There is no doubt, the hoopla surrounding ID Senator Larry Craig is a well deserved condemnation of hypocrisy that’s been years in the coming and nobody is celebrating his descent more than progressives throughout the Northwest. Now, he has resigned effective September 30.
But the shamefull manner in which a powerful Republican Senator squandered his standing is thankfully failing to completely overshadow just what it is many in Idaho and throughout the West are celebrating:
In the meantime, his actions in backrooms of the nation’s capital deserve attention. Call it a Craig’s List of how to block good deeds, or at least see that they don’t go unpunished.
Craig’s politically shrewd use of power was effective, he held powerful leadership postions in committees which Ralph Maughan notes afforded him the ability to:
boost welfare ranching, the timber industry, oil and gas, and numerous polluters for a generation and a half. The latest news is that he is now resigning from his Senate Committees, places where he plotted midnight riders to sweep aside laws that benefited wildlife, clean air, and regulation of natural resource industries.
The League of Conservation Voters has this:
Craig’s environmental record has been dismal, according to the League of Conservation Voters. Out of possible conservation voting score of 100 percent, Craig has never scored higher than fiver percent.
In 2006, Craig helped to pass a bill that would allow off-shore drilling for oil and gas; and voted for including leasing fees from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the 2007 budget, a measure which did not pass.
Craig tipped the balance in a vote of 49-48 to reject more than $19 billion in environmental funding through 2010. Among the hardest hit programs are the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as programs for conserving public lands and wildlife, oceans, coasts, water and farmland.
Craig supports early storage of defense nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada before all approvals are in place and a repeal of the 70,000 metric ton statutory limit on emplacement of radioactive materials at Yucca Mountain. “We are eager to see the nuclear materials that helped us win the Cold War move from temporary storage to the permanent repository at Yucca Mountain,” Craig said in 2006, when Republicans ruled Congress.
His shrewd use of language kept him schooling local politicians on the double-speak of looting the public domain. He aggressively tip-toe-tapped around Global Warming asking for “20 years of history ~ after this” before he’d give an inch in recognizing it’s threat to the natural world:
(These videos were taken in the Boise airport, at the end of July ~ after the arrest, but before the guilty plea)
Recently, Craig’s efforts included leveraging his influence to de-appropriate funds used to count Salmon in the Columbia-Snake river system ~ a move to halt the implications of dwindling numbers. In addition, Joel Connelly of Seattle Poste-Intelligencer writes:
In a Democratic-controlled Senate, Craig has single-handedly prevented the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee from taking action on Thomas’ bill, which is supported by both Wyoming senators.
Federal land managers have learned of Craig’s raw power in the past two decades: He has been a dangerous man to run into.
Thomas’ bill would have protected the headwaters of the Snake River, a place of breath-taking wild beauty and biodiversity.
Craig’s no-holds-barred willingness to put pen to his Senatorial letterhead continues to ensure a convoluted managment of your public land that avoids proper environmental regulation and is a well known and feared reality of managment throughout the West.
Closer to home in Idaho, a dark cloud is beginning to lift. Public land welfare ranchers have had a direct line into Washington with Craig’s representation.
In 1995, Craig was instrumental in killing then Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s plans to bring reform to the egregiously below market public land grazing fees.
Natural disasters including wildfire, have been opportunistically touted as more reasons to open federal public lands to extractive industry.
The Murphy Complex Fire would illustrate just how far Larry Craig was willing to go to prop up his good ol’ boy welfare ranchers in Idaho when Craig would fully engage in the blame game by using the wildfire to characterize Western Watersheds Project, the litigant party Craig makes reference to, as “ecoterrorists” on the Senate Floor on August 2, 2007:
An unprecedented fuel buildup because a judge, and what I now call ecoterrorists, are destroying the landscape by not allowing reasonably managed, multiple-use approaches to our management. That is why the fire destroyed what it destroyed.
Craig’s conditional support, and prominent position of influence, over so-called “wilderness” bills in Idaho demanded a new lower standard from the few willing conservationists’ continued political capitulation to welfare ranchers. Demand for the uninhibited continued grazing abuse of public land should passage of the bills been feasible, if not direct cash hand-outs to grazers, brought the integrity of wilderness proposals and their conservationist sponsors to their knees. In the end Craig killed the bills anyway, citing the necessity that his bed-fellows’ money and public land be delivered up front.
In 1995 Craig was instrumental in passage of the “Logging Without Laws” rider which introduced salvage logging on large scale without otherwise required environmental analysis. The rider also marked the beginnings of the emerging Republican Congress’ wide-spread use of questionable (but effective) political tactics that hid significant riders within budget appropriations to avoid an up or down vote on the merits of legislation. In the 105th Congress, Craig would move on to introduce revisions of National Forest Management Act:
So what does the timber industry dream about at night? Here are some of the provisions of Craig’s bill:
* Timber harvests and other natural resource “outputs” from the national forests would become mandatory and enforceable. At the same time, environmental standards would be demoted to mere “policies” and thus be unenforceable.
* The U.S. Forest Service could impose fines of up to $10,000 on those it deemed to have filed appeals to halt timber sales for an (undefined) “improper purpose.”
* Once adopted, forest plans (and individual projects like timber sales) could not be stopped in court, no matter how much damage they could do.
* Timber, mining, and grazing interests could meet with officials of the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management to cut deals in private, with no pesky environmentalists or private citizens looking on.
* The Forest Service and BLM would no longer have to consult with the Fish and Wildlife or National Marine Fisheries services on the impacts of proposed logging on fish and wildlife. Instead, these agencies would only engage in “self-consultation.”
In the 90’s Mark Rey served as Craig’s subcommittee staff director shortly after working as a lobbyist for the American Forest and Paper Association. More recently, Craig would further codify his intent to dismantle the environmental rule of law into the more than willing Bush Administration when he served as Mark Rey’s legislative stooge to undermine the Clinton Roadless Rule :
In fact, even before taking a position with the Bush Administration in October 2001, Rey was working – through Idaho Senator Larry Craig – on a legislative scheme to prevent the Roadless Rule from being implemented.
FYI – Mark Rey is now Bush’s Undersecretary of Agriculture who is currently looking at the possibility of jail time for dragging his feet on court ordered environmental analysis of fire retardant.
The list goes on and on…
The bottom line is simple ~ Craig’s fall is well received by those who care about the public lands and natural heritage of the West. His shame is well deserved on many fronts. One can speculate that the private self-deluding denial which is forcing Craig out of a position of power is tantamount to his, and this current Republican regime’s, egregiously dishonest public conduct. My hope is that his shame will not be contained exclusively in the media to the sordid details of a dirty, dirty bathroom encounter lest we reify the right-wing’s ill-begotten public standards for private conduct. We have the opportunity in his last days of Congress to shed a light on the behind-the-scenes slip-in riders which Craig’s career is characterstic of and with which his chosen date (September 30th) promises to produce. Why would that be the golden date otherwise?
Note by Ralph Maughan: Today New West has a slightly modified version of begreen’s story on Larry Craig. Craig’s True Crimes: A legacy of crimes against nature.