I expect that most people who work inside the D.C. Beltway are big fans of the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." A lot of folks probably like to think of themselves as modern-day Jefferson Smiths, fighting against what's wrong about Washington and standing up for what's right for America. I freely confess that I've got those fantasies.
One way in which I resemble Jimmy Stewart’s character in the film is that I am frequently star-struck by the trappings of official Washington. My wife makes fun of the fact that I can identify various undersecretaries and freshmen members of Congress by sight. In the same vein, when I received a very nice thank-you note signed by a Senator after appearing on a panel discussion about a clean water bill he championed, there was a part of me that was sure he had written it himself, the rest of his legislative obligations be damned. I'm a sucker for the idea of Washington.
So when I see something that shocks me back to the realities of how business is done here, I don't like it. That happened yesterday, when a large number of Representatives joined a letter condemning an initiative by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to better protect small and seasonal streams and wetlands, even though the letter contains multiple inaccuracies, exaggerations, and downright falsehoods, and that was pointed out to Representatives specifically.
When the letter began circulating to House offices, NRDC developed an annotated version of the letter, in which we highlighted the ways in which the claims that were being made were wrong or misleading. We sent this analysis to every member of the House of Representatives (that document is available here).
Unfortunately, the letter yesterday is identical to the one we warned members about. This makes me wonder: how much do these Representatives actually care about the truth? If you have the same question and would object to your member of Congress relying on and spreading bad information, please take a look at the final letter – the final pages contain a list of which members signed on – and please let them know (here’s a directory of Representatives for anyone able to reach out).