Rusty Gregory and Ron Cohen called out by Powder Magazine, Cohen responds
An article in Powder Magazine called out two of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s top executives this month, claiming they both have supported politicians who deny climate change, a charge MMSA Vice President Ron Cohen calls a gross oversimplification. The story, written by Porter Fox and published on November 3, states that Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory donated $21,000 to Republican Rep. Paul Cook between 2010 and 2015, and that Cohen donated $5,000 to Mary Landrieu, a former Democratic U.S. Senator from Louisiana, in 2014. Fox names Landrieu (who was defeated by Republican Bill Cassidy that same year) as “one of the only Democrats who supported the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and nearly all oil industry interests…”
“I made a donation on behalf of an issue I was advocating,” Cohen told The Sheet last week. “The issue I was advocating was the Mammoth Base Land Exchange,” which would swap approximately 30.6 acres of National Forest System Land near the Main Lodge for approximately 1317.5 acres of land in the Inyo, Plumas and Stanislaus National Forests. “I can make a lot of arguments to you that redeveloping the base here…has implications that are favorable to [preventing] climate change. I’d rather have a new Mammoth Mountain Inn that’s built to gold standards than the old one I have now that is completely inefficient,” said Cohen.
“Mary Landrieu was the chair of the Senate Natural Resources Commission [NRC] when our bill was making its way through,” Cohen told The Sheet. “We were advocating for our land exchange bill. That’s what you do. That’s lobbying. We had a lobbyist and we made donations as part of our lobbying effort. It’s 100 percent legal.”
Cohen said that Landrieu’s political positions were not what influenced him to donate to her campaign, but the fact that she was the head of the NRC. “I don’t get to pick or choose who is chair of that committee,” he said. “I’ve just got to live within the system that’s there.”
The land exchange bill, HR1241, passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on December 12, 2014, The Sheet reported at the time. Congressman Paul Cook (who represents District 8, which includes the Eastern Sierra) drafted HR1241, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced it to the Senate.
Cook is listed on www.votesmart.org as holding a policy position that does not support the federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as supporting the Keystone XL pipeline. The site also lists Mary Landrieu as supporting the Keystone XL pipeline and not supporting the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014.
Cohen denounced Fox’s piece as “weak,” saying it was “more of an advocacy piece” than journalism.
“The only thing you can take away from that article is, before I make a contribution to somebody, I have to make sure that they 100 percent ideologically line up with my beliefs, and that’s just not the world we live in,” said Cohen. “It’s just an oversimplification of the way the system works.”
He insisted that the reality of politics and governance is not as black-and-white as the article’s author implies. “Who else gave money to Mary Landrieu? How about the Environmental Defense Fund,” Cohen said.
Indeed, Landrieu was praised by the Environmental Defense Fund in 2010 for her proposal to “include aggressive measures in legislation that would accelerate restoration of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands” in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
“So if you look at the people who they singled out in [the Powder story], most of them have a very obvious…record of who they made donations to. If you look at Rusty you’d also see he’s made donations to Dianne Feinstein, or to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, or to the National Republican Congressional Committee.”
On the Center for Responsive Politics’ website, www.opensecrets.org, Alan S. Gregory, who lists his occupation as Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, indeed has made donations to Democrats like Harry Reid ($2,000), who once said “climate change is the worst problem facing the world today,” and Mark Udall ($5,500), who said that the changing climate was “one of the most significant challenges of our time.”