Posted By Marc Morano – 3:36 PM ET – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov
Update: Environmental Groups Exposed: ‘Every dollar spent has been aimed at helping Democrats’
This report is part of an ongoing oversight investigation into the funding and partisan political activities of environmental groups.
Link to Blog
An article in the trade publication Greenwire reaffirms the findings of Senator James Inhofe’s (R-OK) ongoing oversight investigation into the multi-million dollar funding and partisan political activities of environmental groups. The Greenwire article by reporter Alex Kaplun reported that “since the start of the fall campaign, every dollar spent by these organizations has been aimed at helping Democrats.”
Greenwire‘s article on October 22 echoed Senator Inhofe’s report, detailing how environmental groups are essentially a funding and advocacy arm of the Democratic Party. The article noted the partisan activity of major environmental groups in battleground political campaigns and concluded, “In every instance, the environmental groups are backing the Democrat.”
A September 25, 2008, Inhofe report exposed the questionably overt political activities of environmental organizations that are often misleadingly disguised as non-partisan environmental causes. See: Inhofe Report Exposes Environmental Groups as ‘Massive Democratic Political Machines’ & Follow up to Report: Defenders of Wildlife’s Partisan & Misleading Ads on Aerial Wolf Hunt – October 15, 2008 & LCV’s ‘Environmental Scorecard’ Marred by Partisan Politics, Inhofe Says – October 17, 2008
Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said on September 25, “Campaigns to ‘save the cuddly animals’ or ‘protect the ancient forests’ are really disguised efforts to raise money for Democratic political campaigns.” Inhofe added, “Environmental organizations have become experts at duplicitous activity, skirting laws up to the edge of illegality, and burying their political activities under the guise of non-profit environmental improvement.” (LINK)
Greenwire excerpt: With the 2008 campaign in the homestretch, major environmental groups are spending money and time on a half-dozen or so congressional candidates who figure to play prominent roles in future Capitol Hill energy and conservation debates. The charge is being led by the League of Conservation Voters, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club. While the three have endorsed dozens of congressional candidates, each has focused on just a couple of contests. The environmentalists have spent more than $3 million in congressional races on “independent expenditures” — essentially campaigns the groups are running to assist or attack a particular candidate, campaign finance records show. That amount does not include campaign contributions given directly to the candidates, though those dollars tend to represent only a small percentage of the amount the organizations actually spend in a typical election year. And while environmental groups have endorsed a number of Republican candidates, since the start of the fall campaign, every dollar spent by these organizations has been aimed at helping Democrats.
The Greenwire article also reported: One other contest that has crept onto the radar of at least one environmental group is the Minnesota Senate race between Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and comedian and talk show host Al Franken (D). Environment America has in the last week spent roughly $200,000 on mailings there. The other contests in which environmentalists have spent money in recent weeks, though not in overwhelming amounts: the Oregon Senate race between Sen. Gordon Smith (R) and former state House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D), the North Carolina Senate race between Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) and state Sen. Kay Hagan (D), the Alaska House race between Rep. Don Young (R) and former state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz (D), and the contest for the New Mexico 1st District seat currently held by Rep. Heather Wilson (R). In every instance, the environmental groups are backing the Democrat.
According to Federal Election Commission records, the groups have spent just over $2 million on that contest. LCV leads the pack, with over $730,000 spent on the presidential race, with the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife trailing — each having spent more than $500,000. Environment America has also spent about $140,000. The Sierra Club is the only one of those major environmental groups that has actually spent more money — in fact, the overwhelming majority of it — on the presidential race rather than congressional contests. And campaign finance records show that in many instances the environmentalists’ efforts in the White House contest overlap with their efforts in the congressional races, as much of their money has been spent in the states of Colorado, New Mexico and New Hampshire — all three have been considered battlegrounds.
Indeed, the only Republican to see any support this year in the form of independent expenditures is Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, who lost his bid to fend off a primary challenge. Much of the environmentalists’ activity has been centered on Colorado and New Mexico, where the groups have spent heavily on both the Senate contests and one House race in each state. In fact, the two Colorado races are currently the top targets for environmentalists’ money, and they appear poised to stay that way through the election. The League of Conservation Voters has poured roughly $1 million into the Senate race between Rep. Mark Udall (D) and former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R), with more than a third of that money having been spent just since Labor Day. A couple of other groups have dropped a small amount of money into the contest, but their spending pales in comparison to LCV’s. The Colorado Senate race has been ground zero for outside group spending, as not only environmentalists but also business groups and other organizations have poured millions into the contest.
Oddly enough, the other race that has received the most money is not a high-profile Senate race or even one of the more closely watched House races. Defenders of Wildlife has poured roughly $1 million into their effort to topple Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R), whose 4th District covers much of the eastern half of the state.
The group had long ago announced that it would launch a campaign effort to beat Musgrave akin to the one it used two years ago topple former House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), a three-term incumbent (E&E Daily, July 9).
Musgrave has not been particularly visible on environmental issues during her time in Congress, having focused much of her effort on social policy. But environmentalists have said that because of the nature of her district, it was important to replace what they view as a staunchly anti-conservationist vote with a pro-conservationist one.
Indeed, the group appears to have backed up its promises with cash, spending heavily on both advertising and direct voter outreach methods.
Musgrave was already viewed as exceedingly vulnerable heading into the election, having received the lowest vote percentage of any winning candidate in the 2006 campaign. And most recent polls show her trailing Betsy Markey, a former State Department employee and aide to Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.).
There are other races in which environmentalists have spent tens of thousands of dollars, though none reach the level of spending in the two Colorado contests.
Since Labor Day, environmentalists have dropped roughly $80,000 into the New Mexico Senate race between Rep. Tom Udall (D) and Rep. Steve Pearce (R). The groups spent heavily there over the summer, but their spending has tailed off in recent weeks as Udall has moved out to a comfortable lead, with polls showing the Democrat holding a lead of 15 percent or more.
Additionally, environmental groups — both LCV and the Sierra Club — have in recent weeks started spending significant amounts in New Hampshire’s Senate race on behalf of former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D), who is making a bid to topple Sen. John Sununu (R). In September and October, the groups have spent roughly $80,000 on various door-to-door efforts as well as phone banks and direct mail. Shaheen has consistently led in the polls in that contest, though recent polling has shown that the race has tightened slightly.
Though environmentalists have also remained active in the presidential contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, as of this week, their overall spending in that race trails what they have spent in the congressional races.
Full October 22, 2008, Greenwire article here: http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2008/10/22/3 (Subscription Required)
Related Links: LCV’s ‘Environmental Scorecard’ Marred by Partisan Politics, Inhofe Says – October 17, 2008
Inhofe Report Exposes Environmental Groups as ‘Massive Democratic Political Machines’ – September 25, 2008
Weblink to Inhofe’s full 2008 report: Political Activity of Environmental Groups and their Supporting Foundations
Follow up to Report: Defenders of Wildlife’s Partisan & Misleading Ads on Aerial Wolf Hunt – October 15, 2008
INHOFE DISMISSES LCV’S ATTACK AS “WASHINGTON POLITICS AT ITS WORST” – September 9, 2007
Boxer’s Math Does Not Add Up: Letter Reveals 10 Democratic Senators Opposed Climate Tax Bill – June 6, 2008
Inhofe: Dems Running on Empty – Oped in Human Events – June 16 , 2008
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