If any Republican lawmakers are worried about “the environmental lobby and their extremist friends in the ecoterrorist underworld,” the House GOP leadership has some advice for them:
Plant some trees. Adopt a highway. Tour a recycling plant. Clean up a park. Above all, invite the press. Such moves will draw positive media coverage and “help further insulate yourself from the attacks of the green extremists,” the House Republican Conference says in an internal memo to the troops.
The document acknowledges that “the environment is an important issue” to “many in our growing Republican majority.” But it says that the party’s “common sense reforms” to such laws as the Endangered Species Act, Superfund and the Clean Water Act could leave its members vulnerable to criticism.
Not to worry: Republicans can “go over the heads of the elitist environmental movement” by being visible at home.
“In order to build credibility,” the memo says, “you must engage this agenda before your opponents can label your efforts ‘craven, electionyear gimmicks. … Your constituents will give you more credit for showing up on a Saturday to help clean up the local park or beach than they will give a press release from some Washington-based special interest group.”
The memo’s bogeyman is Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
“The next time Bruce Babbitt comes to your district and canoes down a river as a media stunt to tell the press how anti-environment their congressman is, if reporters have been to your boss’ adopt-a-highway clean-up, two of his tree plantings, and his Congressional Task Force on Conservation hearings, they’ll just laugh Babbitt back to Washington,” the memo says.
Said Michael Gauldin, Babbitt’s spokesman: “I’d love to say it’s a meaningless, cosmetic, cynical ploy that will never work, but I’m afraid it will. It’s ‘get some pictures of you on TV doing what looks environmental - plant a tree, recycle some milk cartons - and then hurry back to Washington so we can gut the Clean Water Act.”’
But John Czwartacki, a spokesman for the GOP conference, said the memo was merely “a list of suggestions. It’s a list of activities that both Democrats and Republicans engage in. You define being pro-environment in many different ways. Unfortunately, Washington-based environmental groups define being pro-environment by how much money you can spend in Washington.”
The 14-point plan notes that on Earth Day and Arbor Day, “chances are good that the media will be writing an Earth Day or an Arbor Day story.
In addition, chances are also good that somewhere in your district there will be a group sponsoring an event. Plan on participating in these events, or at a minimum, plan on releasing a statement of support.”
Other pointers: “Consider passing out tree saplings with your door to door pamphlet. … Consider establishing a yearly ‘Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award’ for someone in your district. … Start a conservation task force. … What types of environmental groups are already active in your district? Look for zoo boards, garden clubs, or other community conservation/environmental groups.”
Also, make public service announcements on “proper battery disposal” or “encouraging respect for nature when camping or hunting,” but “first contact your local radio and cable stations to inquire if they will run your PSA.”