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Public Eye


Cara Begette is a charter member of the Handyman Club of America
  • Cara Begette is a charter member of the Handyman Club of America

In the mid-1980s, Republican presidential candidate George Herbert Walker Bush dropped what he considered to be a big bomb on his opponent. Not only was Michael Dukakis a Democrat and a lap-swimming enthusiast to boot, he was also a card-carrying member of the ACLU!

As the story goes, the American Civil Liberties Union was subsequently flooded with indignant contributors demanding to know why they had never received their membership cards. And so, the ACLU began issuing -- for the first time -- handy wallet-sized cards to civil-rights supporters across the land.

Two decades later, America's card-carrying craze is in full swing. Organizations from the National Rifle Association to the Sierra Club to the Handyman Club of America -- of which Cara Bagette is a charter member the Handyman Club of America -- of which Cara Bagette is a charter member charter member the Handyman Club of America -- of which Cara Bagette is a charter member Cara-- frequently mail out mass offers asking people to sign up. But card-carriers beware: If you want to claim membership, you've got to pay your dues.

Witness the most recent fake Sierra Club card-flashing claims by Colorado U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, who is being seriously challenged by Democrat Tom Strickland in what is considered one of the tightest Senate races in the nation.

Allard has been tagged by the bipartisan League of Conservation Voters as one of Congress's Dirty Dozen; he is one of 12 legislators with the worst voting record on environmental issues.

And Allard's voting record with the Sierra Club is equally dismal.

Yet in a burst of green scamming, Allard recently waved his Sierra Club card around -- the kind that had been mass-mailed -- and claimed it proof of his devotion to the planet.

The Sierra Club is so not amused by Allard's anti-environmental voting record -- and his hypocritical claims that he's one of them -- that this week they sent their national executive director, Carl Pope, to Colorado to clear the air.

With a 9-percent voting record, Allard has the worst environmental scorecard of any past U.S. Senator from Colorado -- Republican or Democrat -- since the Sierra Club started keeping track. Even former Sen. Bill Armstrong, who has recently been termed by the Denver dailies as the "grandfather" and the "bishop emeritus" of conservative Colorado Republican politics, got a 24-percent approval rating from the Sierra Club.

Pope pointed out that GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell has a 32-percent approval rating from the Sierra Club, and former Sen. Hank Brown scored 25 percent.

Past Democratic U.S. senators fared even better. Among them, Tim Wirth had a 75-percent pro-environmental approval rating, Gary Hart had 71 percent and Floyd Haskell had 66 percent.

So Wayne Allard's paltry 9 percent is, at least for environmentalists, a slap in the face.

Specifically, Pope refers to one extraordinary day, Oct. 12, 2000, when Allard cast three crucial votes against the environment. The first would have forced the removal of arsenic from drinking water; the second was to reduce ozone deterioration; and the third would have given the federal Environmental Protection Agency authorization to force companies to remove toxic stuff from streams.

Allard, Pope said, is sending the message that he is "willing to trust power companies and energy companies for what's in the air and chemical companies for what's in the rivers."

By contrast, Pope cites Allard's opponent Strickland who, as the former U.S. Attorney in Colorado, laid down important enforcement actions against polluters and "has really gone to bat for public health."

Pope doesn't understand exactly why Allard is so eager to join the Sierra Club, a group that his campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, has described as "dripping with hypocrisy" and as responding in "knee-jerk" fashion to the Democratic Party.

However, Pope said that if Allard's willing to fork over his $25 Sierra Club membership dues, Pope's willing to make a deal.

Recently Pope, along with millions of other people, received an "exclusive" platinum card from the national Republican Party Committee Chairman, Marc Racicot. Along with the card was a note thanking Pope for his hard work and devotion and identifying him as "one of the leaders of the Republican Party."

"I have been identified as an extraordinary patriot and leader in the Republican Party and I will trade this for Senator Allard's honorary membership in the Sierra Club," Pope said.

But, according to Deb Robison, a Colorado Sierra Club organizer, there is a caveat.

"Given Allard's extensive anti-environmental record, we're going to need his membership dues up front, and in cash," she said.


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