By Richard Gaines
In an email to his brother Cameron, U.S. Sen. John Kerry wrote that "despite all the opportunities we've given her," NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco "has failed" to convey to the fishing industry that she is doing everything possible to help it through increasingly hard times.
The Massachusetts Democrat, one of President Obama's essential allies in the Senate, said that, in his 26 years in Washington, he'd never seen a "supposedly friendly (administration)" in such a position.
"I know that it's hard to deliver bad news, but there are ways to do it that make people feel you're doing everything possible to help," Kerry wrote to his brother. Cameron Kerry is general counsel to the Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's parent federal agency.
"Lubchenco has failed to convey that despite all the opportunities we've given her," the senator wrote.
"I'm aware and at wit's end," Cam Kerry wrote back.
A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers, including Democratic Congressman John Tierney and Barney Frank, Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina have all urged President Obama to replace Lubchenco as the essential first step in rebuilding trust by the industry in the government.
The email exchange between the Kerry brothers was obtained via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
John and Cam Kerry declined to comment Monday; Lubchenco did not respond to emails from the Times.
The Kerrys' email exchange took place last Oct. 13, shortly after 8 a.m. It came 10 days after Lubchenco testified at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing organized in Boston by Kerry, and a day after a state legislative committee hearing on the impact of federal fisheries policy.
The morning the Kerry brothers shared their exasperation at Lubchenco, the Times reported that she had left Kerry's hearing early for a meeting with The Boston Globe's editorial board.
John Kerry's private judgment of Lubchenco's failure as a communicator — or of empathy — revealed an attitude toward her he has kept to himself while struggling to bridge the widening chasm between much of the fishing industry, its congressional allies and Lubchenco.
Dislike and distrust of Lubchenco helped mobilize tri-coastal fishermen's rallies at the Capitol in February 2010 and last month. Kerry had hoped to hold his Boston hearing in the spring of 2011, but adjusting to Lubchenco's schedule pushed the hearing date back more than once.
The mistrust that seems to have been sowed by Lubchenco was illustrated at the Boston hearing of the Commerce Committee. Frank, Tierney and Brown sparred with Lubchenco and, after she left, described her as a lost cause, with even Kerry conceding that "this is very frustrating."
In his email to his brother, John Kerry attached the main body of a report by the State House News Service on the previous day's hearing of a state legislative committee at which state Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, was quoted as saying Lubchenco's agency was "taking the ability of people to make a fair living away."
Also, Lubchenco's decision to attempt to reform the corrupted law enforcement system without looking back at the most egregious cases of justice miscarried against fishermen was overturned by the then Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, now ambassador to China.
Even a personal appearance in Gloucester and private meeting with fishermen last May on the day Locke issued a public apology to the industry and more than $600,000 in reparations to eight victims of the most extreme law enforcement abuse did nothing to melt the ice with industry.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.