The mainstream media have begun to take notice that the environmental movement is spending a lot of money to elect candidates in the 4th November elections. Chris Mooney, an environmental advocate-reporter who was recently hired to write a Washington Post blog, posted an article on 27thOctober with the headline, “Environmental Groups Are Spending an Unprecedented $85 million in the 2014 Elections.” Mooney got his figures from a 24th October memo (posted here) by five leaders of the effort: Joe Bonfiglio of the Environmental Defense Action Fund, Sky Gallegos of NextGen Climate Action (the group funded by billionaire Tom Steyer), Heather Taylor-Miesle of the NRDC Action Fund, Daniel J. Weiss of the League of Conservation Voters, and Melissa Williams of the Sierra Club.
Greenwire (subscription required) headlined its article on the scale of environmental pressure group spending in the election, “Are Money and Power Changing the Environmental Movement?” That may have been a newsworthy topic about twenty-five or thirty years ago. In an excellent front-page article in the Washington Times, Valerie Richardson focuses on a much more timely angle—the fact that all this spending has done little to make climate change and other environmental concerns into major campaign issues.
Richardson writes: San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer has spent a staggering $76 million to promote climate change as a political issue in this year’s elections, but the subject isn’t exactly firing up the electorate. Polls show voters continue to rank climate change at the bottom of their priority lists. Even in races featuring the ‘Steyer Seven,’ the Democratic candidates selected by Mr. Steyer as the chief beneficiaries of his largesse, the issue is barely registering on the campaign trail.”
The fact that their issues aren’t resonating with voters has been noticed by the environmental pressure groups trying to maintain a Democratic majority in the Senate. As a result, many of the ads that they are paying for are on other issues, such as abortion, all the money being spent on behalf of Republicans by the Koch brothers, and various economic issues.
There are multiple hypocrisies in the environmentalists’ campaign spending. The first is that they continue to attack conservatives for being funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, while they are largely funded by Tom Steyer and other billionaires. The environmentalists’ strongholds are not working class neighborhoods in Cleveland, but rather Beverly Hills and Manhattan.
The second hypocrisy is the claim by most of the groups involved that their spending is bipartisan. It is true that the League of Conservation Voters does endorse a few green Republicans and occasionally even spends a little money supporting them. But only if they are shoo-ins. Thus Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins has been endorsed by the LCV and other environmental groups because there is no chance of defeating her.
The third hypocrisy, mentioned above, is spending all this cash on campaign ads that have nothing to do with environmental issues and often in support of Democratic candidates who claim to oppose the environmentalists on significant issues. Like other leftist special interests within the Democratic Party, the environmental pressure groups are desperate to keep Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as majority leader in the Senate.
The mainstream media have almost entirely given the environmentalists a pass on these and other hypocrisies, although Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker does at least point out that if their candidates lose after the environmentalists have spent all this money, it will be a big setback for their issues because it will demonstrate to future candidates that their issues don’t matter much to voters. We shall see how it turns out on 4th November.