The 218-member, bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, established in 1989 in part to preserve and protect America's habitat, is one of the largest, most powerful, and least known caucuses on Capitol Hill.
"At first we focused on safeguarding the interests of hunters. Since then, the agenda has broadened," says Dallas Miner, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the goals and activities of the CSC.
"Broadened," say critics, is too kind. "CSC is nothing but a conduit for the oil and gas lobby, developers, and the gun lobby to have influence with caucus members," says Peter Kelley of the League of Conservation Voters. On private duck-hunting reserves in Maryland, CSC boys bond with corporate execs who have agendas to push and money to burn. Groups like the Smokeless Tobacco Council hold clay pigeon shoots to aid the foundation, charging lobbyists up to $600 to hobnob with members.
Working rent-free out of the D.C. office of the Olin Corporation (the Winchester folks), the foundation receives financial support from a virtual who's who of hunters' rights and big oil: the NRA, Safari Club International, American Cyanamid, Chevron, Dow Chemical, and the National Cattlemen's Association. "It shows CSC [members] to be fraudulent conservationists," says Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the U.S. "They're pimps for corporate America."
With powerful Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks and Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell as members, CSC victories in 1994 included: amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (letting U.S. hunters import their polar bear trophies) and the California Desert Protection Act (which will likely permit continued hunting on a large chunk of land designated for protection); and a hunters' rights provision attached to the crime bill forbidding protesters from interfering with hunts on federal land.
CSC is girding for battle over the Endangered Species Act during the 104th Congress. Caucus member Rep. Billy Tauzin, D-La., has introduced HR 1490, termed a blueprint for extinction by the National Wildlife Federation. More than two-thirds of the co-sponsors of a dubious wetlands bill (HR 1330) are CSC members, and many others back an industry-supported mining bill (S 775). With friends like these, who needs developers?