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

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June 5, 2008 8:56 AM

Reichert gets Dems help on wilderness bill

Posted by David Postman

Washington’s greenest Democratic congressman has signed on to a proposal by Republican Rep. Dave Reichert to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, became a co-sponsor yesterday. Reichert’s office says that Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, also signed on last night.

Reichert’s bill has been praised by some environmentalists and by the P-I’s Joel Connelly.

Connelly’s pleased to see Inslee and Dicks joining Reichert on the bill.

Bipartisan cooperation is a tradition in major Northwest land-use decisions, never more than in legislation that created the 393,000 wilderness in the "land of 600 lakes" between Stevens and Snoqualmie Passes.

A pair of Democrats, Rep. Lloyd Meeds and Sen. Henry Jackson, shepherded the Alpine Lakes legislation through Congress. GOP Rep. Joel Pritchard debunked opposition from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz. And then-Gov. Dan Evans used an Oval Office meeting to persuade President Gerald Ford to sign the bill.

But supporters of the campaign Reichert’s Democratic opponent, Darcy Burner, and her amen bloggers have called the bill a cynical attempt at green-washing.

UPDATE: Burner's campaign says I was wrong about what I originally wrote above. Spokesman Sandeep Kaushik said that Burner did not question Reichert’s motive in introducing his wilderness bill. He’s right. The statement she released last fall didn’t do that directly. But it did raise a clear question about Reichert’s commitment to the environment, saying that his proposal was “the equivalent of focusing on a tree while losing sight of the fact that the forest is being chopped down around you.”

Even some environmentalists thought Burner was being critical of Reichert. At Sightline Daily, Eric De Place wrote last fall that “presumptive challenger Darcy Burner attacked Reichert for playing politics” in introducing the bill.

In last fall’s statement, Burner talked about the importance of saving wilderness and criticized Reichert for not supporting a Democratic proposal to protect roadless wilderness areas. She said:

Now I hear that Congressman Reichert, who is not even sure yet that global warming exists, intends to begin portraying himself as going 'green.' He is telling the press that he would like to consider designating some 26,000 acres of federal land of the Pratt River Valley a wilderness area. Many in the environmental community would like to see this area conserved and so would I. So I applaud Congressman Reichert for taking a small step in the direction of wilderness conservation.

But I would also hope that he would join so many of his colleagues in co-sponsoring the bipartisan Cantwell-Inslee legislation. Otherwise, his willingness to consider protecting one small area while threatening 2 million acres elsewhere in the state is the equivalent of focusing on a tree while losing sight of the fact that the forest is being chopped down around you.

And in a follow-up today, the same point was made again by Kaushik:

When you consider more closely the totality of Congressman Reichert's record and statements on the environment, and take a look at who his campaign backers are, a much more mixed view of his environmental record comes into focus.

More after the jump.

One would think that the new co-sponsors would now make that a tough argument. Why would someone with such sterling environmental credentials like Inslee, or a congressman who has no worry about re-election, like Dicks, agree to co-sponsor something if they thought it was designed only to help Reichert’s re-election prospects?

Reichert had been frustrated that he wasn’t getting any co-sponsors from the delegation. Inslee said earlier this year that he’d consider signing on only after a bill creating the Wild Sky Wilderness Area, in Snohomish County, became law. That happened early last month, and the opening ceremony was last week.

Inslee told me this morning:

We wanted to clear the decks of Wild Sky. We had seven years of work on it and we wanted to make sure it crossed the finish line first. … Now we’ve got another wilderness area we’re excited to move forward on.

Inslee said that the Alpine Lakes proposal should follow what Sen. Patty Murray and Congressman Rick Larsen did to ensure adequate public input for Wild Sky. Reichert’s proposal would add 22,000 acres east of North Bend to the wilderness area.

Last week Reichert was named one of the greenest Republicans in Congress. That was met with harrumphs from Burner backers. Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer has done much analysis of Reichert’s voting record. He argues that the congressman shouldn’t get as much credit as he does for his voting record because he has a practice of voting against environmental and other bills during procedural motions and backing them on final passage.

The fact is that Reichert does have one of the strongest environmental records among Republican members of Congress. In a piece debunking Reichert’s environmental record, the Stranger’s Erica Barnett said this,

Clearly, Reichert’s better than other Republicans on some environmental issues, such as wilderness protection and fuel-economy standards.

It was not meant as a compliment. She pointed out it’s not hard to be among the best Republicans on an issue like the environment. But Barnett got to the essence of Reichert’s claim. He’s telling voters he’s different from many Republicans. That doesn’t make him an environmental champion in the Seattle model. He hasn’t yet shown that he has the long-term commitment to the issues to make him a true Dan Evans Republican.

The argument that Reichert’s votes are cheap bids at looking moderate, I think, will be a tough sell with voters if Burner needs to say Reichert voted against the bills before he voted for them.

And in the case of Alpine Lakes, Inslee, for one, said he’s glad to be part of a bipartisan effort.

This land, has a very good chance of becoming a wilderness and I’d like to see this happen. … Even though I’m supporting a different candidate for that position, I’m happy to work with Dave on this.

There’s broad support among Democrats and Republicans on wilderness, so we’re happy to try to advance this legislation and not let an election get in the way of doing some good work here.

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Posted by TheTruth

9:16 AM, Jun 05, 2008

The liberal media will probably ignore the Reivhert had anything to do with it at all if it passes, just like they did with the Wild Sky bill.

Posted by arthur

10:16 AM, Jun 05, 2008

The low quality Dary Burner 's comments is indicative not only of a total lack of class and understanding, but should be an emarrassment to any D. But as with all the hype she has received from the media for her supposed end the Iraq war "white paper," which has as much substance as a bowl of jello, she will continue to get a free pass. She emobdies everything that is wrong with politics today -- stridently partisan to the point of not caring a whit about real, substantive policy.

Posted by Daniel K

11:58 AM, Jun 05, 2008

"The argument that Reichertís votes are cheap bids at looking moderate, I think, will be a tough sell with voters if Burner needs to say Reichert voted against the bills before he voted for them."

David, that's an interesting thought in light of how effective a similar claim was when it was made against John Kerry.

For my part, if a bill is a good bill, then it is a good bill. I have no axe to grind with Inslee or Dicks co-sponsoring any good bill.

Posted by jan

1:17 PM, Jun 05, 2008

Votes are one measure of a member of Congress. Bill introductions are usually cheap talk. I don't know anyone who views Dave Reichert an effective advicate on anything in Congress, let alone environmental subjects. He's bee there long enough to have accomplished something. What has he done?

Posted by Chad (The Left) Shue

1:48 PM, Jun 05, 2008

"...amen bloggers..." very nice. May I borrow that one some time?

Chad (The Left) Shue

Posted by Jim Guthrie

2:49 PM, Jun 05, 2008

Posted by jan

A Burner supporter questioning Reichert's accomplishments and resume? Seriously?

I'd hang my hat on a different peg, if I were you.

Posted by Daniel K

3:57 PM, Jun 05, 2008

Jim - Bloggers aren't idiots. We are keenly aware that our advocacy and biases raises the bar on being taken seriously by those who do not share our opinions.

So when it come to an issue such as the one I've been writing about regarding Dave Reichert's voting record and pattern of voting against bills that he then votes for, the burden of proof and credibility is higher for me, a blogger, than it would be for a reporter.


However, what I have presented regarding Reichert's voting record is pretty much a dry look at the votes - almost painfully dry. I've presented the raw voting record, with links to the roll calls and the bills. I've provided an account, vote by vote, of each bill he's exhibited the voting behavior. Really, my only editorializing has to do with my thoughts as to why he would be suddenly switching his support on these on the final passage vote, and why the media hasn't paid any attention to it. I can only speculate based on the data, and Reichert's own comments as to why, which is why I want reporters to look at this data and ask Reichert directly as I'd expect reporters to do.

Instead, if any ignoring is going on, it would seem that's happening with regards to Reichert's voting record. The so-called liberal media is giving the Republican congressman a pass for some reason in not inquiring further about this. The so-called liberal media is failing to report on the issue so that their readers and viewers can judge for themselves based on the facts - because isn't that what they claim is their role?

I've shown you the data and presented my analysis of it, so I challenge the media and David Postman to show me his data and analysis that allows him to be dismissive of my conclusions, and their impact of Reichert's public perception. I contend that because most everything we know about Dave Reichert we know through what the media tells us, any details they don't report that may be pertinent, result in a distorted perception based on an incomplete picture.

Without bloggers and the biases we have, we may never have known that Dan Rather's case against Bush's military record was tarnished, David Irons beat his mother, Mike Brown's previous experience before running FEMA was as failed head of an Arabian horse sporting group, and so on. Of course all of that is far more sexy than digging into the voting record of a congressman.

Posted by Turbine

8:00 PM, Jun 05, 2008

Nice to see Dave is utilizing his personal cadre of handpicked leftists to support his bias in the Reichert/ Burner Race. Let's get on the speed dial to Sandeep, or maybe Daniel K can shed some light on.... and the ever popular let's call Goldy for an opinion. What a joke.

Posted by AD

10:42 PM, Jun 05, 2008

Reichert could propose 20 new wilderness areas and Darcy would pounce and say "not enough!" She'd put a federal wilderness area in every backyard! This is just politics.

Dave Reichert cares about protecting the environment. He's clearly shown that. Darcy and Sandeep would be well advised to make this campaign about something else, because they'll lose on that issue.

Oh, and btw, has anyone noticed what a large voice Sandeep has in this campaign? He's smart and savvy, so it makes sense. Every time I hear Darcy say stuff ("like, omg, guys, the new FISA bill, it like so totally sucks, like omg, right?") I just groan... Someone else should run for the dems, like, idk, her bff, Sandeep?

Posted by Sam L

2:20 PM, Jun 06, 2008

I think Reichert is going to have trouble building his green reputation. The fact that he won't support any real legislation on global warming and votes with Bush and the Republicans on so many procedural votes makes him look kind of insincere.

Burner is someone like Inslee who has a real commitment to these issues.

AD: I'm really sorry to see that you feel comfortable using that kind of sexist BS in a public place. Wikipedia tells me that Burner has a double degree in Econ and Computer Science from Harvard. She's not exactly a ditz... But that's the tone from the top that Reichert has set with his sexist ads in '06, so I guess that's what we can expect from his supporters.

Posted by michael

3:53 PM, Jun 06, 2008

Sorry, but anyone who has voted with the Republicans umpteen percent of the time over the last four years can not get a clean green bill of health. One wilderness bill doesn't change four years worth of votes.

Posted by michael

4:00 PM, Jun 06, 2008

"One would think that the new co-sponsors would now make that a tough argument. Why would someone with such sterling environmental credentials like Inslee, or a congressman who has no worry about re-election, like Dicks, agree to co-sponsor something if they thought it was designed only to help Reichertís re-election prospects?"

David, they'll sponsor it because it is a good bill and it furthers work that they care about. But, again, one bill introduced doesn't make someone a good environmental voter in the congress.

Posted by Piper Scott

5:42 PM, Jun 06, 2008

It's one thing to have an opinion while also being intellectually honest, but it's another thing entirely to simply left-handidly bang the drum while shrieding the same Johnny-one-note song.

The 8th CD is still pretty centrist, and Dave Reichert - certainly more liberal than this conservative/libertarian would like - reflects a lot of the views of District voters.

Does The Darcy? That her most strident supporters are the very "amen bloggers" to which Postman refers will give a lot of 8th CD voters - including moderate Democrats I know - pause.

Who will win that seat in November? Beats me...But if it's The Darcy, she's going to have to reach out to ALL the voters in the District, not just the ones who tote water for the netroots/DailyKus/MoveOn/HA Happy Hooligans.

BTW...a lot of conservatives would just as soon Dave left the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area as is. Pretty soon everything will be locked up, unusable by most folks, and effectively the playground of a select few...none of whom will probably vote for him.

The Piper

Posted by JimD

6:01 PM, Jun 06, 2008

Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is STILL the right thing.
The bill deserves evaluation on it's legislative merits, not who wrote or sponsored it.
However - just because it MAY be a good bill, does not mean it absolves him of his past sins.
God may offer that kind of forgiveness.
Political constituents? Not so much.

Posted by michael

6:18 PM, Jun 06, 2008

Hey Piper,

At least we can sing the praises of the candidate we back.

Recent entries

Jun 5, 08 - 02:08 PM
Burner's odds in 8th improve, says expert

Jun 5, 08 - 08:56 AM
Reichert gets Dems help on wilderness bill

Jun 4, 08 - 07:42 AM
The rough draft of the historic day

Jun 3, 08 - 07:39 PM
Sims switches to Obama, Inslee holds with Clinton

Jun 3, 08 - 04:11 PM
Locke, a Clinton co-chair, now backs Obama







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