Ventura and Santa Barbara environmentalists have attacked Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Ventura) for distributing a political flyer in which the incumbent congressman claims the support of environmentalists as well as "seals, pelicans and island foxes."
Lagomarsino faces a serious challenge from state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), who has been endorsed by environmental groups for his "consistently outstanding" voting record on water, toxic-waste and clean-air issues.
This week, several environmentalist groups called Lagomarsino's flyer misleading. Lagomarsino "has taken no leadership role of his own on environmental issues," said Bob Sollen, a spokesman for the Sierra Club chapter that represents Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Sollen said his group occasionally sends the congressman thank-you letters for accommodating pro-environment requests but that Lagomarsino's campaign "has taken those letters and stretched the truth to the breaking point."
He said the Sierra Club is considering holding a news conference to underscore its criticisms of Lagomarsino and its support of Hart.
Lucy Blake, executive director of the California League of Conservation Voters, a nonpartisan group that supports environmentally minded candidates, also expressed her ire at the flyer.
"Bob Lagomarsino has consistently throughout this campaign tried to portray himself as an environmentalist despite his very weak voting record in Congress," she said.
On Tuesday, Lagomarsino's campaign manager, Ed Bedwell, fired back at the critics, claiming that the environmentalists have misled the public on Lagomarsino's voting record.
Lagomarsino "recognizes the need for environmental protection and preservation and also recognizes the needs and wishes of people throughout the entire 19th Congressional District, and not only the wishes of one group of people," Bedwell said.
He added that the congressman in 1984 introduced a bill that added 60,000 acres of wilderness to the Los Padres National Forest in the back country of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Bedwell also cited Lagomarsino's support for upgrading Channel Islands National Monument to Channel Islands National Park, a move affording the islands greater protection. Lagomarsino received a commendation for the action from then-President Jimmy Carter, Bedwell said.
Environmentalists downplay those efforts, claiming they are minimal accomplishments for a congressman who has been in office 14 years. And they object to the wording of the flyer, which reads in part, "If the seals, pelicans and island foxes could vote, they'd tell you why they support congressman Bob Lagomarsino."
"That's handy--because they don't," Russ Baggerly, a spokesman for the Ventura County Environmental Coalition, noted dryly.
Baggerly did praise Lagomarsino for supporting a "Wild and Scenic River" designation for most of the Sespe River, which traverses the Los Padres National Forest. But, he added, Lagomarsino excluded the Devil's Gate area in the lower Sespe and a portion at the upper end of the river. There is some concern that this would allow the construction of dams there, although no such proposals are under consideration today.
Many environmentalists say that Lagomarsino has a dismal voting record when it comes to issues that deal with ozone, smog, acid rain, nuclear power, clean water funding, toxic cleanup funding, Arctic drilling and banning pesticides in food.
In its September/October issue, Environmental Action, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, put Lagomarsino on its "Dirty Dozen" list for having what they say is one of the worst congressional voting records on environmental issues.
"Lagomarsino has failed to endorse clean-air bills and . . . voted against key amendments to the Superfund Law giving citizens the right to know about chemical threats in their communities," the article said.
Lagomarsino also received low marks from the national League of Conservation Voters. While Hart won a 100% rating, Lagomarsino received a 38% rating for his votes on key environmental bills.