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The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) was founded in 1969 by veteran environmentalist David Brower. 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.” It works to defeat what it calls “anti-environment” candidates running for political office, and to elect candidates who it believes are contributing 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. In the 2016 election cycle, 99% of its political donations went to Democrats, and 1% went to Republicans. From 1992-2016, the corresponding figures were 94% and 6%.
Each year since 1970, LCV has published a National Environmental Scorecard to provide “factual information” about the environment-related voting records of all Members of Congress. In 2016, the average score for House Republicans was just 5%, while the average House Democrat scored 94%. In the Senate, Republicans scored an average of 14%, while the average score for Democrats was 95%. And each year since the mid-1990s, LCV has designated the twelve worst offenders “who consistently side against the environment” in their legislative votes, as the “Dirty Dozen.” These, too, are almost exclusively Republicans.
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 increased fuel-efficiency (CAFE) standards for motor vehicles; in favor of highly burdensome anti-pollution standards for the manufacture of automobiles; in favor of carbon taxes designed to redistribute wealth, both domestically and internationally, as a means of compensating poor people for allegedly having to bear a disproportionate share of the ill effects associated with the environmental degradation caused by polluters; and in favor of massive taxpayer subsidies for “green energy” initiatives like the infamous Solyndra project.
In the Overview section of its Scorecard for 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, LCV praised Obama for having instituted a “moratorium on new coal leasing on public lands”; “the first-ever limits on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry”; “heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency standards”; “the agreement with nearly 200 countries to reduce super pollutant hydrofluorocarbons … under the Montreal Protocol”; the designation and expansion of numerous national monuments; the denial of the Dakota Access Pipeline permit; the removal of “both the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans from the five-year offshore drilling plan”; and “an indefinite ban on drilling in virtually the entire Arctic Ocean and important parts of the Atlantic Ocean.”
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. The League identifies climate change as its “top priority” and “the greatest challenge of our generation.” To address the problem, LCV says “we must swiftly transition to a clean energy economy [and] reduce the harmful pollution created by burning fossil fuels.”
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.” (Click here for details of that Agreement.) “But with the election of [President] 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.”
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 delves into areas that have little or nothing to do with the environment, on the theory that “the long-term health of our planet is inextricably linked with the health of our democracy.” Most notably, the League 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.” In January 2017, LCV president Gene Karpinski criticized Republican Senator (and nominee for Attorney General) Jeff Sessions for his support for “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 actively seeks to increase the participation of Latinos in LCV activities in six states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, Nevada, and Maryland – 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.
From 2013-17, LCV 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.” As of mid-2017, the League had more than 2 million members nationwide – an increase of nearly 150% since 2012.
LCV currently has 29 state affiliates across the U.S. Its board chair is Carol Browner, who has 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. Other LCV board members are closely affiliated with organizations like Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Democracy Alliance, the Wilderness Society, and the Turner Foundation.
An honorary director of LCV is Brent Blackwelder.
Over the years, LCV has received funding from the Bauman Family Foundation, the Beldon Fund, the Blue Moon Fund, the Bullitt Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Joyce Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New-Land Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Turner Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, and numerous others.
For additional information on LCV, click here.