Leaked memos seem to be a recurring problem for Republican Sen. Slade Gorton. The Washington lawmaker received unwanted publicity in February when environmentalists obtained a memo revealing that industry groups had written his Endangered Species Act reform bill (HCN, 5/1/95).
Now comes a second memo, dated June 1 and directed to the managers of three public utilities in the Pacific Northwest. It urges the utilities to join Gorton in an "aggressive" campaign to support a legislative initiative to cap spending on endangered Snake River salmon, reports AP. The public relations effort would be "a targeted, focused, region-wide communications effort ... directed by Sen. Gorton." Gorton's chief of staff immediately backpedaled, admitting that the memo went too far in describing Gorton's role. "I didn't mean that. We can't do that. It's not legal," said staffer Tony Williams, noting that it breaks Senate rules.
Gorton's plan would also create a new tribal and state body to decide which fish runs survive and which die. Wendy Wilson of Idaho Rivers United was outraged: "BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) spends many times more money on nuclear power plant debts and subsidies to industries (than on fish and wildlife). Why doesn't Gorton cap those costs?" Meanwhile, BPA announced July 10 that it will cut its power rates for some utilities and industries, including the region's aluminum smelters, while raising rates for many residential customers.