Green group: GOP reps looking for foreign ties ‘abuse their positions’
A high-profile environmental group denied Wednesday that it is acting on behalf of a foreign government and accused a pair of GOP lawmakers of abusing their power in investigating the organization.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) are investigating the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), saying that its advocacy against relocating a Marine Corps base in Japan might be on behalf of the local Okinawa government.
Most of CBD’s response Wednesday to Bishop and Westerman is explaining its mission and why it opposes the Marine Corps project — to protect the Okinawa dugong, an endangered marine mammal.
“The center’s decision to help the dugong … [is] exclusively determined, controlled and directed by the center’s board of directors and executive director. Neither its dugong campaign, nor any of its conservation work, is controlled in any matter by any other domestic or foreign interest,” Kieran Suckling, CBD’s president, wrote to the committee.
“If Reps. Bishop and Westerman are truly confused about the center’s motivation and control, it is perhaps because they abuse their positions of power so regularly, and are so deeply influenced by powerful corporate donors, that they are unable to conceive of people being motivated by empathy, public interest and respect for the rule of law and democracy,” Suckling continued.
CBD is the second group the lawmakers have investigated over potential foreign ties. Earlier in June, they shot off a letter to the Natural Resources Defense Council asking if it is an agent of the Chinese government, something the group denied.
CBD has been active in court fights against the Trump administration’s environmental and conservation policies, leading to accusations that the lawmakers are trying to stop legitimate advocacy activities.
Bishop and Westerman had sought numerous categories of documents related to potential lobbying on behalf of a foreign government, which must be registered with the federal government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
But CBD repeatedly declined to provide those documents, saying that the documents do not exist since it does not act on behalf of any foreign government.
Suckling also asked if Bishop and Westerman had any outside help writing their letter, and demanded “all correspondence concerning this issue between themselves or their staff and any individuals or organizations outside the federal government and Congress,” with a 30-day deadline.