When U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe called global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" in 2003, he effectively tattooed a big red target on his own forehead, at which late night talk show hosts have been taking pot shots ever since.
Now, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental advocacy group has that target in its crosshairs, hoping to shoot a bull's-eye in next year's election.
The League of Conservation Voters has named the Oklahoma Republican the first in its annual "Dirty Dozen"-list of politicians they've deemed to be environmentally unfriendly.
"As ranking member and former chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Jim Inhofe has earned his place at the top of the Dirty Dozen for consistently voting against important environmental protections," said Kristin Lee, LCV press secretary.
"In fact, Senator Inhofe doesn't even believe the consensus of the world's best scientists who tell us that global warming is occurring and must be quickly addressed," she added, noting that the lawmaker's position "puts him at odds" with the President and other members of the Republican Party.
"When it comes to his voting record, he has voted against all progress on addressing global warming pollution, including making new cars go farther on a gallon of gas. (He) not only continues to vote against policies to set America on a cleaner, more sustainable energy path, but has vowed to filibuster any climate change-related legislation that comes to the Senate floor," Lee continued.
"He's got the most over-heated rhetoric and he's the most obstinate of any member of Congress," concurred Tony Massaro, LCV's senior vice president of political affairs and public education.
On top of his "greatest hoax ever perpetrated . . . "-statement, Inhofe has also raised eyebrows for comparing global warming to the "Big Lie" of the Nazis, comparing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo and dismissing the "global warming hoax" as a scheme concocted by the Weather Channel to scare people into watching.
While his public comments have provided welcome fodder for comedians and environmentalists' barbs, the LCV takes umbrage at his legislative record.
In particular, Lee pointed out an amendment Inhofe proposed in 2005 to stop a non-binding Senate resolution stating that Congress should enact mandatory programs to curb global warming pollution in a manner that wouldn't impede the economy, and encourage other nations to do the same.
"I'll give him credit for one thing--he's consistent about it," Massaro added.
The League of Conservation Voters has been around almost as long as Inhofe's political career, having been founded in 1969.
Since 1996, they've produced an annual "Dirty Dozen" list of Congress members who are up for re-election whom they deem to be environmentally unfriendly for consistently voting "against the environment."
"Since the Dirty Dozen was launched, LCV has defeated more than half of the candidates named to the list," said Lee.
Last year, she said they ousted nine of the 13 Dirty Dozen candidates (it was a baker's dozen, apparently), including opponents thought to be undefeatable, such as Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), who served as chairman of the House Resources Committee, and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT).
(In actuality, they only ousted eight of those nine. They apparently included Ohio Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce in the nine, but she won by a slight margin, and then announced she won't be running again next year. Still, eight out of 13 isn't too shabby.)
Oklahoma's Democrat Rep. Dan Boren was also on last year's list, but he was among the lucky four who escaped LCV's coup attempt.
Massaro said the list is just getting started, with only two names on it so far for the year.
Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) was added after Inhofe.
They don't rank their yearly list of designated environmental rogues, and Massaro said it's possible they might add someone "dirtier," but added, "It's not insignificant that we've named Inhofe first."
Inhofe, in turn, has his own list.
"The LCV should be included on the list of the 12 most liberal partisan special-interest groups that make up the Democratic Party," he said in a prepared statement.
"Therefore, it should come at no surprise that I have never received high marks from this . . . liberal special-interest group that measures the greenness of politicians by how many federal laws they impose on the American people."
The veteran lawmaker said he believes "our incredible environmental progress over the years" is the result of the "ingenuity and strong sense of personal accountability that is characteristic of the American people" rather than a "morass of federal laws and regulations telling Americans what they can not do."
He also called their attack "Washington politics at its worst" and predicted that the LCV "will be notably silent about my record here in Oklahoma where I have worked to successfully focus federal attention and action toward the Tar Creek Superfund site."
He pointed to his efforts as chairman of the EPW Committee in coordinating federal agencies to remediate the site and deal with its environmental deterioration resulting from lead and zinc mining.
Inhofe also said, as EPW chair, he twice introduced legislation to expand the Acid Rain Trading Program by reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury from power plants by 70 percent by 2016.
"Unfortunately, the Democrats and their special-interest allies chose to obstruct this important bill denying the American people a major environmental victory," he said.
Inhofe was also named the U.S. Fish and Wildlife "Legislator of the Year" for his role last year in passing the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act, which is a voluntary program intended to help landowners restore fish and wildlife habitats on their lands.
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