Special to The Tampa Tribune
In nature, camouflage is often a defensive strategy. It allows prey to escape detection. But in politics, camouflage can be used by the predators just as well. And it appears many traditionally left-leaning foundations have now found their own camouflage among a traditionally right-leaning community: sportsmen’s groups.
Many of these organizations started out furthering an agenda that ensured hunters and anglers could continue their favorite pastime for generations to come. But more recently, many of these groups have been co-opted by wealthy grant-making bodies notorious for their support of anti-gun, radical environmentalist agendas, all the while purporting to represent the hunting and fishing community.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, for example, has been described in the media as “Republican-leaning.” It claims to support the Second Amendment. Yet TRCP received $1.2 million to form a group that benefits labor unions and seeks to draw members away from the National Rifle Association. That group, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, also happened to be chaired at one time by none other than current AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
There’s also the Isaac Walton League of America. The IWLA has local chapters across the country that promote sport shooting. Yet IWLA’s national office has received substantial funding over the years from the anti-gun Joyce Foundation, on whose board Barack Obama sat from 1994-2002. IWLA has also funded scholarships claiming the Second Amendment doesn’t protect individual gun rights.
Additionally, the IWLA has received nearly a million dollars from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to focus on, among other things, human population control issues. On its website, it advocates for “increased access to reproductive health care.” This from a group founded by anglers, for anglers.
Then there’s the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, which last year was invited to the White House to speak on behalf of sportsmen in the ongoing gun-control debate. Bull Moose’s co-founders are former employees of Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall. The Western Conservation Foundation (WCF) is a major donor, an organization that doles out money to the environmentalist movement in the West.
WCF contributes to such environmental organizations as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Audubon Society, and Earthjustice, the self-proclaimed “law firm of the environment.”
The leadership and spending priorities of these ostensible sportsmen’s groups also tell a different tale, one of politics and ideology — not sportsmen and the great outdoors.
The executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers — which claims “hunting and fishing isn’t what we do — it’s who we are” — is deeply involved in Democratic Party politics. He was a member of the Montana Sportsmen for Obama Committee and headed the “Montana Hunter and Anglers Leadership Fund” political action committee. Under his leadership, the PAC spent $1.6 million helping elect Democrat Jon Tester. Perhaps being political operatives is “who else they are.”
Speaking of priorities, Trout Unlimited, which was founded in the 1950s as an association of fly fisherman, might as well be on the holiday card list of Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Included among its recent campaigns is opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and increased natural gas production in Pennsylvania, as well as support for the environmental dream of “cap-and-trade” carbon legislation. It shouldn’t be surprising then that, over the past five years, Trout Unlimited has received more than $20 million from anti-energy environmentalist foundations.
None of this is to say that in order to speak for “real sportsmen” an organization has to be devoutly conservative. Not at all. It’s only to say that when you see these and other outdoorsy-sounding organizations speaking on sportsmen’s behalf, keep in mind the hidden hands that pull the strings.
Will Coggin is a senior research analyst for the Center for Consumer Freedom, which operates GreenDecoys.com (www.greendecoys.com).