With the swish of the Spokane River and the hum of a diesel generator in the background, two environmental groups unveiled the latest ad campaign Tuesday against Republican George Nethercutt.
The League of Conservation Voters and Washington Citizen Action are buying ads on Spokane television and radio stations urging people to call Nethercutt and tell him to “protect America’s environment.”
At a press conference along the Spokane River in Peaceful Valley, Mark Solomon of the Inland Empire Public Lands Council criticized Nethercutt’s votes to revise the 1972 Clean Water Act and reduce spending on the Environmental Protection Agency.
Nethercutt, Solomon charged, had become “a mouthpiece for special interests.”
From Washington, D.C., Nethercutt defended his record and said the ads “did a disservice to the environmental debate.”
“I don’t have any concerns about my environmental votes,” he said. “Even from a moderate standpoint, many of the past environmental programs haven’t worked.”
The television commercial, which starts running today, bases its criticism on a score card the league compiled for all members of the House and Senate. The environmental group, a non-partisan organization which contributes money more heavily to Democrats than Republicans, selected 12 votes in the House that it considered key environmental issues.
Those issues included so-called regulatory reforms that would make it more difficult for federal agencies to propose new environmental regulations; appropriations bills that cut money for the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal offices; and the opening of Northwest forests to “salvage logging.”
The league was so angry over changes the House approved in the 1972 Clean Water Act that it intentionally counted that vote twice. Those changes remain stalled in the Senate.
The final vote on the score card was a cut in spending for international family planning agencies that use any money for abortion.
Nethercutt accused the league of “looking at the votes in a vacuum,” and ignoring other important votes. He said that he recently voted for the Safe Drinking Water Act - which is separate from the Clean Water Act - a bill that the league and Citizen Action supported.
The 1996 Farm Bill also has new protections for agriculture land, he said, but is not mentioned in the score card.
“Environmental balance means we have to make some compromises,” Nethercutt said.
Political action also requires some compromises, the two groups discovered. The picturesque spot they picked to premiere their ad did not have readily available power. So they had to contribute slightly to air pollution by cranking up a diesel generator to power the television that showed the ad.
They turned off the generator as soon as the 30-second ad was finished.
At the press conference, Joseph Bogaard of Citizen Action contended Nethercutt has “continued to vote against the environment.” He said he wasn’t aware of Nethercutt’s vote on the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Later he conceded Nethercutt “put in a good vote” on that bill, but said that was because Republicans in Congress are under pressure to provide more balance on the environment.
The television ad, and a companion radio commercial, will run through July 16, Bogaard said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: AD FACT CHECK ‘Our Land’ The Ad: “Our Land,” sponsored by Washington Citizen Action and the League of Conservation Voters, will appear about 20 times a day on Spokane television stations for the next week. It criticizes Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., for votes on certain environmental issues. It starts with a shot of a snow-covered mountain, shows a list of corporate contributors to Nethercutt’s campaign and urges viewers to “Call Congressman Nethercutt and tell him to protect America’s environment.” Opponent’s reaction: Nethercutt calls the ad “political rhetoric,” saying the 12 votes selected by the league are highly subjective and leave out recent environmental votes, such as the reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act, on which he voted yes. One vote on the league’s score card is for funding for international family planning, which is not an environmental issue, he said. Campaign response: Joseph Bogaard of Washington Citizen Action concedes Nethercutt voted for the Drinking Water Act, but attributes that to Republicans “being up against the ropes right now.” Family planning is linked to global population and “in many minds, that is an environmental issue.” Analysis: The ad attempts to capitalize on the fact that Republicans have been under pressure for more than nine months for their attempts to change longstanding environmental programs, either by rewriting rules or cutting funding. Although there are many controversial environmental issues, the league’s score card essentially manipulates the numbers by selectively choosing 12 votes, including international family planning, over other environmental issues that are more clear-cut, and counting another vote - on the Clean Water Act, which is currently stalled in the Senate - twice.