Simpson Responds to Claims by Colleagues
Washington, May 5, 2021
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson issued the following statement in response to the release by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), and Cliff Bentz (OR-02) concerning the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) publication between his office and Oregon Governor Kate Brown requested by the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity.
“When I released the details of my Columbia Basin concept, I knew there would be strong reactions. But I believed that if I explained the entire plan, not just the portion related to dam bypass, people would at least respect the fact that this is a potential comprehensive solution to the regional instability that is being caused by constant litigation over the four Lower Snake River dams. Agree or disagree, not one person I have talked to about these issues has disagreed that we have a problem here that needs to be addressed.
“Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dan Newhouse and Cliff Bentz recently sent out a press release about emails my staff has had with Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office. My staff has had discussions with nearly every governor, Member of Congress, and U.S. Senator in the Columbia Basin on this proposal. Most politely listened. Others engaged. From the start, I have said I wanted this to be a regional solution to a regional problem.
“As for the accusation that these discussions were done in secret: of course, I did not want to release the Columbia Basin Initiative until all the extremely complicated aspects of the plan came together. As I have mentioned, I have been working on this for THREE YEARS. How is that secret? I told everyone who would listen, including Reps. Newhouse and McMorris Rogers, that I was working on this.
“I knew there would be a lot of questions about the concept when it was released, so I wanted to have as many answers as possible before going public. The emails released show this. Anyone who has ever worked on solving a complex issue knows that to release a plan before it is complete is to lose credibility before you have even started. If I had not done this, I am sure that my colleagues would have criticized me for not having a fully thought out plan. Where they are dead wrong is when they say that I am not open to input from the region. I have been travelling around my state every minute that I am in Idaho talking to groups about this concept, taking their feedback—and YES, incorporating it.
“I don’t know how many times I have to say that I have not written legislation. What is available to the public is what currently exists. The text of the emails released even support this! From my staff on January 28th: “Regarding specificity, as you have seen, we are keeping it at a high level describing the issues that need to be addressed….knowing that very important decisions like these will need to be made and determined by the governors, delegation, and a number of varied interests.”
“I expected pushback when this all started. What I did not expect was colleagues with whom I have worked for a number of years on a number of issues to question my integrity, to insinuate I have lied about my motivation and in fact have nefarious intentions—to—what? Sabotage the economy of my own state? I have a strong record of public service to the State of Idaho that does not need to be listed here to prove the absurdity of that notion.
“My colleagues say that my discussions with Governor Brown’s office have a “harmful effect on regional dialogue.” I would argue that nothing undermines regional dialogue more than refusing to talk. That, combined with making harmful, untrue and personal accusations about someone that is simply trying to solve an issue that they themselves agree needs to be solved. That is both irresponsible and offensive.
“And if we are going to be questioning motivations here, I find it amazing that the entity that requested these documents was the Center for Biological Diversity. One of the extreme environmental groups that is opposed to my concept because it would end their business model of keeping the stakeholders in the region in perennial litigation over the four Lower Snake River dams. It is interesting that Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dan Newhouse and Cliff Bentz are using this group’s work in their effort to discredit me.
“In my travels around Idaho, I have found people to be more open to listening, more thoughtful, and frankly more interested in solving these issues together than some of my colleagues. While I am deeply disappointed in the destructive approach by some, I continue to be encouraged by those who actually want to protect agriculture, end frivolous lawsuits, give salmon their only fighting chance to avoid extinction, and create certainty and security for generations to come.”