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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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May 28, 2008 10:10 AM

Reichert gets GOP enviro honor

Posted by David Postman

A Republican group says Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, is one of the three greenest Republicans in Congress. Republicans for Environmental Protection actually named Reichert the Greenest Republican in Congress, but the same award was given to Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

You can see the full scorecard here.

The Republican group put out a release today saying,

“Dave Reichert’s score of 103* was one of three top scores in Congress, thanks to his perfect voting record and steadfast leadership on wildlands conservation and clean energy issues. Voters in Washington and across the nation can always count on Congressman Reichert to safeguard our environment and to be a true steward of the country’s natural treasures,” said REP President Martha Marks.

Reichert’s score of 103 represented a perfect voting record on the 15 environmental votes scored and an environmental leadership credit for his co-sponsorship of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act, which passed Congress as part of consolidated public lands legislation and was signed into law by President Bush on May 8.

Reichert's environmental record is often the subject of discussion, as it was in this 2006 story. Earlier this year it also appeared he was becoming more green in his re-election year.

UPDATE: This issue goes to the heart of the campaign between Reichert and Democrat Darcy Burner. Burner and her supporters argue that Reichert is not a moderate, even if scorecards like the REP one above show him to be. Independent groups have come to the same conclusion.

But the Burner camp says that Reichert votes against measures during procedural votes, then swtiches sides and voting with the Democrats on final passage to show him as more of a moderate.

Here's part of the response Burner spokesman Sandeep Kaushik sent me:

The deeper truth is that Congressman Reichert is gaming the system to make his environmental record appear on the surface to be far greener than it actually is. For instance, this Republican group gives him credit for voting for H.R. 6, the “Creating Long Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act.” But the truth is that Reichert voted six times in lockstep with Republican leadership on preliminary and procedural votes to kill this bill. Only after those votes were lost and it was clear the bill was going to pass did he flip flop and vote for it on final passage (you can read a detailed examination of how he voted on this bill here). Yet despite opposing this bill multiple times he gets full credit as a supporter of this legislation.

This is not an isolated example. Congressman Reichert has followed this pattern more than 25 times in the current Congress - voting to kill, stop or weaken environmental and other progressive legislation in every preliminary vote before (once the outcome is determined) flipping on final passage, and then cynically claiming credit for supporting the legislation. This pattern shows that he is not acting independently or as a moderate, but is actually manipulating his votes on bills to create a false impression of his actual positions on these issues.

Here is an even clearer example: at the end of February Congress voted on H.R. 5351, a bill that would have eliminated $13.6 billion in corporate welfare subsidies for Big Oil and put the money instead into renewable energy development. Reichert voted for this bill, but only after - on the same day - voting for the Republican alternative that would have stripped the bill of its key provisions and keep the oil company subsidies in place. You can read an unintentionally hilarious report about how he voted on both sides of this legislation here.

To see more on this subject see Daniel Kirkdorffer's work here.

I will have a response from Reichert's office here soon.

UPDATE: Reichert Chief of Staff Mike Shields says that Burner's campaign is trying to parse something that can't be parsed.

"The votes and the scorecards speak for themselves," he said."There's no parsing of votes when you introduce a wilderness bill. Dave is a leader on the environment in Congress and he has a goal of trying to change his own party and that's reflected in the scorecard."

I asked Shields why Reichert votes against bills on procedural motions and then votes in favor on final passage. He said that some of those votes are attempts to replace the Democratic-sponsored bills with something that includes Republican changes. And when that fails -- and he says Democratic leadership makes sure it always does -- Reichert votes for bills on final passage.

The people who disagree with Dave on these final votes think they're real votes and they let us know that. When Dave co-sponsored a bill to make ANWR a wilderness area or to protect the Tongass National Forest, the Alaska delegation thinks those are real.

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