Hollow Endorsement

Sometimes political endorsements seem a bit awkward. Maybe that’s because sometimes they don’t exist.

There’s a new bill floating around Congress. The Farm and Ranch Habitat Protection Act, proposed by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.), would amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to allow for “accidental and incidental killings of endangered species.” The bill seems to open up a loophole in the ESA; what’s “incidental” to some is crucial to others. But then again, maybe the bill is reasonable: In a letter to his House colleagues, Campbell even touted the support of the National Audubon Society.

Why would the Audubon Society, an organization that “advocates the stringent enforcement of the Endangered Species Act,” endorse such a bill? Good question—particularly because the Audubon Society had never even heard of the bill, let alone supported it.

Campbell was caught red-handed when Audubon found out he was falsely listing their organization, as well as the Planning and Conservation League, as supporters of his bill in an April 20th letter addressed to fellow Congress members.

Responding to Campbell on April 30, Audubon vice president Daniel Beard set the record straight: “Until we have the opportunity to fully examine your legislation and determine whether it would provide a net benefit to listed species on the national level, we can not, and do not, endorse your bill.”

Given that the Audubon Society didn’t endorse his proposed bill, you’d think Campbell would promptly remove their name from the list of supporters. Nope. Campbell’s revised letter still named Audubon as supporters—despite their continued protest—until finally a third version was sent out which at last omitted mention of the Society altogether.


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  • Eric Umansky is a deputy managing editor of ProPublica.