Do Democrats Hate the Public as much as Republicans?

by lizard

Two days before Earth Day, Ochenski called out Steve Bullock for his secret logging deal, describing the criticism of Bullock’s move “well-deserved flak”. Indeed. From Ochenski’s column:

Gov. Steve Bullock recently announced his recommendation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that some 5.1 million acres of Montana’s national forest lands be nominated for expedited logging under the new Farm Bill’s Sec. 8204.

However, when questioned as to the basis for his decision, which will affect virtually everyone in the forested regions of our state, it turns out there were only seven people involved, no public notice, and no opportunity for public review and comment. For a governor who campaigned on – and frequently boasts of – open government and transparency, it’s tough to align Bullock’s words with his actions on this important issue.

Steve Kelly, a former congressional candidate (and 4&20 regular) decided not to let Bullock’s lapse of principle go unchallenged:

A Bozeman man on Tuesday sued Gov. Steve Bullock and some top administration officials, accusing them of violating the state constitution by nominating 5.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land for logging without giving the public a chance to participate.

Steve Kelly, a Bozeman artist and former congressional candidate, filed the complaint in the Gallatin County District Court. He also named Bullock’s natural resources adviser Tim Baker, state Natural Resources and Conservation Director John Tubbs and state forester Bob Harrington in the lawsuit.

He contended that Bullock and the other officials violated the public’s right to know and the public’s right to participate in the Montana Constitution.

The idea that state politicians should be constrained by pesky documents like our state constitution is probably a few generations away from being expunged from our collective consciousness. The trade agreements currently being negotiated behind closed doors will install a legal framework essentially diluting the laws and regulations of nations until they become meaningless.

Not surprisingly, Democrats are once again selling out their base, especially labor. The Transatlantic Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are trade agreements that will empower multinational corporations to supersede the interests of nation-states. Obviously if this was widely known by the public, it would be widely opposed.

Congress had been seeking “fast-track” status for these negotiations because they know the reaction will be overwhelmingly negative if the public actually finds out what is being negotiated. Now that awareness about this congressional fast-tracking has leaked, clearly there’s only one thing to do—re-brand fast-track:

The Democratic Party has responded to the resistance against ramming through new trade agreements by giving the process a new name. “Fast-track” has been rebranded as “smart-track” and, voilà, new packaging is supposed to make us forget the rotten hulk underneath the thin veneer.

Don’t be fooled. The Obama administration and its Senate enablers are nowhere near giving up on its two gigantic trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Because the stealthy “fast track” route — special rules speeding trade legislation through Congress with little opportunity for debate and no possibility of amendments — is the only way these corporate wish lists can be enacted, a “rebranding” is in order.

The new chair of the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, earlier this month, in a speech given to apparel-industry corporate executives, announced his intention to replace the “fast track” process with a “smart track” process. That is noteworthy because the Finance Committee has responsibility in the Senate for trade legislation. It also noteworthy because Senator Wyden has voted to approve the last five U.S. “free trade” agreements, going back to 2005.

Although the Transatlantic Partnership being negotiated between the United States and the European Union receives less attention than the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, neither has much chance of passing without special fast-track authority. Should Congress agree to grant the White House fast-track authority, the Obama administration would negotiate a deal and submit the text for approval to Congress under rules that would prohibit any amendments or changes, allow only a limited time for debate, and require a straight yes or no vote.

None other than the previous U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk, said the Trans-Pacific Partnership has to be secret because if people knew what was in it, it would never pass. We should take him at his word.

How can Democrats convince people they are worth supporting when they repeatedly pull this kind of shit? I don’t know, but I’m sick and tired of reading about betrayal after betrayal.


  1. In the article about Steve Kelly’s lawsuit, Governor Bullock states that these future National Forest logging projects will be done with “with rigorous science and allowing for full public involvement.”

    Here’s what that really means:

    The 5 million acres of National Forests nominated for “fast track” logging fall under the new provision in the Farm Bill that calls for an unlimited number of timber sales up to 3,000 acre (4.7 square miles) in size each spread across our National Forests.

    Anyone can read the bill language and see very clearly that these timber sales are to be “categorically excluded” from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. Among other things this means there will be no environmental analysis as to how a timber sale could impact threatened and endangered species such as bull trout, grizzly bear and lynx. Opportunities for meaningful public input have also been severely curtailed, including removal of the citizen appeal/objection process.

    How those facts mesh with Bullock’s characterization that these logging projects will be done “with rigorous science and allowing for full public involvement” is something Montanans should look into for themselves.

    Fact is, Governor Bullock hand-picked 7 people that met in secret on the phone 5 times with absolutely no public notice, no notes taken and zero opportunity for Montanans to provide any input and nominated 5 million acres of public National Forest lands for “fast track” logging under weakened environmental analysis & public input requirements.

    Those defending this secret process ignore the fact that the February conference call agenda for the 7 people clearly states: “April 1st deadline to Governor – after broader public review/input.” See for yourself here: http://bit.ly/1m7NDyL. But as we all know now, that public review and input was never allowed. Yet now – incredibly – the Governor and the handful of people involved with this secret process are shocked that Montana citizens are upset and have concerns with this type of secret, no-notice process impacting public lands?

    To help put this 5 million acres in perspective, it’s estimated that 65-80% of the forested acres of the Lolo and Kootenai National Forests – outside of Wilderness – are nominated for “fast track” logging, including everything colored green, tan or red on this map: http://bit.ly/1mV4jtP. As a backcountry, public lands hunter I can assure you that many pockets of prime wildlife habitat and beautiful, ecologically-diverse National Forests have been nominated for “fast track” logging. Get on the ground and see for yourself.

    In a recent column, NWF’s Tom France tried to paint anyone with concerns about the secret “fast track” logging nomination process as part of “fringe groups.” Unfortunately, this is just more deception.

    For example, WildEarth Guardians – a group that’s won awards for working within open and transparent processes, and with 43,000 members in Montana and across the country – wrote Gov Bullock and requested that he withdraw the designation and restart a full process open to the public, not just hand-picked timber lobbyists and a few other people. You can read their letter here (bit.ly/PL11uz) and you can also bet that many more well-known and respected Montana citizens and organizations have also contacted Gov Bullock with similar requests.

    Unfortunately, this is just the latest evidence of the Montana timber industry working with a few well-funded conservation organizations and some politicians to greatly increase National Forest logging in Montana by weakening our environmental laws, “categorical excluding” NEPA analysis and limiting opportunities for meaningful citizen input. Montanans and our public lands and wildlife deserve far better.

    Thanks for covering this issue, Liz. The deeper one digs, the more one finds.

  2. Commenter John Francis Lee on Moon of Alabama post called politicians like Wyden and Udall “political white trash”.

  3. JC

    ” I just want to know if the Constitution is still working.”

    Gotta love Steve Kelly’s closing line in the missoulian article covering his lawsuit. The answer will be in the court’s decision to vacate Bullock’s decision or not.

    It the court doesn’t vacate Bullock’s decision, then it means that democrats have succeeded where republicans could not: destroying the open meeting and public participation part of state government that made the Montana Constitution so great.

    What’s next? Sunshine laws? We’re just a step away from a state government where corporations (including nonprofits funded by the likes of Pew oil money) tell the authorities what they want, and it gets delivered to them on a silver platter. Bring back the copper barons!

  1. 1 The Continuing Crisis of Climate Change | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] those projects. When the secretive process was called out by George Ochenski, which I wrote about here, those participants got a little […]




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