3 GOP Senators Say Gore Favors Removing Damsby Jim Barnett
The Oregonian, September 22, 2000
The nominee's aides say a memo was misread and that his foes are twisting the truth
WASHINGTON -- Three Republican senators revealed Thursday what they say is proof that as president, Al Gore would try to remove Snake River dams, despite his statements to the contrary.
Gore aides said the senators misread a campaign memo.
"This is another example of Republicans twisting the truth and misleading the press," said David Chai, a Gore spokesman in Oregon.
The question of dam removal is politically charged and could help determine whether Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, wins Oregon and Washington in the Nov. 7 election. The issue also could factor in the re-election of Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., an opponent of dam removal.
At a news conference, Gorton, along with Sens. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., gave reporters copies of a 15-page memo that the Gore campaign sent in July to Friends of the Earth Action, which supports dam breaching to help salmon.
The senators pointed to an italicized statement in the memo as evidence that Gore intends to remove dams.
The statement reads, "Announce a decision to remove Snake River dams, which act as a barrier to restoration of the Northwest salmon."
The section of the memo that contains the statement begins with the heading "Environmental Restoration in Our Nation." It then says, "Goal: Restore damaged and degraded ecosystems and species, including endangered salmon." It then has the phrase "Proposed Action" just before the statement.
Officials at the Gore campaign and at Friends of the Earth said the senators were putting words into Gore's mouth.
The statement, Gore aides and Friends of the Earth officials said, was from a list of "action priorities" that was sent to Gore.
"He repeats our question and then he gives his response," said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest director for Friends of the Earth. "While we would have liked for him to explicitly endorse dam removal at this time, he did not."
Nevertheless, the senators stood by their charge.
"This is Al Gore's statement of priorities to Friends of Earth Action," Gorton said, calling it the first "absolute and unequivocal statement" of Gore's position. "I think every word in it is Al Gore's word."
Smith added: "Now we have him saying to the people of Oregon and Washington and Idaho, 'We'll defer this decision,' but we have their black and white words that say, 'We will announce a decision to remove those dams.' "
The senators called the news conference on the same day Gore announced his national energy policy. They said they wanted to highlight the fact that removal of electricity-producing dams would damage the Northwest's economy and increase the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.
In a separate action Thursday, Gorton inserted language into an annual spending bill for the Department of the Interior and related agencies that would prevent federal money from going to dam-removal studies in the coming fiscal year.
Numerous environmental groups opposed the amendment. Gorton said it was a symbolic step to keep the Clinton administration true to its word that dam removal would not be reconsidered as an option for fish recovery.
None of the senators offered proof that the italicized statement in the memo was the original work of the Gore campaign.
On the contrary, Cantrell said, the list of action priorities had been posted separately on the group's Web site. Below it, he said, is a link to a separate file in which Gore's responses come after restatements of each item.
"The vice president repeated our statement and said in a many-page response, 'I do not agree,' " Cantrell said.
The two sides also disagreed about the origin of the memo. Craig said he downloaded it from Gore's campaign Web site. Gore campaign officials said they do not post such memos.
After the news conference, Smith was asked about the environmental group's response.
"I think the larger issue is we have an energy crisis that was presided over and created during the Clinton-Gore administration," Smith said.
At the news conference, several reporters asked the senators whether they were certain that the italicized statement had come from the Gore campaign.
Craig replied that the same question had arisen in his mind.
"Originally, I thought the italicized points were" from the group, Craig said. "But actually the italicized points are the action plan. . . . It is a full Gore statement."
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs