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Congressman John Duncan

Representing the 2nd District of Tennessee

Congressman Duncan's Press Release In Response to the National Parks Action Fund Scoring

October 3, 2016
Press Release

Last Friday the News-Sentinel published a front-page story reporting that an extremely partisan organization had given me an F on votes regarding national parks. In fact, this organization, a so-called National Parks Action Fund, is so partisan that it gave "F" scores to 236 out of 244 Republicans in the U.S. House.

On the other side it gave an "A" score to almost all the Democrats in the House—172 out of 188. While many groups rate the votes of members of Congress, almost no others are so obviously partisan and one-sided.

This Parks Fund was set up just this past May with the goal of influencing the Congressional elections in favor of the Democratic Party. The National Parks have always, until now, been above politics and have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

It will not help the national parks if they are seen as an arm of one of our two major political parties while fighting the other. This Action Fund rated only 11 votes out of over 1,000 that have been cast in this Congress.

If you rate only 15 or 20 votes, or even fewer, you can turn almost anyone into a liberal or a conservative. The 11 votes picked by this Organization were votes not even directly related to national parks.

Republicans got "F" scores because we almost always vote in favor of free enterprise and fiscal conservatism and against radical environmentalism and expansion of federal power.

And most Republicans believe we should take better care of the 413 units already in the National Park System instead of continually adding more that we cannot afford.

The head of the National Parks and Conservation Association spoke at the press conference announcing the creation of the Fund and when you Google the Fund, you also get the Association.

Both organizations, like the Trump Foundation, appear to be tax-exempt and thus would not pay taxes. There is at the very least a loose affiliation between the two and while they have probably followed the letter of the law, they have certainly skirted around the spirit of the law prohibiting political activity by tax-exempt groups.

I served for 22 years on the National Parks Subcommittee and supported the parks in many ways. I introduced a bill several years ago that became law to allow the Smokies, unlike other parks, to keep 100% of the fees it collected.

Early in my time in Congress, I got $3,000,000 to resurface the Foothills Parkway and have helped obtain over $46 million in additional funds to complete this project as well as obtaining road money for Townsend.

I joined with Sen. Alexander to stop cell towers from being placed in the Smokies. I once introduced a bill to establish a checkoff box on tax returns for national parks like the Presidential campaign checkoff, but not enough others supported this proposal.

I served for two years just before being elected to Congress as a Boy Scout leader and both before and after this service hiked most of the major trails in the Smokies. I have hiked three times to the top of Mount Leconte, and I have always appreciated and supported the Smokies.

I have, on very rare occasions, criticized the National Park Service because I do not believe any person, and especially any federal agency, is perfect or should be immune from criticism.