Three-year SHARK campaign succeeds
GENEVA, Illinois––Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) on August 22, 2017 released documents obtained from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation through a Freedom of Information Act request indicating that U.S. Senator James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) will no longer hold live pigeon shoots as part of his annual summer fundraising event.
Wrote Baxter Lewallen, field representative for Inhofe, on January 19, 2017 to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife warden Daniel Perkins, “I am happy to let you know that this year, and going forward, we are going to halt the ‘old world pigeon shoot’” formerly held as part of the Inhofe annual fundraiser, “in favor of wild dove hunts.”
Shoots “caused some tension”
“I know this event,” which SHARK contends was in violation of Oklahoma law all along, “has caused some tension in the past,” Lewallen acknowledged.
“We do have some questions concerning our wild dove hunts,” Lewallen acknowledged. “Particularly, we are looking at hunting over cut milo fields before the milo is baled,” which might be interpreted as illegally hunting over a baited field.
“I am not well versed on hunting regulations,” Lewallen said, “but I would definitely like your assistance and guidance on this matter to make sure we are in full compliance.”
Confirmation of cancellation
Perkins may not have responded promptly to Lewallen’s request, as Friends of Jim Inhofe state director Brian Hackler on March 14, 2017 e-mailed to Perkins again to try to arrange a meeting.
Wrote Hackler, to 18 e-mail recipients he hoped would attend the April 13, 2017 meeting, including Perkins, “As many of you probably heard we will not be doing the pigeon shoot this year. In its place we will do a Friday afternoon/evening hunt. My hope is to have several folks from the community help out with our Friday and Saturday hunt.
“The purpose of this meeting,” Hackler said, “will be to get your input on how to make this a successful event and to see who would be willing to serve as guides for the hunt. My hope is to have several groups of hunters and have a local guide take them out for a hunt. This could be good for several reasons, it would be safer and more organized, and it would allow many of you to interact with our out of town guests, to include other senators.”
Recalled SHARK spokesperson Stuart Chaifetz, “SHARK has fought against Inhofe’s pigeon shoots since 2014, after we received an anonymous tip from an Inhofe donor who opposed the unethical nature of these events where live birds, many with bands on their legs, are hand-thrown into the air and shot for fun. A SHARK investigator attended the 2014 shoot undercover and filmed the horrifying cruelty that occurred. SHARK returned in 2015 and 2016, where SHARK rescued dozens of wounded birds that had been left to die on Inhofe’s shoot site.”
Added SHARK founder Steve Hindi, “SHARK, with the assistance of concerned Oklahoma citizens and the Cherokee Nation, as well as grassroots animal activists from around the country, waged a relentless nonviolent campaign exposing Inhofe’s pigeon shoots and all the illegal activity associated with them.”
Picked up Chaifetz, “Inhofe is replacing the pigeon shoots with dove hunts, which SHARK opposes, but he won’t be using 1,000 hand-raised birds who will all die, because even those who escape cannot survive without help. Overall, there will be many less animals killed with the pigeon shoots shut down. Hopefully, Jim Inhofe will some day find a way to enjoy himself without killing animals.
“The e-mails also reveal a disturbing relationship between Inhofe’s election campaign and the Oklahoma government,” Chaifetz opined. “Inhofe’s people talk about working with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on the campaign event, meaning Inhofe was using state resources and personnel to raise money for his private political fundraiser.
“It is also critically important,” Chaifetz said, “to note that Lewallen used his government e-mail address when he wrote to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation about the campaign, which we believe violates federal law. We will continue to watch Inhofe,” Chaifetz pledge, “and hold him accountable for any other violations of law.”
Inhofe himself shoots pigeons
Inhofe has been embarrassed many times before by SHARK exposés, beginning in September 2014, with undercover video of Inhofe himself shooting pigeons at his Ninth Annual “pigeon hunt” held to benefit “Friends of Jim Inhofe and the Fund For A Conservative Future.”
“After seeing the SHARK video, representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation realized that the land Inhofe used was federally owned,” Hindi recounted.
SHARK obtained the e-mails indicating the end of the Inhofe pigeon shoots just over a month after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel on July 17, 2017 ruled that Oklahoma Water Resources Board member Tom Buchanan violated federal law by allowing Inhofe to hold the 2014 annual pigeon shoot fundraiser on Bureau of Reclamation land.
Violated Hatch Act, but no charges
Specifically, the 1939 Hatch Act prohibits use of public funds to promote an election campaign. Buchanan violated the Hatch Act “by using his official authority as district manager to assist Senator Inhofe’s campaign,” wrote Erica Hamrick, deputy chief of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel Hatch Act Unit. “However,” Hamrick added, the Office of Special Counsel “found no evidence that his violation of the Hatch Act was knowing or willful. Accordingly, we have decided not to pursue disciplinary action and instead issued Buchanan a warning letter.”
Buchanan is also general manager of a southwest Oklahoma irrigation district and president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
Had to clean up the garbage
Earlier, Hindi said, “The Bureau of Reclamation investigated the property and discovered not only that Inhofe should never have been allowed to use the federal property to hold a political event,” Hindi said, “but that there were illegal hunting blinds set up and a massive commercial grade dump where garbage was burned.
“The Bureau of Reclamation on December 18, 2015 acknowledged to SHARK in writing that events such as the Inhofe pigeon shoots are “not allowed on federally owned land,” Hindi added.
The Bureau of Reclamation “made the parties remove the unauthorized hunting blinds and game feeders and clean up the burn pit,” Hindi said.
In 2015, Hindi continued, “Inhofe was forced to drop his use of Oklahoma game wardens and county sheriff’s deputies as part of his shoot security.”
SHARK drone shot down
But one of Inhofe’s party shot down a SHARK drone.
“The shoot-down violated federal law,” Hindi charged, “but Greer County Sheriff Devon Huckabay refused to even allow his officers to respond. Oklahoma Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson, who is in charge of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, also refused to have anything to do with Inhofe’s [alleged] violations of state and federal law.”
Two days after the 2016 pigeon shoot fundraiser, held near Altus, Oklahoma, SHARK recovered 28 wounded racing or show pigeons from the brush where they fell and/or near the “dead piles” where they were left.
Hindi and Kinship Circle cofounder Janet Enoch, working for SHARK since 2006, gathered up as many of the wounded pigeons as they could catch and called ANIMALS 24-7 to ask where they could find an avian veterinarian in rural Oklahoma, hours from any city of size, on a Sunday afternoon.
Two hundred sixty miles to the east, near Hugo, Oklahoma, animal advocate Ruth Steinberger arranged for the WildCare wildlife rehabilitation center in Noble, Oklahoma to receive and treat the pigeons, and undertook to more than 400 miles of driving to complete the delivery.
Climate change denier
Inhofe, a leading supporter of embattled U.S. President Donald Trump, is a former mayor of Tulsa, who later was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 1994.
As chair of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works from 2003 to 2007, and as ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, Inhofe may be best known for obstructing legislation meant to slow climate change, arguing that global warming is a hoax, pushing for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.
Inhofe has also often opposed introducing or expanding protection for endangered and threatened species, including polar bears, prairie dogs, sage grouse, and wolves.
In addition, Inhofe has backed numerous Republican attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act.