By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
"That act of political intimidation tells you everything you need to know about Max Baucus's attitude toward the environment," says Mike Bader, director of the Missoula-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies. "Baucus was willing to keep the Boston Harbor a filthy mess in order to make sure public forests and rivers in Montana continue to be destroyed by multinational timber companies."
The Senator has also made great media play with the Alliance's use of Hollywood celebrities, such as Woody Harrelson and Glenn Close, to promote its campaign for the ecosystem. "National money, glitz, and glamour are reaching into Montana," the man who has retained Robert Redford as a fundraiser warned in June 1992. "These interests, mostly based out of California, are doing all they can to see that Montana's 12-year civil war over the wilderness issue continues on and on."
Max Baucus wants the wilderness war to end quickly, in a rout for the timber industry. When he was thus denouncing the Alliance's plan to protect the wildlands of the Northern Rockies, Baucus himself was trying to
push through a bill which consigned 96 percent of Montana's federal forests to clearcutting by transnational corporations such as
Plum Creek, a big contributor to Baucus's campaigns.
Baucus's bill, which he cosponsored with Montana's Republican Senator, Conrad Burns, contained what's known as sufficiency language, which would have made it impossible for citizens to enforce federal environmental laws--like the Endangered Species Act--that Baucus's timber program would breach. Al Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, denounced Baucus's bill on the floor of the Senate as an assault on the constitutional right of citizens to challenge illegal activities of the government.
This legislative tool has lately been adopted by the Republican Congress with devastating results. Take this summer's Budget Rescissions Act, which contained a rider that requires the Forest Service to sell 4.5 billion board feet of timber from the national forests and exempts the sales from compliance with all environmental laws. Many of those clearcuts are slated for the wilds of Montana. Baucus, of course, voted for the bill, and Bill Clinton signed it into law.
Baucus scarcely needs money from
the Hollywood liberals. In his last race,
in 1990, he was the second-largest recipient
of PAC money in the U.S. Senate: $1.86 million in a state with fewer than 500,000 registered voters. It's an achievement about which he feels no shame. In 1991, at his 50th birthday party, Baucus donned a leather jacket, mounted a Harley, and rode down the steps of the Capitol to the strains of "The Leader of the Pack."
Of course Max Baucus is looking for money from the Hollywood liberals. But he's also looking for political cover. The big question is why Robert Redford is providing it for him. Redford has not answered specific requests to explain his support for Baucus. A friend has suggested that his rationale might be that Democrats rape the environment less harshly than Republicans. It's hard to believe this with any intensity as old growth forests, protected by court order in the Bush years, now buzz with chain saws unleashed by Clinton's signature on the Rescissions Bill. But here's the Sundance Kid, not even excusing Baucus as the lesser of two evils but hailing him as a true friend of nature. Redford should go back to the Blackfoot and take one last look.