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Cunningham's termed out on the environment

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 20, 2004


Malign indifference is the best way to describe the environmental stewardship offered by seven term Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham. First elected in 1990, with the help of the Defense Industry Randy Duke has parlayed his military record into a key position on the House Select intelligence committee. Knee-deep in the game of cloak and dagger, Cunningham has spent little time working on quality of life issues affecting his constituents in the 50th congressional district.

For those of you unfamiliar with the 50th District it's the area between Carlsbad and Solana Beach on the coast, Escondido and San Marcos to the west. Vital environmental issues facing the district include over population, water availability, water quality, habitat loss, air quality, economic deficits, wetland destruction, and vanishing agriculture. None of which register with Randy Duke who is too busy playing spy games to notice the ongoing ecocide affecting those he supposedly represents.

This is not to say the Duke ignores the politics of environmental opinion, just the contrary. Before every election he engages in some strategic green wash in order to improve his ratings with the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and other environmentally motivated political action committees. During his tenure Mr. Cunningham has scored well below average according to criteria used to measure beneficial ecological representation. Randy's best rating was 1996, an election year.

On September 11, 1997 President Clinton announced the American Heritage River Initiative. The San Luis Rey River was nominated for designation as an American Heritage River. Designated rivers were to receive federal support fostering community empowerment, focused attention and "resources to help river communities restore their environment, revitalize their economy, renew their culture and preserve their history."

On May 8, 1998 the Clinton White House announced the San Luis Rey River had been removed from consideration in part because of opposition from Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Randy Duke Cunningham went out of his way, (the river is not in his district) to ask the Chair of the Council on Environmental quality to exempt his congressional district "and all land, river systems, and watersheds included therein from any designations as an America Heritage River." The reason for their request was concern "about the serious implications of implementing this initiative in its current form." No data, no science, nothing.

Ironically, Cunningham was a member of the House Appropriations Committee at the time, and could have help secure economic and environmental funds for the residents of the San Luis Rey Watershed. He didn't. What he did do was deny his constituents a possible return on taxes already paid. It was a win/win situation for everyone except those seeking to destroy the river valley in ways beneficial to landfill operators and extraction interests.

Randy Duke had an 8% LCV rating in 1998.

This year, on Earth Day, Cunningham and Representative Edward J. Markey D-CA introduced the Efficient Energy Through Certified Technologies and Electricity Reliability Act of 2004. The EFFECTER Act of 2004 offers tax incentives to encourage the production and sale of technologically advanced, energy-efficient buildings and equipment.

Representative Cunningham is currently running for re-election, as is Congressman Markey. Although he helped introduce the EFFECTER Act in the House of Representatives, Randy Duke played no role in its crafting. And none of his committee work represents the ongoing efforts towards sustainable renewable energy policy. Like his support for Anti-Shark fining legislation during his 2000 re-election campaign, Randy has a way of attaching himself to popular environmental legislation just in time for a campaign photo op.

Heading into the 2004 election Randy Duke currently rates a 15% approval rating with the League of conservation voters. This could also be read as 85% disapproval rating on all things environmental.

Put another way, Mr. Cunningham has amassed a decidedly anti-environment record.

Since his last election Randy Duke has actively endorses the industry dictated Cheney/Bush Energy bill. He has championed the timber friendly Healthy Forests Initiative put forward by the Bush Administration. This misguided piece of wildfire legislation does virtually nothing to protect homeowners from wildfire, while limiting citizen participation, undermines key environmental laws, and allows logging companies to cut down 20 million acres (31,250 square miles) of forest ecosystems under the guise of "fuel reduction."

Mr. Cunningham also votes in favor of drilling in the National Artic Wildlife Refuge, building roads into the pristine forests in Alaska, all the while doing nothing to protect and preserve endangered habitats within his own district, and the endangered species that live there. Supporting Bush's clear skies Initiative he comes down on the side of allowing a corporate polluter to police itself.

The residents of San Diego County can no longer afford the malign representation of Randy Duke Cunningham. We deserve better.

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