Walt Minnick called on Sen. Larry Craig Friday to resign from the advisory board of the National Wilderness Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes private property rights and reduced government regulation.
“I don’t think any U.S. senator ought to be involved in an organization that is inherently deceptive and not what it pretends to be,” said Minnick, a Democrat who is challenging Craig.
It was the second time this week that Minnick attacked Craig’s involvement in a group identified in a Monday New York Times article as an example of “green-scamming,” or groups that choose environmentally friendly sounding names but actually represent industry viewpoints.
Greg Casey, Craig’s chief of staff, said the Republican senator’s unpaid service on the National Wilderness Institute’s advisory board is “a non-issue.”
“He serves on boards where there is an interest for the state of Idaho, and he serves for no compensation. There is no personal gain involved in any of them.”
Minnick contended that the institute lobbies Congress, but Casey said it doesn’t. As a non-profit educational organization, the institute is prohibited by its tax status from lobbying Congress.
Although the primary election still is two months away, the clashes between Craig and Minnick forces this week have involved finger-pointing and charges of lying.
“He has an inability to get his facts straight,” Casey said of Minnick.
And Minnick said of Casey’s explanations earlier in the week of why he represented Craig at a meeting of a group called “Northwesterners for More Fish,” “I’m not calling him a liar but I believe it strains credulity. It doesn’t ring true to me.”
Craig is joined on the advisory board of the National Wilderness Institute by former Sen. Steve Symms and congressmen Richard Pombo, R-Calif.; Charles Taylor, R-N.C.; and Don Young, R-Alaska.
In its brochure, the group says, “At the National Wilderness Institute, we believe the solutions to our environmental problems lie in responsible stewardship, not in social uprising, needlessly scaring consumers, throwing small businessmen into jail, protecting roaches, exposing people to life-threatening diseases, or driving them into oblivion.”
Casey said of the group’s agenda, “I’ll bet if you ask Idahoans, 90 percent of them would agree with it.”
Casey said Craig serves on many unpaid advisory boards, from the Congressional Youth Leadership Council to serving as honorary chairman of Defenders of Private Property Rights. He also serves on the board of the National Rifle Association.
Minnick said Craig should resign from that board, too, because the NRA lobbies Congress. But Casey said the NRA’s lobbying is handled through a separate arm of the organization.
Minnick serves on the board of the Wilderness Society along with corporate boards. He said he would resign those posts if elected.
Said Casey, “Everyone, at least if they’re doing their job as representatives of the people, should be involved in a number of these kinds of advisory programs on principles they believe in.”
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