USA: Boise Cascade Attacks Environmental Group

Publisher Name: 
Creators' Syndicate

AUSTIN, Texas -- Now here's an interesting development: The Boise Cascade
Corp. is targeting Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the environmental group
that has gotten Home Depot, Lowe's and other major companies to stop buying
wood from the remaining old-growth forests. Since the RAN folks have been
targeting Boise Cascade to get the company to stop logging in old-growth
forests, this may seem to be a case of turnabout-is-fair-play. Actually,
it's another corporate campaign -- like SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits
against public participation) -- designed to silence critics of corporate
practice. Boise Cascade is working with two industry-supported front groups,
trying to get the IRS to cancel Rainforest's tax-exempt status and to
pressure its funders to cut off the group's money.

Some hilarity attaches to the letter of complaint to the IRS from something
called the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a property rights outfit headed
by former Wyoming Sen. Malcolm Wallop. According to Frontiers of Freedom
(why do they all have names like that?), "RAN devotes most of its $3
million-plus annual war chest (you understand $3 million is peanuts to Boise
Cascade) (SET ITAL) to pressure campaigns aimed at forcing corporations to
change the way they do business. (END ITAL) GASP. No! Not that!

Well! Such lese majeste convinced the Frontiers of Freedom, which seems to
have awfully constricted frontiers, that freedom does not include tax-exempt
status for RAN. Its specific claims are that RAN conducted several peaceful
protests, wrote letters, produced street theater and supported civil
disobedience. On RAN's bad-egg side are several protesters who have gotten
arrested for trespassing after climbing tall buildings to put up large
protest banners. These bear such subversive messages as 'Stop Selling
Old-Growth Wood," "Do Your Children Know You're Buying Old-Growth Wood?" and
"Human Rights Before Drilling Rights."

The complaint huffs, "RAN's objectives are hardly limited to its tax-exempt
purpose -- education." By way of illustration, the group cites this chilling
act of eco-terrorism: "On Oct. 24, 2000, RAN activists taunted Boise Cascade
by floating over the company's headquarters a 120-foot inflatable balloon
shaped like a dinosaur and bearing a sign reading, 'Boise Cascade: I love
logging old-growth.'"

I think we can argue that's quite educational, in the broader sense. RAN
has negotiated and settled agreements with other major lumber companies,
such as Weyerhauser, Canadian Forest Products, etc. RAN is opposed to all
forms of violence and to property destruction.

Boise Cascade has written directly to foundations and other groups that
support RAN, claiming, "Reckless, unlawful and untruthful attacks," "false
and defamatory statements," "harassment and intimidation" (especially a mean
and vicious campaign of Christmas-wish letters from children to Boise's CEO
asking him to stop logging old-growth forests). Again, this may strike you
as a case of "You harass me, and I'll harass you," but then we all lose
sight of the main point, don't we? That logging old-growth forests does
irreparable damage. There's a wonderful Battle of Quotes going on: By
associating RAN with violent, militant eco-terrorists, Boise can quote all
kinds of splendidly nutty statements. On the other hand, RAN found these
gems from Ron Arnold, vice president of yet another property-rights group
working against RAN -- this one bearing the title Center for the Defense of
Free Enterprise -- who told the Boston Globe in 1992, "We are sick to death
of environmentalism, and so we will destroy it." And he told The New York
Times in 1991, "We want to destroy the environmentalists by taking away
their money and their members."

As we watch RAN's struggle with Boise Cascade and watch corporations in
general develop new weapons against their critics, it is useful to take a
step back. The Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (which leaves them
with the unfortunate acronym POCLAD) does just that. The group's
thought-provoking work on the questions of corporate power in a democracy go
beyond redressing a specific wrong to ask what we can do about it in a
larger sense. As FDR said, "The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the
people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes
stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is
Fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any
controlling private power." I find POCLAD most useful for the questions it
asks: "What is property? Who decides what is public and private? What is
liberty? Who is it for? Should a business corporation be regarded as a
citizen? Why does the General Motors Corp. have more rights than the United
Auto Workers Union? ... Thousands of groups know how to stop an incinerator,
organize a union, block a timber harvest sale, decrease a toxic emission,
orchestrate a referendum or initiative, enact new permitting and disclosure
regulations. (But) people spend years getting regulatory agencies to lessen
a single corporate harm."

I'm rooting for RAN against Boise Cascade and for an end to logging in
old-growth forests, but I think we need to look at some larger questions,
too.

AMP Section Name:CorpWatch