Heather Wilson's Voting Record Reveals Her True Colors
By Gwyneth Doland and Steven Robert Allen
The Alibi is a progressive newspaper. Congresswoman Heather Wilson is a right-wing congresswoman. So it's not all that surprising that we would disagree with her on many issues, ranging from national security to the environment to women's rights.
What is surprising is that Wilson would feel justified in snubbing our readers. Her failure to keep numerous promises to meet with our editorial board shows enormous contempt for 150,000 New Mexicans who read the Alibi every week.
Thankfully, Wilson's voting record is more than sufficient to reveal her true colors. We took a fresh look at that record and were freshly appalled. During her six years in Congress, Wilson has consistently supported policies that belie the independent, moderate image she presents in her campaign ads.
Although her district is 47 percent Democrat, 34 percent Republican and 19 percent Independent, Wilson votes the Republican party line more than 90 percent of the time. Yet she has the gall to pose as a centrist. Wilson recently went so far as to claim that Democrats in Congress were so impressed by her alleged political moderation that they invited her to join their party. When pressed, her office refused to name a single Democrat who could corroborate her unlikely story. Wilson even proclaimed that she votes in line with liberal California Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi 60 percent of the time. Pelosi responded to the claim by calling it “absolutely preposterous.”
The indisputable truth is that Heather Wilson's voting record places her to the right of the American mainstream. Based on this record, we strongly urge you to not be deceived by Wilson's phony rhetoric when you vote on Nov. 2
Defending the Homeland
From the beginning, Wilson has made a big stink about how strong she is on defense. What she really means is that she's strong on defense contractors and strongly aligned with the gun lobby. We, like most Americans, support the right of citizens to bear arms, but we also believe it's important to keep assault weapons off our streets.
Wilson said earlier this year that she didn't think the 1994 assault weapons ban had made the public any safer. She supported allowing the ban to expire, which it did. Anyone with the slightest common sense knows that giving terrorists and criminals easy access to automatic assault weapons couldn't possibly make us safer. Every major national law enforcement organization in the country supported the federal assault weapons ban and worked for its passage.
During her tenure in Congress, Wilson has consistently supported policies that resulted in more guns appearing on our streets. Both the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence regularly give her a 0 rating. The National Rifle Association, on the other hand, regularly gives her an A.
Other Wilson pet policies are equally detrimental to our national security. As chair of the powerful National Security Subcommittee of the House Policy Committee, Wilson has been instrumental in supporting the Bush administration's absurd proposal for a global missile defense system. Remember the missile defense plan? From day one, it's been one of the administration's biggest defense initiatives. Unfortunately, such a system—which many scientists don't even think is technologically feasible—does nothing to protect us from international terrorist groups, our single biggest national security threat. Taxpayers have spent more than $100 billion on this boondoggle, and it still doesn't work.
Finally, there's Iraq. Every step of the way, Wilson has supported President Bush's decision to invade a country that had no connection to the 9-11 attacks, had no weapons of mass destruction, and posed no imminent threat to our nation. By creating an ideal recruiting mechanism for Islamic terrorist groups around the globe, Bush's Iraqi misadventure is setting us back in the fight against terrorism and wasting our resources, both in lives and money. As Bush's former counterterrorism czar, Richard C. Clarke, testified, the way Bush responded to the threat from al Qaeda, by ignoring it before 9-11 and attacking Iraq afterward, has made us considerably less safe.
Meanwhile, one third of our first responders at home have been sent to Iraq. Troops and resources that should have been deployed in Afghanistan to track down and kill Osama bin Laden were instead diverted to Iraq. More than 1,100 American soldiers have been killed and nearly 8,000 wounded in a war Wilson consistently promoted, but most Americans now realize is costing us dearly.
The Mercury Queen
We wish national security were the only black mark in Wilson's record. Unfortunately, our congresswoman has also proven time and time again that she's deeply hostile to the basic environmental values of mainstream Americans, 70 percent of whom call themselves environmentalists. The League of Conservation Voters gave Wilson a 10 percent rating for her 2003 voting record. The Sierra Club gave her a 13 percent rating. Here's why.
Wilson played a leading role in the Republican push to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Last year, Wilson offered an amendment to the House energy bill that she claimed would limit the scope of drilling to 2,000 acres. Wilson neglected to mention, though, that her amendment did not require those 2,000 acres to be contiguous. In other words, if Wilson's amendment had become law, the refuge's entire 1.5 million acre coastal plain, the biological heart of the area, would have been opened to oil exploration. Long story short: The refuge would have been gutted, and, to add insult to injury, the drilling would have done next to nothing to alleviate our evolving energy crisis.
Unfortunately, Wilson's deception regarding ANWR is only the tip of the iceberg. Whether it's allowing unlimited mine waste to be dumped on public lands, getting mining companies off the hook for cleanup, or supporting oil and gas drilling on Otero Mesa grasslands, Wilson consistently sides with corporate polluters.
And if Heather Wilson cares so much about our children, why did she vote to delay the cleanup of mercury from power plants? Power plants account for approximately 64 percent of mercury emissions in our state, and two of New Mexico's coal plants are among the top 50 mercury polluters in the country. Mercury contamination is so toxic to unborn children that the New Mexico Environment Department advises pregnant women against eating certain fish from nearly every lake and reservoir in the state.
From top to bottom, Wilson's environmental record reveals that she's jumped into bed with corporate polluters at the expense of the general public. As her opponent, Richard Romero, says, “There's what Heather Wilson says, and there's what she does.”
W Stands for War Against Women's Rights
Both George W. and Heather W. support the hypocritical and dangerous policy of denying comprehensive sex education to teenagers. Teen pregnancy, as we all know, is out of control in Bernalillo County. In 2002, New Mexico had the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all support sex education that encourages abstinence but also provides teens with information on how to protect themselves against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Instead, Wilson supports abstinence-only programs that may delay sex but increase rates of STDs and do not effectively lower pregnancy rates.
Wilson does not have a middle-of-the-road view on reproductive rights. On this issue, as on so many others, she's aligned herself with the Christian Coalition and the extreme right-wing of her party. She has refused to sanction abortions even when the life of the mother is in danger. She also opposed legislation that would have repealed the ban on providing safe and legal abortions to overseas military personnel and their dependents. Wilson supported a law that allows any health care provider to deny abortions to patients and withhold information about the availability of services elsewhere.
She even opposes funding for foreign family planning clinics if they provide abortions, a strategy that inevitably results in more unwanted pregnancies and more women dying from illegal abortions in the world's poorest communities. In addition, she opposed legislation allowing access to emergency contraception for teens, legislation that would have reduced the number of teen pregnancies and abortions in New Mexico.
Merely claiming to support women isn't enough. If Heather Wilson really cared about women, she'd spend less time consulting with religious extremists, and more time fighting to protect women's health and rights.
The Dog Ate Her Homework
Another prime example of Wilson's phony rhetoric involves last year's education reform initiatives. Two constitutional amendments were on the statewide ballot. The first created a secretary of education. The second increased education funding by millions of dollars. These reforms were spearheaded by Gov. Bill Richardson, with support from Sen. Pete Domenici, former congressman Manuel Lujan and other notable Republicans. The state Republican party, however, tried to defeat the funding amendment, and it just barely passed.
So where was our Congressional representative during this hot debate? Where was Wilson, our great self-described defender of children, the politician who runs around the country calling education her personal passion? Missing in inaction. Her office told the Alibi at the time that "she doesn't have a position." So there you have it. The most important education debate in New Mexico in years also happened to present a tough political problem for Wilson, so she decided to sit back, safe and cozy, and watch the action from the sidelines. That's just pitiful.
New Mexico's education system has ranked dead last for three straight years. Yet despite her constant posturing, our representative in Congress has never been positively engaged in education issues. Based on Wilson's votes, the National Education Association awarded her a 33 percent favorable rating—in other words, a big red F for Heather's homework.
One of the biggest problems with Wilson is that she freely accepts contributions from the industries she's supposed to be regulating. Wilson is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, yet she's also one of the biggest recipients in the House of contributions from defense contractors. (Wilson's single biggest contributor is Lockheed Martin.)
As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Wilson has been instrumental in helping the conservative fringe of her party wreak havoc on the environment. She's also one of the House of Representative's biggest recipients of contributions from the energy industry.
Think this doesn't matter? Consider the fact that just last month, Wilson voted to keep secret the names of energy executives who, as part of Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, met behind closed doors to help the Bush administration formulate national energy policy. To make matters worse, the energy bill Wilson recently voted for was chock full of hefty corporate giveaways that would have benefited several of her campaign contributors.
In just the past two years, Wilson has accepted over $100,000 from energy special interests. Judging from her votes, their money was well spent.
Do New Mexico a Favor
We would have loved to print Heather Wilson's response to the above critique, but apparently she feels that the best response to criticism is to pretend it doesn't exist. Her silence speaks volumes: Her voting record remains her opposition's greatest weapon against her.
If there's any justice, this could be her year to be toppled. If you value national security, a clean environment, quality education, reproductive rights and a representative who will answer for his or her voting record, then we suggest you vote for Wilson's Democratic opponent, Richard Romero. As we described last week in our endorsement, all indications suggest that Romero would be a model of integrity and moderation compared to our current representative.
Do New Mexico a favor, and vote Romero into office on Nov. 2.
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