William Schneider of CNN called Les AuCoin “one of the best of the post-Watergate generation of Congressmen” before the Oregon Democrat retired after nine terms in the U.S. House in 1993. Columnist Steve Duin of The Oregonian, dubbed him one of Capitol Hill’s premiere legislative strategists.
In the 1980s, AuCoin was named as an official congressional observer to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) in Geneva and the Helsinki Commission on Human Rights. He won the Herman Scoville Award—the top award of the Union of Concerned Scientists—for authoring and successfully steering into law a mutual, verifiable ban on testing anti-satellite weapons at the height of the Reagan Administration and the Cold War. For his work on the environment, the Sierra Club gave him its top national award in the mid-1980s.
He lectures at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Government in its National Security Studies program and is an adjunct professor of political science at Southern Oregon University. He has also lectured at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
AuCoin served as a Democratic whip-at-large in the U.S. House, was a founder of the House abortion rights caucus, and was a senior member of the House Defense Appropriations and Interior Appropriations Subcommittees. In 1977, two years before President Carter normalized relations with China, AuCoin introduced and brought to the House floor the first bill to open trade relations with that country. In 1997, he chaired the United Nations Association of the United States’ study of international human rights, producing the report, Inalienable Rights, Fundamental Freedoms: A U.N. Agenda for Advancing Human Rights in the World Community.
An Ashland, Oregon, writer and author, AuCoin’s essays and book reviews appear in a number of daily newspapers. Formerly, he was a weekly political commentator for National Public Radio outlets in the Pacific Northwest and wrote a regionally syndicated newspaper column. AuCoin’s latest book—a collaboration with 24 other leaders on public lands policy—is Wilderness: A Century of Failed Forest Policy (Island Press, 2006). He is now writing a political suspense novel with the working title, Power Shift.