The co-founder and CEO of Zumiez, Tom Campion, once hosted President Obama for a pricey fundraiser with Sonya Campion, his spouse, at their North Seattle home. On Monday night, Tom made a cross-continental connection with President Biden at a virtual fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.
“I love this guy,” said Campion, who effusively introduced the nation’s forty-sixth president to fellow Democratic Party donors.
Campion is a donor with a purpose. He is a passionate conservationist.
Years ago, I met the man who sells more skateboards and snowboards in this country than anyone else. He was on a Pilchuck Audubon Society picket line in Marysville where then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich was raising bucks for the Republican Party and touting strategic advice from World War II German tank commander Colonel General Heinz Guderian in his book Panzer Leader.
In recent years, Campion’s advocacy has centered on protecting Alaska, nicknamed The Last Frontier, from environmental destruction.
Tom Campion had a tense four years with Donald Trump in the White House. Using a backdoor provision inserted in Republicans’ 2017 tax scam bill, the Trump administration tried to ram through oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Refuge, just before leaving office. The regime also tried to roll back the U.S. Forest Service “Roadless Rule” with the objective of opening open old growth forests of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to clearcutting.
Joe Biden is not a great outdoorsman, but he has come through on causes for which Tom and Sonya Campion are passionate.
The Biden administration has declared a moratorium on oil leasing in the Arctic Refuge. The new administration is rolling back the Trump rollback so ancient forests of the Tongass will not be sundered by roads or logged.
Internationally, the United States is back in the Paris Climate Accords.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to oversee management of America’s public lands, is moving to restore the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Southern Utah, cut to pieces by Trump at the behest of the mining and energy industries.
The Democratic fundraiser on Monday night was classic Biden.
On voting rights, the President declared:
“It’s under assault in ways I haven’t seen in my entire career, and I was the guy who was able to get the Voting Rights Act extended twenty-five years before: We’re going to fight like hell so that doesn’t happen.” (Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when the Voting Rights Act was extended.)
The President, who served thirty-six years in the Senate, defended and praised the bipartisan infrastructure compromise working its way through Congress’ upper chamber. “I had to make some compromises, but it’s going to make a gigantic difference,” he said. “It’s going to transform the economy. It’s going to eliminate all lead pipes in America, so people can have decent drinking water.”
The actions of Presidents have a ripple effect across the country. In reading the pool report on Biden’s talk, I thought of an Alaska village named Tenakee Springs on Chicagof Island, not reachable by any road and glad of it. The U.S. Forest Service has had on the books ambitious logging plans for the area. Across a bay sits a river estuary renowned for its salmon runs and feeding Alaska brown bears.
Forests flanking the estuary were targeted for logging.
The Biden administration has decided the wildland ought to remain the preserve of salmon and bruins, and marveling visitors in boats just offshore.
The Biden-backed infrastructure bill will commit billions of dollars to repairing and building new roads. But none will reach Tenakee Springs.
Tom Campion loves such places in the 49th State.
He has taken political leaders and business biggies up to the Arctic Refuge, to witness wildlands where the oil and gas industry wants to put haul roads, drilling platforms and pipelines. On one visit, Senator Maria Cantwell peered into a spotting scope, saw a grizzly on the lower slope of a mountain, and a wolverine higher up. “Is this unusual?” she asked Campion.
The Campions have raised money for Senators, Senate candidates, Governor Jay Inslee, and hosted 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
They’ve bonded with some guests. The Campions’ dog is named Harry Reid after the former Senate Majority Leader. Sonya Campion has served as lead on one of the advisory panels Governor Inslee created to plan COVID-19 recovery.
The Campions also support exhibition books published by Braided River, a division of Mountaineers Books, and have underwritten shooter Florian Schultz’s wildlife photography in the Arctic, photographer Steve Kazlowski’s study of polar bears, and Subhankar Banerjee’s seminal photo study of the Arctic Refuge.
They have consistently supported NPI’s research and advocacy, too.
Biden served up a little partisan red meat on Monday night.
“The Republican Party of today offers nothing but fear and lies and broken promises,” he stated. “We have to keep cutting through the Republican fog.”
Up on Alaska’s North Slope, meanwhile, photographers backed by the Campions are shooting caribou as they emerge out of the fog.