Rep. Dave Reichert’s “conscience-driven independent streak” was on display once again last week in a closed-door meeting with 8th Congressional District Republican PCO’s, where the three-term congressman attempted to defend the strategy behind his handful of pro-environmental votes. But before speaking frankly, he had to make sure that he was amongst friends:
Now, first of all, are there any reporters in the room? Does anybody recognize … are there any people in here that you recognize as strangers? So we know that all of us in here are family, right?
Well, apparently not, hence the leak of this secretly recorded audio from the meeting, which I now provide to you, totally unedited:
Aren’t full-featured smart phones wonderful?
Rep. Reichert goes on to explain the “certain moves, chess pieces, strategies” he must employ to hold his “50/50 district,” even if it means breaking with his party, and his conscience, to occasionally cast a vote in favor of the environment.
Uh, I just wanted to be honest with you. You know Jennifer Dunn was an environmentalist, uh, in her votes, too. Uh, she was also pro-choice. I don’t know if most of you remember that now. But, but, if you want to hold on to this district, there are certain, there are certain things that you must, uh, do. This is a 50/50 district.
Notice how Reichert distinguishes between being an environmentalist, and being an environmentalist in one’s votes. That’s kinda the whole theme here.
Now if you look at Senator Brown’s race, uh, he took, in order for him to win that race in Massachusetts, it took 60 percent of the independent votes to win. Now you may not get, if you watch Senator Brown’s votes now over the next six years you might say, “What the heck… why did we vote for him?” you know, Massachusetts people. But he’s going to be maybe 70/30, maybe he’s going to be an 80/20, but at least you don’t have a 99 percent/one. You know 99 D, one percent R. Uh, you have a 70/30, 80/20. You have got to pick your battles.
Hear that? You gotta pick your battles. And while Reichert loves to regale his audiences with tales of being shot at, and staring the Green River Killer straight in the eyes (indeed, at almost six and a half minutes, this may be the longest I’ve ever heard Reichert go without mentioning his stint as sheriff), hell if he’s gonna take on those scary, hemp-wearing, granola-crunching, tree-hugging environmentalists.
Uh, if you look at the Pombo race in California – all of you remember Mr. Pombo? – he was a 20 percent. He had 20 percent victory in California. He was a huge roadblock to the environmentalists. They came in – was it two years ago we lost? – two or four years ago he lost. The environmental groups came in with millions of dollars and flipped that 20 percent, 20 points, they flipped that district. He lost.
I only have two to three percent to play with, every two years, and I have to raise three to four million dollars to stay in, to do it. I am a 90/10. 90 to 10, if you look at my votes. All the TARP votes are no, all the stimulus package votes are no, the health care I’ve been no all three times.
Let’s be clear: Reichert is no environmental leader, and he sure as hell doesn’t want to be perceived as one, at least not behind closed Republican doors. He votes 90% with his Republican leadership, and that other 10%…? Well, that’s just what he needs to do in order to keep those big, bad environmentalists from kneecapping him the same way they did poor Rep. Pombo.
Wild Sky was a done deal. It was already in its process. It had been worked on for eight years before I even came to Congress. Jennifer Dunn endorsed Wild Sky, and I followed in her footsteps per her advice.
[...] So, uh, you know, it, it, it, was it was a good vote. It was a good move on my part to do that. … Because I’ve only, I’ve, supported Wild Sky, I’ve supported Alpine Lakes, because of the reasons that I just laid out to you. They are – what I’ve done is taken out I’ve taken them out of the game in this district. They’re out.
Hear that, Washington Conservation Voters and other environmental groups? Reichert has taken you “out of the game” in his district. You’re out. So… how’s it feel to be played by Dave Reichert?
And it’s not like we all didn’t have a heads up, for this isn’t the first time Reichert has publicly said a little more than he probably should’ve about his brand of pragmatic politics… for example this 2006 speech before the Mainstream Republicans in which he insists on detailing the obvious:
And so when the leadership comes to me and says, “Dave we need you to take a vote over here, because we want to protect you and keep this majority,” I do it.
Of course, less surprising than Reichert’s repeated admission that he blatantly panders to environmentalists in order to maintain his 90% Republican voting record in his 50/50 district, is that the Seattle Times rewarded him for it by outrageously lauding him as a “conscience-driven independent.”
How embarrassing. And not just for the Times. For while environmental leaders may feel like they’ve scored a strategic victory by strong-arming Reichert into compliance, their narrow focus on their own legislative agenda ends up hurting the broader agenda of the progressive community as a whole. WA-08 is a 50/50 district with a congressman who votes 90/10, at least partially because environmental groups have failed to hold Reichert responsible for his hypocrisy.
Were he representing a more conservative district, that might be acceptable, but we could do much better than that in WA-08… if only environmental voters in his district would take Reichert at his word, rather than his vote.