Washington Conservation Voters has singled out a local candidate as one of the “dirty dozen” running for state office across the U.S. Meanwhile, the GOP accuses Democrat Hilary Franz of failing to file as a lobbyist.
Washington Conservation Voters has singled out Steve McLaughlin, the GOP candidate for Commissioner of Public Lands, as one of the League of Conservation Voters’ “dirty dozen” state candidates running for office across the country.
In a statement released Wednesday, Washington Conservation Voters called McLaughlin an extremist who does not support public-land ownership, questions climate change, and has taken money from the industries he would regulate as commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It also stated he has an interest in reopening Cherry Point near Bellingham for development as a coal port (the DNR manages the state-owned crucial tidelands for which any company would need to secure a lease to build a port.)
The claims are partly true and partly not. In an interview with The Seattle Times, McLaughlin has said he believes climate change is real and human caused, but he doesn’t know how much of warming can be attributed to human activities.
As repeatedly reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is broad agreement among climate scientists that the burning of fossil fuels is the single largest cause of climate warming, which has accelerated along with CO2 emissions since the Industrial Revolution.
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McLaughlin has said he supports public-land ownership, including by the federal government, particularly national parks. Any look at turning federal lands back to the states would have to be taken carefully, McLaughlin has said, in part because of the management cost.
He has affirmed he would consider a development request for Cherry Point to the department — as he would any other.
It is true that timber interests are among the largest donors to his campaign. His Democratic opponent, Hilary Franz, has vowed not to take contributions from timber, mining or other industries the department regulates.
Meanwhile, Washington Conservation Voters also has launched an ad campaign against McLaughlin. It criticizes McLaughlin for taking money from timber companies for his campaign. In the ad, paper trees made of folded money are felled one after another against a sound track of an ax chopping.
The ad, like the Dirty Dozen statement, also says McLaughlin “belonged to” an extremist group that supported the takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. McLaughlin has said that he supports the Hammond family, ranchers in Oregon found guilty of arson on public lands, and that he signed onto a statement of support for the ranchers in December 2015 by the Coalition of Western States.
The coalition supported protesters involved in the armed takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon last winter. However, McLaughlin asserts he never was a member of that group. He signed the letter before the takeover.
The ad campaign was paid for with a $220,000 independent expenditure disclosed in reports released Tuesday by the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). That ad is expected to be seen by 1.7 million households in the Puget Sound area on cable TV in the next three weeks and to create just over 2 million “impressions” online to voters in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
“We are starting with that, and if it needs more we’ll add to the buy,” said Nick Abraham, communications manager for Washington Conservation Voters.
Meanwhile, the Washington State Republican Party filed a complaint against Franz for not registering as a lobbyist with the state PDC for her work while at Futurewise, a nonprofit devoted to implementing the state’s Growth Management Law.
Franz has on several occasions publicly referred to her work to get a state transportation package passed, and other work before the Legislature while executive director at Futurewise, from which she is now on leave.
However, there is an exception in state law as to who must register as a lobbyist. Persons who only appear before hearings or are responding to requests by lawmakers need not register.
The PDC, which received the complaint Wednesday, will ask Franz for a response and within about two weeks determine if further action need be taken.