, Gloucester, MA

November 7, 2012

Editorial: Unjust debt cuts, fish report need prompt attention

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — For all the Democrats’ celebrating, all of the Republicans’ hand-wringing and all of the other reactions and analysis following Tuesday’s election, many folks may already be turning their attention to the president’s next term and the next session of Congress in January.

But there’s neither time nor reason to wait until then to address at least two critical issues.

That’s the planned “sequestration” across-the-board budget aimed at the very necessary federal debt reduction, and the long, long overdue release of the so-called Swartwood II fishing report, the 550-plus page document named for the special investigator who explored more than 60 cases of wrongdoing on the part of NOAA law enforcement personnel, submitted his report in March — and has seen, along with the fishing industry and its supporters, two secretaries of Commerce essentially sit on it ever since.

Both issues have the word “injustice” written all over them. In the sequestration case, the current agreement in Congress calls for 18-percent cuts in Defense industry contracts — with no regard for whether the contracts at hand are needed, or whether the companies holding them have held up their side of the deals.

On Cape Ann, that “one-size-fits-all” approach stands to be very costly to companies such as Gorton’s, Bomco Industries, Strong Leather and many more that deserve a fairer shake. Yet, the approach of the $487 billion overall “fiscal cliff” in the first week of January won’t consider their cases any more than larger companies that reel in contracts and fail to fit the bill. That’s unacceptable, and it will be up to both lame-duck Senator Scott Brown and newly re-elected Congressman John Tierney to make their case — not in January, but when Congress reconvenes next week.

The fishing report case, meanwhile, borders on the absurd. There’s no excuse for the Commerce Department — or anyone else — to withhold what clearly looms as a damning report on the actions of NOAA’s enforcement agents and prosecutors until after Tuesday’s elections. Yet it’s clear that’s been part of Commerce and NOAA’s shameful game, even given cover by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, whose office cited the need for the report to be “comprehensive,” and whose brother, Cameron Kerry, sits at the flashpoint of all this as Commerce’s chief counsel.

Look, 550 pages is comprehensive enough, and aptly named acting Commerce Rebecca Blank needs to turn it over now, without any additional comments or responses apparently being added in-house. Again, Tierney, Brown and all of their colleagues need to begin next week making the case not only for the release of this document, but for a federal prosecutor with subpoena power to step in and give NOAA’s entire enforcement record the true investigation that’s needed.

Enough is enough. And answers are needed to each of these issues — not in January, but now.