New Industry Group Called Fishy Craig Aide Defends Attendance At Kickoff Meeting In Spokane
Walt Minnick accused Sen. Larry Craig on Monday of scheming with industry to launch a multimillion-dollar ad campaign against salmon and steelhead recovery.
But Craig’s chief of staff, Greg Casey, said Craig is doing no such thing. Casey said he attended the kickoff meeting of “Northwesterners for More Fish” at the Spokane Club last month only to tell the industry group about Idaho Gov. Phil Batt’s plan for salmon recovery, which Craig supports.
Casey said he made the stop on a taxpayer-funded trip representing Craig, during which he also toured flood damage in St. Maries and visited Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston and Moscow. “I fly into Spokane every time I go to North Idaho,” Casey said.
The group was used as a top example in a front-page New York Times article Monday of “greenscamming,” the practice of giving names that sound environmentally friendly to groups whose aims are unrelated to protecting the environment.
The group’s organizer, J. Vander Stoep, a former chief of staff to Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., disputed that Monday. “Have you ever met a person from the Northwest that didn’t care about the salmon resource? I never have,” he said.
Vander Stoep represents two central Washington public utility districts that run hydropower dams on the Columbia River.
He solicited a proposal from the Eddie Mahe Co., a Washington, D.C., political consulting group, to run a public education campaign focused on a National Academy of Science study that questions some salmon recovery solutions.
The company responded with a plan for a $2.6 million, yearlong campaign to press for fish-recovery legislation that’s more palatable to water users and industry than plans proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The campaign plan calls for focus groups, presentations, paid advertising and aggressive pursuit of favorable media coverage.
The idea was presented at a Feb. 16 meeting at the Spokane Club, to invited guests including representatives of timber, mining, power, banking, agricultural, aluminum, railroad and utility interests. Washington Water Power provided a buffet lunch.
Vander Stoep said that, so far, the only ones to commit major funding for the campaign are the utility districts and Weyerhaeuser Corp.
A scaled-down, $600,000 to $800,000 campaign that focuses on public education, not legislative lobbying, is the likely plan, he said.
Minnick, a Democrat challenging Craig, called the fish group “a phony organization” and “an industry front group.”
“It’s a bunch of lobbyists,” he said.
“It’s a who’s who of campaign contributors … These are the guys that have an economic interest in our salmon and steelhead going extinct, not saving them.”
Casey called Minnick’s criticism unfair.
“These people have as much right to meet in Spokane and to pursue their own agenda as anybody else does,” he said.
The new industry group is “not unlike the Sierra Club, Columbia River Alliance, Idaho Rivers United,” Casey said.
“What’s the difference?”
Vander Stoep agreed, saying Chelan Public Utility District spent a quarter of its annual revenue last year on salmon recovery.
“For those organizations to turn around and suggest that people who are paying the bills for salmon recovery have no right to communicate their view, that I think is a little bit of a double standard.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Northwesterners for More Fish Plan for a $2.6 million, year-long campaign to press for fish-recovery legislation that’s more palatable to water users and industry than plans proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
This sidebar appeared with the story: Northwesterners for More Fish Plan for a $2.6 million, year-long campaign to press for fish-recovery legislation that’s more palatable to water users and industry than plans proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.