State public lands commissioner breaks campaign vow, accepts timber money

OLYMPIA — State Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has accepted $100,000 in campaign contributions from timber and wood-products companies — despite a previous campaign pledge that he would not accept cash from industries that he would regulate.

When running to become the state's top logging regulator in 2008, Goldmark, a Democrat, said it was “reprehensible” for his opponent, then-incumbent Doug Sutherland, to accept money from timber harvesters.

Goldmark narrowly defeated Sutherland by a thin 50.55 percent to 49.45 percent margin and was re-elected in 2012.

Goldmark said he didn't sustain his campaign pledge because he is not influenced by money from the timber industry.

“It wasn't something that I felt was really pivotal to my ability to represent the public and act always in the public interest,” he told The Seattle Times.

Environmentalists irked

But some environmentalists who supported his campaign now say Goldmark has grown too close to timber companies.

Goldmark's Department of Natural Resources manages approximately 371,000 acres of state trust forestlands on the Olympic Peninsula.

Peter Goldman of the Washington Forest Law Center said Goldmark deceived the environmental community to win its support in 2008.

“We do feel there was a lack of a candor with his commitment to conservation,” Goldman said.

They are particularly concerned that the Department of Natural Resources, DNR, hasn't done more to restrict logging in landslide-prone areas, such as eastern Snohomish County, where clearcutting in 2004 might have led to the slide that inundated Oso on March 22.

Crews have unearthed the remains of 39 people killed by the slide.

Contributors

Political contributors included a who's who in the Olympic Peninsula's and state's timber industry, including Rayonier, Weyerhaeuser and Port Angeles-based Merrill & Ring and Green Crow companies.

The lengthy list of Goldmark contributors can be found on the state Public Disclosure Commission's website at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Goldmark, then typing “Goldmark” in the “Candidate/Committee” line.

Regarding the Oso disaster, Goldmark said he will not speculate on what might have caused the mudslide until scientists complete a review.

He said his DNR made rule changes during his time in office, such as action taken by the Forest Practices Board to eliminate a provision that allowed some landowners to avoid scrutiny of sites in unstable areas.

While environmentalists are targeting Goldmark now, it was the timber industry slamming him in his inaugural lands commissioner campaign in 2008.

One of the forest-products industry's political committees spent $600,000 trying to defeat him, with the largest donation coming directly from Weyerhaeuser.

Campaign statements

In the final weeks of the campaign, Goldmark made an issue of that money, accusing Sutherland of accepting campaign cash after turning a blind eye to inappropriate logging.

Such campaign contributions were “wrong” and “reprehensible” and “a glaring example of why we need change,” Goldmark said during the campaign.

Goldmark said in a recent interview that he doesn't feel his decisions in office are influenced by campaign dollars.

Todd Myers, Sutherland's 2008 campaign manager, said Goldmark appears to have realized that managing state forestlands is guided by competent DNR scientists and is more complicated than catering either to environmentalists or timber companies.

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The Associated Press and PDN Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.

Last modified: April 19. 2014 4:08PM
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