WGA Continues Lockdown on WCI

by Paul Chesser, Heartland Institute Correspondent on August 11, 2009

The National Taxpayers Union has fired the latest (and probably its last, as it has bigger fish to fry with health care and Waxman-Markey in Washington) salvo in its effort to convince the members of the Western Governors Association that it needs to uphold its promise of transparency and audit the secretive Western Climate Initiative.

To recap, in June NTU wrote to WGA then-chairman Jon Huntsman Jr., Republican governor of Utah (soon to be ambassador to China) expressing concern about the degree that WGA manages and controls WCI without apparent unanimous support of WGA’s member governors. Among other concerns, NTU questioned whether taxpayer dues in states that were not members of WCI ended up supporting it anyway, and why WGA took on such a large role with WCI when it apparently was not sanctioned by all the Western governors.

But rather than address the concerns of a respected taxpayer advocacy group seeking protection for its members in the West, WGA took umbrage at the inquiry. WCI project manager Patrick Cummins composed a scathing “how dare you”-type retort in which he accused NTU of “false accusations and innuendo” which “recklessly defame the reputation of WGA…our names and that of our citizens.” Cummins, a Kerry- and Obama-supporting global warming alarmist whose reputation and salary are apparently dependent on the success of WCI, persuaded the new WGA chairman (Democratic Governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer) and vice-chairman (Republican Governor of Idaho, Butch Otter) to sign his missive. The remaining 17 WGA governors did not sign the letter.

Now NTU has responded to Cummins/WGA, recognizing that the WCI project manager’s feelings were hurt while still seeking answers about the alarmist-driven WCI:

WCI isn’t even mentioned on WGA’s “Climate Change” page… We contend that to an outside observer, these facts might indicate that either WGA does not wish to give the impression of associating itself with WCI, or that some WGA members are uncomfortable with discussing WCI….

The analysis NTU conducted of the financial records released by WGA staff shows clearly, in our view, that WGA staff spent an extraordinary amount of time promoting the agenda of the WCI. The records that you provided do NOT confirm whether WGA was completely “reimbursed” for that time, nor can they answer other legitimate questions raised by NTU’s analysis….

We raise these concerns not out of disrespect for the integrity of WGA, but rather our past experience with the interplay of funds in other organizations. As Governor Otter well knows, for example, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act he opposed while in Congress provided some $60 million in taxpayer funding each year to environmental groups supposedly for official activities and purposes only. Back then there was an obvious concern that organizations with left-leaning agendas could be playing fast and loose with taxpayer dollars….

NTU’s Pete Sepp closes the letter reiterating his organization’s mission: to assure that taxpayer dollars and interests are accounted for and transparent — principles echoed in the past by Governor Otter. “These principles were our only motivation in making our original inquiry and call for disclosure of WGA, an organization that receives public funds,” Sepp wrote. “Based on your reply, WGA does not seem interested in providing such disclosure proactively.”

Indeed, as long as the Western governors allow an alarmist-advocate-with-an-attitude like Cummins to be the shielder of their activities and a thuggish bullhorn to drive off inquirers, then their reputation will continue to slide.

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