Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.) held a meeting in his Washington office on Wednesday with his second biggest donor, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), an environmentalist group that strongly opposes the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking efforts in his home state.
Details of the meeting were not disclosed and requests for comment from Udall’s office were not returned.
Udall’s opponents were quick to pounce on his willingness to meet with the group, which has been branded a "dark money heavyweight." The group has spent $1 million on ads attacking Rep. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), who Udall is facing in a tough reelection fight.
"Mark Udall has taken his embrace for the League of Conservation Voters to a whole new level by openly meeting with their cronies in his official Washington, D.C. office," said Matt Connelly, press secretary of the Colorado Republican Party. "Coloradans have come to understand Senator Udall is out of touch, but the tone-deafness in this situation is striking."
Udall has declined to take positions on the merits of Keystone or hydraulic fracturing, the innovative natural gas extraction technique commonly known as fracking.
He voted against the pipeline for the fourth time last week, saying the review of the project, which has been delayed for five years, will need more time. He has not taken a public position on the dozen ballot initiatives in Colorado, organized by Rep. Jared Polis (Colo., D.), which would restrict fracking throughout the state.
Gardner supports the construction of Keystone and fracking efforts, and has called for Udall to disavow Polis’ efforts to ban the practice.
The LCV has been open about their positions, which include stopping Keystone and allowing communities to ban fracking and prohibit it on public lands due to "public health impacts." A study, financed in part by environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, undercut concerns about the process, finding that fracking produces only small amounts of small amounts of methane emissions.
The LCV is Udall’s second biggest donor; he has received $138,387 from the group over his career and $36,906 so far this cycle. The LCV spent $15 million aiding Democratic candidates in 2012, and is spending $1 million on anti-Gardner ads this cycle.
Udall accepted the LCV’s Action Fund endorsement earlier this year, saying he is "proud to stand" with the LCV.
"Senator Udall has been outspoken about our need to address climate change and the impact it is having on Colorado’s natural resources," the Action Fund said.
The group also praised Udall for his leadership when a group of Democratic senators kept the Senate lights on all night to give speeches about climate change.
"We congratulate Senator Udall on his leadership and will continue working with him to push for action to confront the climate crisis," they said.
Udall’s meeting with the organization was held ahead of the LCV’s annual Capital Dinner on Wednesday evening, where President Barack Obama delivered the keynote address.
Obama mocked Republicans in Congress in front of roughly 800 environmentalist activists and Democrat politicians for being anti-science and pretending they are illiterate.
"They say, hey, I’m not a scientist, which really translates into, I accept that manmade climate change is real, but if I say so out loud, I will be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements that thinks climate science is a liberal plot so I’m going to just pretend like, I don’t know, I can’t read," he said.
Obama also praised the LCV for being the first group to endorse him when he first ran for Senate and was elected in 2006.
Obama said the endorsement was "a testament that this was an organization that cared about ideas, and obviously had a really good eye for talent."
"So I am here primarily out of loyalty. There’s a little payback going on here," he added, to a laughing audience.