- Environmentalist lobbying organization devoted to “shaping a pro-environment Congress and White House”
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) was founded in 1969 by veteran environmentalist David Brower, to advocate for stricter environmental regulations across the United States. The directorate that organized LCV’s activities in its early days was composed mostly of individuals who were also members of Friends Of The Earth.
LCV today describes itself as “the political voice of the national environmental movement and the only organization devoted full-time to shaping a pro-environment Congress and White House.” The League works to defeat what it calls “anti-environment” candidates running for political office, and to elect candidates who it believes will contribute to the welfare of the environment by means of their votes on various “priority issues.” Though LCV claims to be nonpartisan, its support is reserved almost exclusively for the Democratic Party. From 1992-2016, 94% of the League’s political donations went to Democrats, and 6% went to Republicans. In the 2016 election cycle, the corresponding figures were 99% and 1%. That same year, LCV endorsed 16 Democrats for the U.S. Senate, 58 Democrats for the House of Representatives, and Hillary Clinton for President.
In its quest to “hold legislators accountable,” LCV publishes an annual National Environmental Scorecard to provide “factual information” about the environment-related voting records of all Members of Congress. In 2016, the average scores for House and Senate Republicans were just 5% and 14%, respectively, while the average House and Senate Democrats scored 94% and 95%. Each year since the mid-1990s, LCV has designated a “Dirty Dozen” list of the twelve Members of Congress – almost exclusively Republicans – “who consistently side against the environment” in their legislative votes. To earn a good Scorecard grade from LCV, a lawmaker must consistently vote against oil and gas exploration and refinement projects; against any type of fossil-fuel extraction and development initiatives; in favor of protecting large swaths of land from development of any kind; in favor of highly burdensome anti-pollution and fuel-efficiency standards for the manufacture of automobiles; in favor of carbon taxes; and in favor of massive taxpayer subsidies for “green energy” initiatives like the infamous Solyndra project.
In 2016, LCV lauded President Barack Obama for the “incredible amount of progress” he had made during his final year in office, “firmly cementing his legacy as the greenest president in our history.” Specifically, the League praised Obama for having instituted a “moratorium on new coal leasing on public lands”; “limits on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry”; “heavy-duty truck fuel-efficiency standards”; the designation and expansion of numerous national monuments; the denial of the Dakota Access Pipeline permit; and “an indefinite ban on drilling in virtually the entire Arctic Ocean and important parts of the Atlantic Ocean.” When Republican Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, LCV pledged to continue “advancing the climate agenda launched by President Obama.”
LCV strongly supported the Paris Climate Agreement, to which President Obama committed the United States in 2016, as an accord where “the world took a giant step forward in the fight against climate change.” “But with the election of Donald Trump” said the League in early 2017, “all our progress is in jeopardy.” Lamenting that Trump’s “attacks on our environment” had the potential to derail “the progress our nation has made because of President Obama,” LCV vowed to “resist Trump’s agenda” as well as that of the “extreme anti-environmental [Republican] Congress.”
One of LCV’s major initiatives today is its Climate Change program, founded on the premise that the greenhouse gases associated with human industrial activity are a major cause of potentially catastrophic global warming. Identifying climate change as its “top priority” and “the greatest challenge of our generation,” LCV vows to “keep pressure on elected leaders” to “swiftly transition to a clean energy economy,” “reduce the harmful pollution created by burning fossil fuels,” and commit “to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050.”
LCV’s Environmental Justice program contends that “because of racism, inequality and injustice, our low-income and communities of color disproportionately shoulder th[e] burdens” of problems caused by climate change and pollution.” Specifically, “these communities often suffer from higher rates of asthma and other debilitating illnesses, contaminated soil and water, infrastructure that crumbles in extreme weather, and job loss and displacement.”
LCV’s Democracy program involves the organization directly in politics. In January 2017, for instance, League president Gene Karpinski criticized Republican Senator (and nominee for Attorney General) Jeff Sessions for supporting “strict voter ID laws that restrict access to the ballot,” and for his efforts to “prosecut[e] voter fraud, even though there is very little evidence that wide-scale fraud is an issue.”
LCV’s Chispa program is a community organizing initiative that actively seeks to increase the participation of Latinos in LCV activities – on the premise that Latinos are “often the first and worst hit by the effects of climate change.” This program is highly important to LCV because Latino voters tend to support Democrats at the polls by a wide majority.
For an overview of additional LCV programs, click here.
With more than 30 state affiliates across the United States, LCV currently has over 2 million members nationwide. From 2013-17, the League mobilized more than 32,000 volunteers to advance its agendas by making phone calls, knocking on doors, attending events, and advocating “on behalf of climate action.” To facilitate this process, LCV employs Catalist to compile voter lists and contact data for its target population.
LCV’s board chair is Carol Browner, who previously served in such positions as “Commissioner” of the Socialist International, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change under Barack Obama. A notable honorary director of LCV is Brent Blackwelder.
For additional information on LCV, click here.
- In addition, LCV complains that some recent Supreme Court decisions have “opened the floodgates of political contributions from wealthy special interests,” “gutted key voter protections,” and “amplified the influence of wealthy polluters while making it harder for many people — especially people of color, young people and unmarried women — to participate in elections.” (Notably, these three demographic groups tend overwhelmingly to vote for Democrats.) Most troubling to LCV is “the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling” of 2010, which struck down a ban that had prevented corporations and labor unions from funding the production of campaign ads for federal political candidates. By LCV’s telling, that ruling caused “anti-environment members of Congress” to increase “their loyalty to the Big Polluters” whose money “helped put them in office.”
- League of Conservation Voters: Environmental Group or Democratic Campaign Heavyweight?
By Hayden Ludwig and Kevin Boyd
July 6, 2017