The panel was lead by Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, a contender to take over as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee next year, so we were particularly interested to hear his views on the never-ending battle between D.C. and the rest of us.
Bishop summed that up in a somewhat heated exchange with a reporter from U.S. News and World Report, who suggested public lands in the West could only be protected by lawmakers in Washington.
The reporter questioned whether special interest groups and lobbyists could effectively apply more pressure to state lawmakers to do harmful, untold things to “federal” land, in essence suggesting that members of Congress would never buckle to such pressure.
“What makes you confident that state legislators would be able to push back against that influence, such as with development that might go beyond what many people might be seeking, on these federal lands?” the reporter asked.
Bishop’s response: “One of the most insulting questions I’ve ever had.”
“I was speaker of the House in Utah, now I am chairman of the public lands subcommittee here in Washington,” Bishop said. “Because I am a congressman, I am now better, brighter, more valuable, more moral than I was as speaker of the House?”
“It is a false premise and it is a silly premise to think that just because you are in Washington, it means you make better decisions than somebody in the state legislature,” Bishop said.
“I refute it, I deny it, and I find it personally insulting.”
We did a little checking, and found that in 2011, there were 12,000 registered lobbyists in Washington who spent more than $3 billion to influence lawmakers. That same year, there were 453 registered lobbyists in Colorado.
There’s a problem all right, but it’s not out here.