The 2018 midterm elections are in the homestretch. Predictions keep changing, but it currently appears that the House of Representatives could switch to Democratic control. That makes it all the more important to bolster the ranks of pro-hunting lawmakers in Congress.
Dozens of outside groups will be ramping up their spending in coming weeks in a bid to swing close elections toward favored candidates. SCI is among them, working through our Political Action Committee to elect pro-hunting lawmakers in a number of close races in key swing districts and states.
Rest assured there’s still time for you to lend your support to this critical effort! Simply visit https://my.safariclub.org/sci-pac/donate/ to make a secure, online donation. Please note that SCI-PAC does not accept contributions from corporations, foreign nationals without permanent U.S. residency, federal government contractors, persons in the name of another person or contributions that will be reimbursed.
In addition to groups such as SCI, which is operating with 100-percent transparency in pursuit of its members’ collective electoral goals, there are groups in the arena who are not nearly so forthright. Advocacy groups on the environmental left have long been jealous of the political power of sportsmen. But instead of working to further organize and motivate their own supporters, some have resorted to a far more deceptive tactic. They have created so-called “green decoy” groups that purport to represent sportsmen but are actually funded and operated by longtime environmental zealots pursuing a radical preservationist agenda. Due to space constraints, this column is limited to a relatively brief discussion of one such group. But be warned – there are many, many more.
In one article, the executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) criticized Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, saying: “”He’s stopped listening to Montanans, and he’s really stopped listening to hunters and anglers.”
The background of BHA executive director Land Tawney will help explain his attitude. Tawney also ran the political action committee “Montana Hunters and Anglers Leadership Fund” (MHA). In 2012, this pop-up PAC spent $1.1 million against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Denny Rehberg, who was challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. MHA also spent $500,000 in support of the libertarian candidate as a strategy of drawing votes away from the Republican.
MHA received several hundred thousand dollars from the League of Conservation Voters, a left-leaning environmentalist group. Tawney was also a member of the Montana Sportsmen for Obama Committee and previously served as the National Grassroots Coordinator for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Starting to see a pattern here?
BHA claims to be the voice of outdoor enthusiasts who ply remote public lands. But its sources of funding and current leadership reveal the true environmentalist agenda. All of BHA’s primary donors have extensive ties to environmental activist organizations. Among the largest donors is the Western Conservation Foundation (WCF), which gave $278,423 to BHA in 2011 and 2012 alone. WCF has given copious amounts to notorious environmentalists and animal rights activists, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Audubon Society and Earthjustice. It has also contributed large sums to the Tides Center, which has long been a source of funding for all things leftist, right up there with the Joyce Foundation.
Also on the BHA donor roster is the Wilburforce Foundation. From 2009 to 2013, Wilburforce gave a total of $110,000 to BHA. As with the Western Conservation Foundation, Wilburforce gives heavily to other notorious environmentalists, including the Environmental Law Institute, the Sierra Foundation and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Wilburforce’s executive director, Tim Greyhavens, previously worked for the Humane Society of the United States. BHA also received a $69,000 donation in 2012 from Pew Charitable Trusts, which is famous for its ideological tilt.
We’ve just scratched the surface of this concerted deception. There are more green decoy groups, all with ties to the same interlocking web of left-leaning donors, and all staffed or led by a circle of operatives whose backgrounds trace back to roots in preservationist environmental activism and/or Democratic politics. These are not coincidences. This is an operation – well funded, well-organized and distributed across multiple platforms. Their misleading names and thick layers of camouflage have deceived hunters, sportsmen and politicians – which is precisely their objective.
Worse yet, the insidious reach of the green decoy groups is beginning to spill beyond the confines of their Potemkin village. They have attempted to co-opt and hijack some of the longest standing names in the conservation community by dangling lucrative grants. Members of some conservation groups have no idea about the extent to which their national leadership may be succumbing to this siren song.
What’s the answer? Just as we prepare for going afield, hunters have to do their homework and pay attention to the details. There are informational resources online for those who look for them, but as the critical midterm elections draw near, remember the pattern. If you see a group that claims to represent sportsmen attacking candidates who are supported by other major pro-hunting groups such as SCI or NRA, recognize the pattern you are seeing, and remember what lies below the surface. Don’t let a green decoy group fool you into voting against your own interests.–Patrick O’Malley