Sunday, February 05, 2006

Exclusive: Dems May Have Challenger for Walden's Seat

We are blessed at LO to have good ears helping us "out in the field," so to speak--which is useful, because it's a big state (and we have other jobs.) We'll have another juicy tidbit tomorrow on a potential campaign by a prominent Oregonian, but tonight's big news comes from friends in Congressional District 2, who think the Dems may have found a viable challenger for very recently maligned incumbent Greg Walden.

As Carla mentioned, Walden was the only Oregon representative in either Congressional chamber to vote for the Poverty Enhancement and Deficit Maximization Act known as the budget reconciliation bill. Walden's solitary support for such a cruelly-designed bill will be one of the better cudgels his opposition will have in November--and they will dearly need it. No Oregonian got more votes for the House in 2004 than Walden; his 248,000 pulls were more than even Earl Blumenauer got from the rabid progressives of Multnomah County. But as 'generic' Democrats hover around a 10-point lead when polled for control of Congress, there is a developing chance of an electoral tsunami that washes out even less vulnerable incumbents across the country.

Enter Scott Silver, a relatively noted environmentalist from Bend. While nothing is official and things might best be described as at the "waters testing" stage, my indications are that Silver is finding the waters warm indeed. If the reception continues to be upbeat, look for an explicit statement of candidacy very soon.

So who is this man with the PR-ready name, and what kind of challenge does he pose should he declare? If you're either a believer in the sacredness of public lands, or a member of the 'recreation industry' who has a less idealistic view of wild country, you probably know Silver as a staunch defender of nondevelopment of public land, and a vocal critic of federal policies towards a "privatization" of federal turf.

Starting with a battle over ski tours with yurt camping in Three Sisters, moving to snowmobiling regulations, and finally with an organized campaign against the federal "Fee-Demo" program, Silver has become a champion of the outdoor elite and progressive non-profit alike. But he's also part of a larger culture of good-corporatism as a way to manage and preserve the commons, whether it be in an urban or rural environment. Read that last link in full--I've listed two by author Berkowitz--if you want a good scare about whether Georgia Pacific has Oregon's best interests at heart, now that the Cato Institute-forming-John Birch-founding Koch brothers own it. Silver offers his take on what it means:
"Amongst the most important, visible and powerful proponents of public lands privatisation are the Cato Institute, the Property and Environment Research Centre (formerly known as Political Economy Research Centre) and the Reason Institute," said Scott Silver. "And Koch funds have played a major role in the operation of each of these organisations."

Over the past several decades, "their money created an extensive infrastructure of libertarian and free-market think tanks from which President Bush has drawn to staff the highest rungs of the land management agencies", Silver noted.

The acquisition of Georgia-Pacific, which "does extensive logging on public lands" and "is a heavily subsidised form of corporate welfare", could accelerate the trend toward the privatisation of national forests, Silver argued.

"Logging companies such as Georgia-Pacific strip lands bare, destroy vast acreages and pay only a small fee to the federal government in proportion to what they take from the public. They do not operate in the free market when they log public forests."

Not exactly holding back, is he? It's an impassioned message, lost, I think Silver fears, among the morass of incipient disasters occupying the Bush administration. If email headers are to be believed, what he sees happening is no less a fundamental rewrite of policy than the reversals on pre-emption, torture and surveillance:
The Bush administration is disposing of your country. They are disposing of your National Parks and Forests. They are disposing of your constitution. They are disposing of your retirement benefits, your right to public education, your access to public roads, your public broadcasting system. They are parting-out and unloading everything. That much is for certain.

What remains to be seen is whether the people of this nation will rise up and fight in defense of what is being stolen from them????
Communities all up and down Walden's district, from Hood River down through the burgeoning Deschutes area, through John Day and points estward, are confronting the sudden prospect of commercial development in the midst of formely uninhabited natural areas. So make no mistake, this is an issue that can resonate with the people Silver is trying to reach.

But his prospects cannot hinge on being an activist/scientist single issue candidate, and he likely is spending this time testing out his other views on the governance of the United States, to the people of his district. The response he gets will prove us right or wrong on his potential candidacy, but if Oregon Democrats do fill out their Congressional slate for 2006 with Silver, remember where you heard it first.