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By ANDREW C. REVKIN SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 11:56 AM
September 1, 2014 11:56 am
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Randy Olson, who shifted long ago from an academic career in marine biology to a focus on filmmaking, science communication and effective storytelling, offered this “Your Dot” contribution on Ocean Champions. This group has the simple – if daunting – goal of electing or re-electing lawmakers who fight for the oceans. Congressional politics is a rough-and-tumble arena and the group, as Olson describes in the context of a Florida race, is not afraid to play hard. Here’s his piece:
Ocean Champions: Leading the Attack on Congressman Steve Southerland, “Ocean Enemy #1”
Long before Bill Maher introduced his “Flip a District” concept on his HBO show, the folks at Ocean Champions perfected the idea. Supporters of the group choose an “Ocean Enemy #1” – the member of Congress who does the most to harm the oceans – then the organization goes after the politician who receives the dubious title.
The organization, led by the marine biologist David Wilmot, is different than many other conservation groups in that it is a 501(c)(4) organization with a connected political action committee called Ocean Champions PAC. It does three main things – get good people elected, help develop sound ocean policy, and, what I think is the most fun (but that’s just me), they go after “Ocean Enemies.”
In 2006 they put the label on California congressman Richard Pombo and not only helped get him defeated, but kept him in their crosshairs – helping make sure he lost again in 2010 when he attempted another run.
Now Ocean Champions has identified Representative Steve Southerland of Florida as its current “Ocean Enemy #1.” The latest poll commissioned by Ocean Champions shows the challenger, Gwen Graham, has taken a slight lead. Ocean Champions made a nice TV commercial featuring a local fisherman speaking out against Southerland:
By November Southerland may be joining Pombo in Davy Jones’s locker.
The chair of the Ocean Champions board is my friend Samantha Campbell. I asked her a simple question – is it working?
She replied, “Absolutely. Just look at our record of accomplishments – we’ve backed 52 members who are now serving in the 113th Congress, we recently orchestrated a bipartisan effort to defeat legislative action that would have killed funding for a sustainable fishery program, and played a major role this summer in the passage of the first piece of freestanding ocean legislation this Congress – a bill to combat harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and dead zones.”
So let me offer a view that will probably offend some conservation folks. I sometimes look at paralysis on marine conservation issues and think, “Why doesn’t someone just go to D.C. and fix this?” Ocean Champions is one group I’ve seen over the past few decades that has really taken this sort of real-world philosophy and put it into action for the oceans.
I’m a big fan, and encourage you to support them so you can help sink the ship of Southerland on election night.
David Wilmot, a marine biologist, is the president of the organization Ocean Champions.