CONTE: TOUGHNESS WITH A TWINKLE
WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Byron Dorgan's introduction to the demonstrative Republican congressman from Western Massachusetts was anything but cordial.
Dorgan, D-N.D., was serving his first term in Congress in 1981 when Rep. Silvio Conte, R-Mass., spearheaded an effort to scuttle North Dakota's long-prized Garrison diversion water project.
Conte … was known for entertaining and irritating his colleagues with his vociferous, arm-waving attacks on what he saw as wasteful federal spending.
Garrison, one of the nation's most controversial water projects, was one of his favorite targets….
Dorgan's irritation soon grew into respect over the next decade despite continual battles with Conte, who repeatedly was a thorn in the side of North Dakota lawmakers.
First, it was the Missouri River water project. Then it was the federal honey program, a major moneymaker for North Dakota and South Dakota beekeepers. Conte fought a losing battle to stop the subsidies.
Last year it was a $500,000 grant to develop Lawrence Welk's hometown.
"No matter what he was doing, there was kind of an Italian twinkle in his eye," Dorgan said. "I really came to appreciate and enjoy his considerable skills in the legislative arena."
Dorgan said he spent five years looking for a way to retaliate against Conte. Dorgan combed through appropriations bills trying to find a pork-barrel project in Conte's district. He never succeeded and finally gave up.
"He was always very clever about the way he got things done for his district. I never seemed to be able to find his fingerprints," Dorgan said.Worcester Telegram & Gazette, February 17, 1991