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Sierra Club TV Ad Targets Gorton

by Kevin Galvin, Washington bureau
The Seattle Times, April 26, 2000

WASHINGTON - The Sierra Club yesterday announced an $8 million campaign aimed at electing what it considers a more environmentally friendly Congress in November. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., was targeted in the group's first round of TV ads.

Through TV and radio spots, as well as public events and the distribution of voter guides, the Sierra Club hopes to raise voter awareness of policies affecting clean air, clean water, and the preservation of endangered lands and species.

National polling shows voters tend to be more concerned with education and health care. But Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said environmental issues generate strong feelings when they are localized. Thus, the ad targeting Gorton focuses on salmon recovery and clean water, while another airing in Michigan questions Republican U.S. Sen. Spence Abraham's record on protecting the Great Lakes. Sierra Club ads are running in 13 states.

To comply with campaign-finance laws, the ads avoid expressly advocating the election or defeat of any candidate. But the first round of 17 ads airing to coincide with this week's congressional recess criticized the records of seven Republicans and praised 10 Democrats.

Daniel Weiss, the Sierra Club's political director, said Democrats tend to sympathize with his group's causes.

"The Republican leadership of the House and Senate remain firmly anti-environmental," he said.

The Sierra Club began airing a radio ad in Washington state yesterday praising U.S. Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, and Adam Smith, D-Kent, both of whom are seeking re-election. The ad criticizing Gorton began running last week to coincide with a local Sierra Club chapter's voter-outreach efforts around Earth Day.

"At birth, wild salmon bond to mothering stones and a stream's clear flow. Now, pollution and sprawl threaten the salmon's stream and our drinking water," a narrator says. "But instead of helping, Senator Slade Gorton has voted against cleaning up our lakes and streams."

Documentation accompanying the ad script says Gorton voted against an amendment in the fiscal 2000 Interior appropriations bill that would have transferred $23 million out of a U.S. Forest Service timber-management program to protect fish and wildlife.

Cynthia Bergman, spokeswoman for Gorton, said the senator secured $18 million for salmon recovery in the same budget season and has supported efforts to steer federal dollars into the hands of local activists.

"The Sierra Club is putting up a bunch of phony and unsubstantiated ads and will do anything to defeat Senator Gorton," Bergman said.

Kevin Galvin, Washington bureau
Sierra Club TV Ad Targets Gorton
The Seattle Times, April 26, 2000

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