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Reichert: Winning environmental praise; side-stepping questions about “chess pieces” speech

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Oct. 7, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
October 7, 2010 4:09 pm

At the Washington Conservation Voters annual “Breakfast of Champions” in Seattle this morning, Congressman Dave Reichert won praise from stallwart greens and the likes of Democrat Patty Murray for his work on environmental issues.

Among other things, the event recognized Reichert’s endorsement last week by the national League of Conservation Voters, who lauded him among only a handful of House Republicans to vote for the so-called “cap and trade” clean energy legislation in 2009.

During a more than hour-long interview with me on Wednesday, Reichert cited another environmental issue among his top Congressional accomplishments: working to get a bill through the House this year to protect an additional 22,000 acres as part of the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.  Reichert said he’s now working with Murray and environmental groups to win support for the measure in the Senate.

“I’ did my job,” Reichert told me of getting the bill through the House. “We’re not going to give up though (in the Senate) in the coming years.”

Reichert’s environmental record has helped him garner a moderate’s label – an attractive accoutrement that has helped him to retain his Congressional seat in the politically fickle eighth district.

But since leaked audio surfaced from a speech Reichert gave to Republicans earlier this year, some have questioned his sincerity on green positions. Among the doubters is Democratic challenger, Suzan DelBene, who told me in an interview Tuesday:

He said that his environmental votes — I mean these are his own words — he said they are chess pieces, and he makes these votes so that environmentalists won’t spend money against him and that he’s trying to get re-elected. That has nothing to do with doing the right thing or putting policy together that’s moving our country forward.

On Wednesday, I tried repeatedly to ask Reichert about the contoversial speech he gave about his envrionmental votes. But he declined to elaborate, dismissing the issue as “old news.”

(It should be noted that throughout the 1 hour-plus long interview, Reichert elaborated on a host of other issues – from his votes as far back as five years ago in Congress, to his work in the King County Sheriff’s Office dating back more than a decade. In contrast, the controversial speech first surfaced in May.)

Here’s a verbatim transcript and audio clip of that exchange:

Reichert on environment

TNT:  Let me just ask you, in terms of uh, your environmental record. Obviously, you’ve just received a key endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters. They, you know, termed your record as “solid,” and at the same time many questions have come up during the campaign about that, um, recording that was supposedly leaked, or whatever, to the same blogger you talked about earlier –

Reichert:  Yeah, here’s my answer: Old news. My record speaks for itself.

TNT.  Well, how would you explain –

Reichert:  That’s it.

TNT: — that speech?

Reichert:  My, my, my record speaks for itself. That’s old news, Lewie, Lewis, and I’m not saying anything else. I’ve already talked about it. My record speaks for itself. I, I, I really believe we need to protect our envrionment, and –

TNT:  And you’re sincere on your voting?

Reichert:  Absolutely. You bet.

TNT:  And that — then how do you reconcile that then?

Reichert:  I again, I’ve given you my answer. You said you wanted to make it short. I’m helping you.

During the interview with DelBene Tuesday, I also asked her that, in the event that it was true that Reichert was insincere with his vote – so what?

Here’s that exchange:

TNT:  Let’s just for the sake of argument say you’re correct and he’s not sincere about this and votes the way he feels his district wants him to vote.  Is there anything wrong with that?

DelBene:  I think we need leadership on issues. I think he had a 64 percent voting record with Conservation Voters. Sixty four percent to me is a D. We need leadership on these issues and I think that the Gulf oil spill was a wake up call for all of us. We need to make sure we’re on top of this and not delay. So, it’s not just about an individual vote. It’s got to be about leadership and really helping us get policy through.

TNT:  Some might argue though that whose doing the rating for the 64 percent is a special interest group, where if you voted with them 100 percent of the time, you’d be kow-towing to a special interest.

DelBene:  I think that we have critical issues that we have to face right now. I’m more addressing the fact of whether they (LCV) actually should feel good about endorsing him as an organization. But I think you’ve got to vote on what you think is right. I think on a lot of these issues he has not been supportive and has not shown leadership on critical issues in driving legislation himself.

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