The League of Democrats

Conservation group spends more than a million dollars to defeat GOP candidates

Wikimedia Commons
• August 6, 2012 5:00 am


The League of Conservation Voters, one of the nation’s most prominent environmental advocacy groups, is dedicating more than $1 million to unseating five House Republicans it accuses of being global warming deniers.

The League of Conservation Voters recently announced it would target Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle (R., N.Y.), Dan Benishek (R., Mich.), Dan Lungren (R., Calif.), and two yet-to-be-named House Republicans for their stance on global warming and ties to the oil and gas industry.

The organization plans to spend $1.5 million against the representatives, whom it has dubbed "the Flat Earth Five." League of Conservation Voters spokesman Jeff Gohringer said it is the group’s first targeted campaign against "climate deniers." All of the House members targeted have questioned the role of humans in driving climate change.

"The science on climate change is as solid as any public policy question will ever get, but Rep. Lungren just won’t acknowledge the facts," said Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters, in a statement.

The organization has been a stalwart foe of House Republicans since they took control of Congress’ lower chamber in 2010.

"This has been the worst House of Representatives ever when it comes to environmental issues, so it was hard narrowing it down to just five," Gohringer said.

However, Myron Ebell, the director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said it was business as usual at the League of Conservation Voters.

"They’re doing what they typically do," Ebell said. "Trying to find Republican members in marginal seats where they think voters will be swayed by environmental arguments."

"It’s a Democratic Party operation, really," Ebell continued. "But it’s not because the Democratic Party controls the environmental movement, but because the environmental movement controls the Democrats."

The group has close ties to the Obama administration. League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski has visited the White House more than a dozen times since 2010, meeting with a variety of White House officials.

Senior Vice-President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld has visited the White House 42 times, while legislative director Sara Chieffo appears on the White House visitor logs 10 times.

The organization also targets Democrats who don’t toe the party line. Earlier this year, the League of Conservation Voters spent $230,000 against Rep. Tim Holden (D., Penn.) in his Democratic primary, the largest single independent expenditure in the race. Holden, who was targeted for opposing President Obama’s clean energy plan, was defeated.

Gohringer emphasized that the League of Conservation Voters lobbies extensively, and the expenditures were not made in conjunction with or support of any candidate.

A spokesman for Benisheks’ campaign said the league is valuing party orthodoxy over energy independence.

"It is troubling that Gary McDowell [Benishek’s Democratic opponent] and his Washington allies would rather attack Dr. Benishek than explain to Northern Michigan families why he supports Nancy Pelosi's failed policies like the national energy tax that would destroy millions of jobs and raise gas prices," Benishek’s campaign spokesman said in a statement to the Free Beacon.

"While Dr. Benishek has been fighting to help this country become energy independent now and for future generations, Gary McDowell would rather tax Northern Michigan families into the ground with his cap and trade boondoggle."