WASHINGTON -- Two Democrats led the opposition Tuesday to President Reagan's choice of John Crowell Jr. to oversee the national forests, urging the Senate to cut down the nominee for his lumber business activities.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., asked the Senate to reject Crowell, former general counsel of Louisiana-Pacific Corp., as assistant agriculture secretary.
A vote is scheduled Wednesday on the nomination of Crowell, who was accused of being involved in antitrust violations by Ketchikan Pulp Co., a Lousiana-Pacific subsidiary.
'I oppose this nominee's confirmation because documents have been uncovered since his approval by the Agriculture Committee which suggest that he was aware of and involved in the anti-competitive and monopolistic practices of his former employer,' Leahy said.
Crowell, in a written rebuttal, said his role in an antitrust action involving Ketchican Pulp was limited to selection of a defense lawyer and receiving status reports on handling of the case.
A federal court in Seattle has found the firm guilty of conspiring to fix prices and control timber in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska and to keep small loggers out of the market.
Kennedy charged that Crowell's statements that he was not involved in any away in the anticompetitive activities are 'seriously misleading.'
'Mr. Crowell was clearly aware of the pattern of acquisitions,' Kennedy said.
Pointing to a hand-drawn chart showing the relationships between Louisiana-Pacific, Ketchikan Pulp and another firm found guilty of antitrust violations, Kennedy said courts do not name every individual involved in antitrust cases, so Crowell was not absolved by not being named.
Crowell should have known 'that potential antitrust violations were taking place,' Kennedy said. Documents showed Crowell 'approved of and advocated activities designed to exclude competition, and which were the kind that the court found violated the antitrust laws,' he said.
But Agriculture Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., said at the close of debate that Kennedy 'hasn't laid a glove on Mr. Crowell.'
The controversy over Crowell is similar to environmentalists' opposition to Interior Secretary James Watt, who was criticized for being closely involved as a private citizen with the industries seeking to use government lands.
Crowell's foes fear a similar connection, and Crowell said, 'It is true that I expect to move the national forests toward being more productive in terms of output of timber, oil and gas, minerals and grazing animals.'
'But I have also made it clear ... that I am certainly also sensitive to other multiple-use interest of the national forests, including wildlife and wilderness,' he said.
Crowell also said would have no conflict of interest in the agriculture post because he has severed all ties with his former company.
Helms said senators who oppose Crowell are trying to discredit him by 'innuendo.'
'The bottom line,' Helms told his colleagues, 'is that John Crowell is in no way implicated.'
But Leahy said two company memorandums showed Crowell was aware of a pattern of anticompetitive behavior by Ketchikan Pulp.
Helms released Crowell's rebuttal to the charges. Crowell said he was never a witness in the antitrust case and neither side ever sought a deposition from him during five years of preparation for the trial.
Memorandums produced by Leahy were never introduced into the trial record, Crowell said.