Industry leaders sticking their necks out for Kerry in Portland

A lot can happen in a week. A little more than seven days ago, Lee Fromson told us he wasn't too sure who would be joining him and a number of other industry executives in making a statement in support of the John Kerry presidential campaign and the environment. But following our story which ran last Monday, the political tilt-a-whirl ride really picked up steam. No less than 31 industry executives, representing many of the key companies in the outdoor industry, have agreed to provide their signatures in support of an endorsement letter being presented to the Kerry campaign Sept. 14 in Portland, Ore., at a scheduled press event.
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A lot can happen in a week. A little more than seven days ago, Lee Fromson told us he wasn't too sure who would be joining him and a number of other industry executives in making a statement in support of the John Kerry presidential campaign and the environment. But following our story which ran last Monday, the political tilt-a-whirl ride really picked up steam. No less than 31 industry executives, representing many of the key companies in the outdoor industry, have agreed to provide their signatures in support of an endorsement letter being presented to the Kerry campaign Sept. 14 in Portland, Ore., at a scheduled press event.

A number of those signing the document are also flying to Portland to personally speak on behalf of Kerry, to make it clear that these outdoor industry leaders aren't taking the election or the choices voters will have to make in a few months lightly.

Lee Fromson, president of Cascade Designs will be joined at the press event by Peter Bragden, vice president, general counsel of Columbia Sportswear; Menno Van Wyk, CEO of Montrail; Paul Fish, president of Mountain Gear; Carn Nielsen, vice president of Mountain Gear; Dan Nordstrom, CEO of Outdoor Research; Jeff Bowman, vice president of Cascade Designs; Doug Phillips, president of Metolius Climbing; Tim Leatherman, president of Leatherman Tool Group; Dunham Gooding, president of the American Alpine Institute; and Brian Bennett, national accounts manager for Patagonia.

SNEWS® received an advanced copy of the letter that will be presented to the Kerry campaign. We are unable to print the entire document, as the Kerry campaign had not signed off on it as we arrived at our publishing deadline; however, a few excerpts and a general overview of what message is being conveyed follows:

"We are business leaders in the outdoor industry and we have come together because we can no longer be silent. Outdoor businesses depend on abundant and available recreation opportunities so our customers can enjoy outdoor activities. In return, outdoor businesses employ over a million Americans, contribute $18 billion to the U.S. economy and work together to promote an active and healthy lifestyle to the 149 million Americans who love the great American outdoors.

In our opinion increasing the number of venues for active outdoor recreation, staunchly protecting the environment, bolstering recreation and conservation funding to our public land agencies and reducing health care costs go hand-in-hand. They are essential for the health and well-being of the outdoor industry and its customers."

Because the actual wording was still not final, SNEWS® will summarize the remaining paragraphs. The letter goes on to say that the group wants an administration that will be active in promoting active outdoor recreation because that also promotes good health. They want an administration that will be proactive in protecting and supporting public lands for recreational use so that future generations will enjoy them too. They want an administration that will work to improve the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink and not allow air and water protections to become negotiable for any industry and or business in America. And they want an administration that understands that healthcare costs will continue to increase unless we are united in reducing obesity in America.

In addition, the letter makes it clear that the group of outdoor leaders believes that Sen. Kerry is the leader that will champion environmental, land and recreational preservation issues that are central to the outdoor industry and its customers and that Sen. Kerry's stated economic and healthcare policies will keep the outdoor industry businesses competitive and health care affordable for all.

The letter closes with, "Therefore, we the undersigned are proud to endorse Sen. Kerry as the next President of the United States."

The signatures on the endorsement document include: Lee Fromson, president, Cascade Designs; Peter Bragden, vice president, general counsel, Columbia Sportswear; Menno Van Wyk, CEO, Montrail; Paul Fish, president, Mountain Gear; Carn Nielsen, vice president, Mountain Gear; Dan Nordstrom, CEO, Outdoor Research; Jeff Bowman, vice president, Cascade Designs; Doug Phillips, president, Metolius Climbing; Tim Leatherman, president, Leatherman Tool Group Inc.; Dunham Gooding, president, American Alpine Institute, Ltd.; Larry Harrison, president, Earth Games; Jim Clark, CEO, Watermark; Steve Barker, CEO, Eagle Creek Travel Gear; Peter Metcalf, CEO, Black Diamond; Ashley Korenblat, president, Western Spirit Cycling; Mike Wallenfels, vice president, Mountain Hardwear; Roody Rasmussen, CEO, Petzl America; Tony Post, president, Vibram; Kelly Stone, director sales and marketing, Werner Paddles; Joe Hyer, president, Alpine Experience; Mike Sullivan, president, Sullivan Agency; Bob Olsen, president, Peregrine Outfitters; Michael Crooke, CEO, Patagonia; Brian Bennett, director national accounts, Patagonia; Adam Forest, managing partner, The Forest Group; Gordon Seabury, president, Horny Toad Activewear; Paul Gagner, vice president, Gregory Mountain Products; Tom Campion, founder and chairman, Zumiez Inc.; Malcolm Daly, president, Trango; Rodney Smith, president, American Outdoor Products; and Joan Keller, president, Le Travel Store.

SNEWS® View: It is very clear that in presenting the letter and personally standing with Sen. John Edwards at the Portland press event, the select group of industry leaders is placing its election hopes squarely in the corner of Senators John Kerry and John Edwards because those leaders believe the two share the values and goals of the outdoor industry better than the Bush Administration has evidenced. While we believe that those leaders who are willing to stand up and be counted should be admired for their courage and conviction, whether or not you agree with them, there is little doubt their stance is a risky one. Nevertheless, we also believe it is a stance that must be made. Those industry leaders who are making so public a political statement for or against a side or a party realize there is a possibility their businesses might experience repercussions. It is important to remember too that those that respond to citizens making their voices heard for something they believe in by withholding business are exercising their right as citizens too.

Speak up and sound off with your views on the endorsement of politicians by our industry. Head to the SNEWS® Community Forum. Click here to post your views and to read and respond to what others have said.

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