- Trustee of the Beldon Fund
- Executive Director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group
- Board Member of the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
- Former Field Director of People For the American Way
Gene Karpinski is a Trustee of the Beldon Fund and has been the Executive Director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US-PIRG) since 1984. He is also the former Chairman of the League of Conservation Voters, and a current Board Member of the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. After receiving his JD degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1977, he worked as Field Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch from 1977 to 1981, as Executive Director of CoPIRG in 1981, and as Field Director of People For the American Way from 1982 to 1984 before rising to his present position with US-PIRG.
A key issue of concern to U.S. PIRG is campaign finance reform. In 1997, while arguing in favor of such reform before the House of Representatives, Karpinski claimed, “The right to speak freely is our nation’s highest value, but democracy also requires protecting alternative voices from being drowned out by a flood of cash.” Ignoring ample evidence that campaign finance regulations tend to favor powerful political forces who are better equipped than most to exploit the loopholes contained therein, Karpinski further contended that “unless we set limits on total campaign spending, the powerful can continue to broadcast their voices, while the less powerful are barely heard.”
Karpinski considers President Bush’s policies to be harmful to the natural environment. In May 2001, while Bush was in St. Paul, Minnesota promoting a new energy technology that can generate power by burning coal, oil, or wood, depending on which is the least expensive, Karpinski protested, “Our message today is clear: President Bush’s energy plan is dirty, dangerous, and doesn’t deliver for consumers. It’s a recipe for more drilling, more spilling, more nuclear waste, more asthma attacks, and more global warming.”
At a news conference held by various leftwing environmental groups commemorating Earth Day 2002, Karpinski said, “We are asking the public to send a loud and clear message to the Bush administration to stop letting big corporations trample on our environmental rights.”
On Earth Day 2003, Karpinski said, “Our message for this Earth Day is clear — behind closed doors and out of public view, the Bush administration is letting big corporations rewrite and weaken our environmental laws so they can pollute our air and poison our water, cut down our national forests and make taxpayers, rather than polluters, pay to clean up toxic wastes.”
On Earth Day 2004, he once again made comments of a similar nature: “The Bush Administration continues to allow big corporations to weaken our environmental laws so they can pollute our air and poison our water, cut down our national forests and make taxpayers–rather than polluters–pay to clean up toxic wastes.” “The public needs to know that their National Forests are now at risk from some very subtle attacks that weaken environmental standards and public involvement,” added Karpinski. “The timber industry is the sole beneficiary of the administration’s forest policies, and as a result, it has started to plunder and exploit the National Forests.”
In the 2004 Presidential primary season, the League of Conservation Voters (to which Karpinski is closely tied, and which received funding from Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Heinz Family Foundation) formally endorsed John Kerry and contributed to his campaign. Karpinski himself was also an individual contributor to the Kerry campaign.
When the Bush administration announced new forest planning regulations at the end of 2004, Karpinski responded, “It’s time for the administration to reverse its present course and start following the best available science instead of thinking only about the profits of industry. Without major revisions by the committee of scientists, these regulations will harm wildlife, clean water and recreational opportunities for all Americans.” In his role as PIRG chief, Karpinski has consistently lobbied against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and in favor of designating ANWR as a national monument. He has also advocated in favor of reserving vast areas of American wilderness as protected lands (roadless forests).