Pro-Environment Groups Spent Millions on “Green” Midterm Candidates

In October, the United Nations released a landmark report describing a grim future for the planet if climate change isn’t aggressively and rapidly addressed.

The report describes near-apocalyptic conditions — mass food shortages, stronger wildfires and dying coral reefs — as early as 2040.

Many environmental advocacy groups, like Environment America and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), spent millions on the 2018 midterms to ensure Congress is filled with more pro-environment members. So far in 2018, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and Partnership for Conservation have funded lobbying efforts for policies supporting the environment.

“This is not some distant threat,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV’s senior vice president for government affairs. “The need to combat the climate crisis has never been more important.”

While the consequences of climate change aren’t new information, the UN report makes the situation far more dire than previously thought.

In the meantime, President Donald Trump and his administration have actively worked against addressing climate change, most notably Trump’s announcement in 2017 that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement.

Under the Paris agreement between 195 countries, the United States pledged to cut greenhouse emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The Trump administration also rolled back a number of common-sense environmental laws and regulations, Sittenfeld said.

“We’re dealing with the most anti-environmental administration ever,” Sittenfeld said.

However, during this election cycle, groups like LCV spent millions on a number of House, Senate, governorship and state house races on candidates with pro-environment agendas. And their efforts paid off.

In total, League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, along with other affiliates, spent an unprecedented $80 million during the midterms. LCV Victory Fund spent $17.5 million on House races and $12.6 million on Senate races.

LCV’s biggest donor is Michael Bloomberg. So far in 2018, the former New York City mayor gave $5 million. Bloomberg pledged to spend $4.5 million to cover the United States’ financial commitment under the Paris agreement after Trump withdrew.

Over 50 of the newly elected members of Congress are endorsed by LCV. According to the organization’s guide on the newly elected congressional members, 52 new House representatives and four new senators are considered “environmental champions.”

“We’re thrilled that after years of working with an anti-environment House, we are so excited to work with a new, pro-environment House,” Sittenfeld said.

One of these new members is Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Ocasio-Cortez recently drafted a resolution to create a committee and develop “A Green New Deal,” a comprehensive policy to combat climate change. Last week, Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her support of reinstating the select committee to address the climate crisis.

LCV also spent big on defending pro-environment incumbents and targeting candidates with poor records on environmental policies. The group spent nearly $2 million against Matt Rosendale, the candidate who challenged Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). The organization pledged to spend nearly $1 million on an ad campaign focused on Rosendale’s opposition to public land protection.

The League also celebrated the defeats of candidates who the organization considers bad on the environment. LCV classified these candidates as the “Dirty Dozen,” and maintains a list for the House and the Senate.

Out of the Dirty Baker’s Dozen races in the House, all but one of those candidates lost their races. Only three of the Dirty Dozen Senate candidates won.

Environment America, an environmental advocacy organization, spent $15.1 million on the 2018 election cycle, double what it spent in 2016. Environment America Action Fund, the organization’s super PAC, spent $13.1 million, $2.5 million of which went to LCV.

As a whole, environment groups overwhelmingly support Democrats over Republicans. This cycle, Democratic candidates received $6.2 million, while Republicans received $245,500.

Aside from the midterms, organizations are also funding pro-environment lobbying efforts. So far in 2018, $13.2 million has been spent for lobbying on environmental issues.

The Nature Conservancy is the biggest client, spending $1.4 million. Partnership for Conservation spent $790,000 and the Natural Resource Defense Council spent $736,900 so far this year.