s&Mem=Y&sortorder=U

In fact, he hauled in more timber bucks than any other US politician, save one, George W. Bush. Now Bush will now sign into law what Wyden, himself, proudly calls the “Wyden/Feinstein Forest Compromise,” when the environmental establishment, lapdogs of the Democratic Party, persists in calling it Bush’s so-called “Healthy Forests Initiative.” For Big Timber, Ron Wyden clearly has stood up. Perhaps Bush will hand him a souvenir pen after he signs the logging bill into law.

When one considers that in his long tenure as Big Timber’s greatest friend, former Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR) was NEVER the industry’s Number One PAC recipient, the depth of the betrayal begins to register. At least with Hatfield, even though he is responsible for over 10 million acres of Old Growth stumps, he would always throw a morsel or two to conservationists. Big meaty morsels. Wilderness Areas like Opal Creek, at that. Throughout his long career, Wyden is responsible for exactly NO forest protection successes. Nada. Yet, he is portrayed as a champion of the green cause. Someone call George Orwell!

So how did this lifelong politician’s vote come up for sale?

Well, the story going round for decades in Oregon is that, in 1974, as a young University of Oregon Law grad, Wyden did a major venue shop of the entire West Coast looking for just the right Congressional District to move to so as to fulfill his dad’s (writer Peter Wyden) cradle-imprinted Congressional wish for him. Once the ambitious, young Ron found the right District, Oregon’s progressive Third, he quickly moved from Eugene to a Legal Aid position in NE Portland and the rest, as they say, is history.

So how does Big Timber’s Number One guy get those LCV and Sierra Club endorsements?

Easy: the environmental movement has largely become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Consider this: Big Timber’s Number One guy has an 80% positive rating from the League of Conservation Voters, which supposedly scores politicians on their environmental votes. But the ratings are as rigged as the bush Star Wars test. Sure, Wyden casts the obligatory Nay on the annual shadow dance on oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

He DID support the great, under appreciated (hey, he is THE guy who brought an end to Nuclear Testing!), former Rep. Mike Kopetski’s (D-OR) efforts to protect the magnificent Ancient Forests of Opal Creek. This action bought Wyden a lot of cover. Even when running against him in the Primary fight for the disgraced Sen. Bob Packwood’s senate seat, I couldn’t bring myself to go after Wyden on the environment, simply because of Opal Creek. In retrospect, not such a bright move on my part.

But talking about not so bright moves, how is it that after a year of declaring “stopping Bush’s HFI” to be their collective “Number One Priority”and raising some $5+ million to fight it, the Big Greens were smoked in a lopsided 80 — 14 vote? Simple. They were backstabbed from within. Wyden and Feinstein (along with Montana’s Sen. Max Baucus) did what Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) couldn’t: shepherd the logging bill past a potential Senate filibuster. Bush unveils it August 22, 2002 and LCV darlings Wyden and Feinstein seal the deal and the fate of the forests a year later. This is what the combined forces of Big Green produced on their top priority.

How much did Wyden’s vote cost? That Number One ranking came cheap. He took in a mere $32,500 (Bush got $213,000). Methinks the Big Greens need some strategic rethinking. They could lay off but one of their incompetent staff and use the bloated salary to buy a few Wydens at that price.

The Big Greens get defeated on forests every time and every time it’s by a wider margin. Is it mere ineptness? Or is something darker going on here? Is losing a reflex? Or are they throwing the game and blaming the loss on Bush and Republican ultras for their own political purposes? Those are the two choices: incompetence or collusion. When one follows Deep Throat’s famous advice and looks at the money, here’s what we find: not only is Wyden Number One, other Democrats make up seven more of Big Timber’s Sweet Sixteen, with Sen. Blanche Lincoln LCV rating = 32%) at number four; Joe Lieberman (LCV = 88%) number six; Patty Murray (LCV = 76%) number ten; John Kerry (LCV =92%) number eleven; Bob Graham (LCV = 64%) number twelve tied with Mary Landrieu (LCV = 20%) and John Edwards (LCV = 68%) at sixteen.

Lieberman, Kerry and Edwards failed to vote on Wyden/Feinstein, as they failed to vote on Bush’s nomination of the slavishly pro-industry Mike Leavitt as head of the EPA, thus preserving their records of not recording ANY environmental votes this election year! Sen. Hilary Clinton garnered lots of ink for her 9-11-03 “vow” to block Leavitt. Clinton sheepishly voted a month later for Leavitt as did most Democrats in an 88 — 8 vote.

Rather sobering. And, yes, collusion is going on here. It’s all about Big Greens covering for bad Democrats, pure and simple. When appalled activists met to discuss reprising the entertaining and media-successful Weenie Roast they held outside Wyden’s office after he went along with previous Big Timber “salvage” giveaways, the Sierra Club nixed the idea as “he’s our friend.” After the defeat on HFI, The Wilderness Society (TWS) went public with their sentiment, telling the Idaho Statesman the “bill offers workable solutions to forest problems, as long as the government follows through with its promises.” In California, TWS staffer Jay Watson said it was a bill “we can work with.” Talk about Weenies!

Grassroots activists, however, did show up at Wyden’s office on Halloween, the day after the Senate bloodbath. They made their displeasure known and were able to get local media coverage of their outrage and the fact that they are still cutting Big, Old Trees a decade after the Big Greens declared it “our greatest victory” that Bill Clinton had “saved the Ancient Forest.” Ivan Maluski, dressed in a salmon outfit said, “The bill that passed the Senate last night is a logging bill. It opens up 20 million acres and who knows how many of those are going to be in Oregon and a lot of that is going to be in the backcountry far away from homes and communities. The way we read some of the old growth provisions — it actually targets old growth forest for logging and that’s really dangerous.”

One thing one has to give the Big Greens credit for is that their original analysis of the provisions of the HFI was quite accurate. Instead of creating healthy forests, it’s clearly a huge giveaway to Big Timber and Big Timber’s more recent offshoot, privatized Big Fire prevention. Industry will be able to go after big old trees far from any human development. As Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth has noted, it makes no sense economically otherwise. Somehow, these folks have sold the notion that cutting the biggest, most fire-resistant trees will somehow make the forests less vulnerable to fire.

And Big Fire prevention, a highly unregulated industry that is totally dependent on there being fires and often has seen its employees become the arsonists that start them, will get an additional $760 million, pushing the total set aside for fire prevention to over $1.2 billion for the fiscal year. And, wait a minute. Yes, indeed, it becomes more clear. Over 80% of all the private companies in this industry are headquartered in Oregon. Under Wyden/Feinstein, these companies, many direct offshoots of timber firms, will become triple dippers: paid to “prevent” the fires with “fuel reduction projects,” paid to fight the fires and, then paid for the “salvage and restoration logging” that inevitably follows.

Big Fire benefits greatly from the Senator for ALL Oregon’s compromise. But, just how effective is this industry? Who put out the California fires, anyway? Mother Nature, as always — this time in the form of rain, mists and snow. Yet, Wyden still believes the best way to fight a fire is to smother it with federal dollar bills.

Even though Wyden has been named one of the dumbest members of Congress, he is something of an idiot savant when it comes to having his cake and eating it too. Wyden will go on to more timber PAC and other corporate money, yet he will enjoy high LCV ratings and Sierra Club endorsements. Gordon Smith should cry foul. They have nearly identical records on National Forest policy (log more), yet Wyden pockets money from both Big Timber and Big Green.

Green Central will continue to blame their defeats on Bush and the Republicans. Gordon Smith will take on more principled stands than the craven Wyden. Ralph Nader will once again pull in over 75,000 Oregon votes next year’s presidential selection, though the Big greens will endorse one of the nonvoting Senate Democrats. Senator-from-birth Ron Wyden will continue his “Standing up for ALL of Oregon’s” ruling elites. One senator; many rich masters.

MICHAEL DONNELLY of Salem, OR has been a longtime champion of protecting our Public Ancient Forests. He was a 1996 Democrat primary candidate for US Senate. He was deeply involved in the successful effort to protect Opal Creek. He can be reached at: pahtoo@aol.com

 

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MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

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