Newt Gingrich’s Contract with the Earth

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has a new book out, “A Contract with the Earth,” which, Publishers Weekly says, calls for “businessmen and conservationists to form ‘compatible partnerships'” on the environment.

“Compatible partnerships” between business and “conservationists” usually run along the lines of businesses forking over loads of cash to big-government environmental organizations in exchange for the perception that their company will be put slightly lower on Big Green’s hit list.

I concede that once in a while the motive is different — sometimes businesses see a way to profit from new regulations, so they sincerely support Big Green’s efforts to get us to pay for them. That sort of sincerity we can do without.

At a conservative environmental policy meeting in 1996 a list of complaints on environmental issues were raised about then-Speaker Gingrich. The list, which I believe provides some context for Gingrich’s book tour, was published in a contemporaneous National Center newsletter article under the apt title, “Conservatives Ponder What to Do When the GOP House Speaker is on the Other Side“:

…Among the policy disagreements conservatives have with the Speaker:

Gingrich supported and fought to protect Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt’s National Biological Service, a new expansion of the federal government’s ability to target private property for government acquisition;

Gingrich has given the handful of environmental establishment Republicans veto power over all environmental legislation by establishing a House Task Force on the Environment to decide what environmental legislation will and will not be voted on in the House and then stacking the task force with members who disagree with conservatives on environmental issues;

Gingrich supports creation of federal Heritage Areas, a proposal that would, if approved, use federal tax dollars to empower local governments to control local property at the expense of local property owners;

In published interviews Gingrich has implied that conservatives and rural Westerners need to “grow” [read: become more liberal] on environmental issues;

Gingrich urged Bob Dole to drop his efforts to pass a property rights bill to compensate Americans if regulations reduce the value of their property by one-third or more, despite public opinion polls showing that some 70% of the American people (66% according to a Times-Mirror poll and 72% according to a Polling Company survey) support such legislation. Property rights advocates believe such legislation will eventually pass the Congress if Members of Congress are forced to go on the record as for or against it;

Gingrich frequently confers with left-wing environmentalists but declines to extend the same courtesy to conservatives on the same issues;

Gingrich co-sponsored a bill to create a National Institute on the Environment, which inevitably would devolve into yet another government-funded body requiring the discovery of new environmental risks to justify its existence;

Gingrich opposes opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, even though this exploration is environmentally-safe and is vital to the economy of Native residents such as Inupiat Eskimos;

Gingrich supports regulation even when scientific evidence of a need for the regulation is weak. For instance, Gingrich has distanced himself publicly from conservative Congressmen, such as House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, who advocate lifting environmental regulations in cases where the evidence that the regulations help the environment is weak.

(As a side note, in light of the California fires, it is interesting to read the first article in that same newsletter, which describes the environmental movement’s ardent opposition to a bill by Senator Larry Craig to address “high risk” forests, and decribes conservatives discussing “with some frustration the environmentalist movement’s ability to, as one participant put it, ‘Lie at will and never get caught at it.'”)

One of the things we tried very hard to do back then was to get a meeting with then-Speaker Gingrich to discuss these concerns. He not only wouldn’t grant one, but his staff was arrogant and rude in turning down the requests. No polite “he’s love to but he’s so very busy” brush-offs for them, no sir. They wanted the contempt to show.

Message received.

Go here for even more reasons to doubt Newt Gingrich is an honest broker between big-government environmental organizations and mainstream conservatives.

I’ll buy the book and read it, thereby giving Newt Gingrich a bigger benefit of the doubt on environmental issues than he ever gave us. You’ll hear from me again about this, later.

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