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The Hill has an article up today about how green groups are supporting a number of Senate candidates (or incumbents) who support the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has raised funds for Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), Senate candidate Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC).

Here is what NRDC had to say:

“It’s public record that we’ve already supported candidates who have said that they are in support of the Keystone pipeline,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund. “The action fund has made the strategic conclusion in this cycle to focus on climate change, and specifically the president’s climate plan.”

....

“As long as they are not preventing the president from acting,” Taylor-Miesle said of those lawmakers.

Their deal breaker is "preventing the president from acting." They don't require anything proactive of their endorsees, just "not getting in the way too directly."

If their focus is climate change, though, then they should not be supporting anyone who voted for the Keystone XL pipeline, which is not reconcilable with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Supporting Keystone XL might not be "preventing the president from acting," but it is certainly undermining professed goals.

The only Senate vote from this Congress that they apparently view as a deal breaker is Inhofe's budget amendment blocking the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. That means that only Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) would be beyond the pale to them.

A vote for the Hoeven amendment (Keystone XL) in the Senate should be just as much of a deal breaker.

The Sierra Club made the following statement:

“When we consider supporting candidates, we look at their record as a whole from where they stand on protecting our lands and wildlife to stopping Keystone XL to advancing clean energy,” Melissa Williams, the Sierra Club’s national political director, said in a statement.

Williams cited Hagan as a candidate who Sierra Club supports because of her record on environmental issues, despite her support for Keystone XL.

But is she worth their time and money?

If, as an interest group, you want to be effective, to have leverage, you need to employ both carrot and stick. You use the carrot when legislators vote well, and you use the stick when they don't. However, you can also employ neither--when someone is not good enough for a carrot but not bad enough for a stick. If you aren't willing to hold high standards and keep this option open, then the politicians have no reason to listen to you (especially against the louder voices coming from the polluters). They need to know that they have to win your support. They should not take it for granted.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) scorecard is not perfect, but it is a useful tool in evaluating the environmental record of members of Congress. Green groups should only be endorsing and fundraising for Senators or representatives with LCV scores with over 90%. I think that is a clear, simple, and strong benchmark. Hagan falls short with 84%, Braley with 88%, and Begich with 77%.

If these groups wanted to fund candidates in seats in which Democrats need to firm up their support, they could fund Al Franken (94%), Jeff Merkley (100%), and Jeanne Shaheen (95%).

They could also support Shenna Bellows's candidacy in Maine against Susan Collins. Collins has the highest LCV score of any Republican at 67%, but that's still only a D. Bellows, who has already been endorsed by local environmental leaders in Maine, would be a far more dependable vote for the environmental community, and she has come out against the Keystone XL pipeline (which Collins, of course, supports).

They could also use that money in House races or gubernatorial races.

Big Green groups are basically willing to donate to any Democrat whose "ear" they can get, who invites them to the table (even if it's just the kiddie table), who allows them to get their foot in the door. That's fine as a way to make voting decisions in close races. But for time and money? You should expect more.

Originally posted to Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees on Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 03:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's been that way for a while ... (11+ / 0-)

    Big Green groups are basically willing to donate to any Democrat whose "ear" they can get, who invites them to the table (even if it's just the kiddie table), who allows them to get their foot in the door. That's fine as a way to make voting decisions in close races. But for time and money? You should expect more.

    and it's why things are going backwards in some areas, like union and women's rights.

  •  NRDC is not a dependable ally. Do not trust them. (10+ / 0-)

    They prefer to play behind the scenes power broker, hob nobbing with power politicians and will turn on the grass roots activists in a second. I speak from personal experience.

    Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

    by Catskill Julie on Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 05:52:38 PM PDT

    •  Per Jane Hamsher's characterization, (4+ / 0-)

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 10:13:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They are also extremely effective (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LakeSuperior

      In getting laws and policies enacted.  NRDC is a very science and policy based organization, so yes at times they'll run counter to the grassroots if the grassroots are pushing for policies that aren't proven to be effective or meaningful.   I'd be interested to hear more about your experiences since obviously my interactions are quite different

      •  No. We have watched them IGNORE the science, and (0+ / 0-)

        ignore good environmental policy for POLITICAL expediency,

        They, like Unions and some other organizations figure out who appears to be the most powerful and play to that person, hoping for "incremental" improvements in the future that do not pan out. They have sometimes been completely WRONG on science and public health, have lied to and publicly slandered the activists subsequently shown to be RIGHT, all the while raising $$$ on their backs.

        It is NOT that the positions of the local activists were unrealistic! Hogwash! They acted to please powerful political interests or electeds, against environmental interests. It's venal, it's craven. It's the biggest problem with the national enviros.

        Brave Sierra Club grass roots members -- in the face of threats of having elections overturned, officers "fired" and even state Chapters disbanded -- FINALLY dragged the National organization to stop supporting fracking.

        NRDC does not care what its members think at all.

        Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

        by Catskill Julie on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 06:22:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The NRDC doesn't surprise me. (8+ / 0-)

    They have done good things in the courtroom, but if there isn't a legal challenge to be had, they aren't grassroots activists.

    I've come to view them as "inside the beltway".

    I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

    by Just Bob on Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 05:54:08 PM PDT

  •  Good Lord! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Victor Ward, ban nock, fladem, Egalitare

    Why don't we just replace Landrieu, Begich, Walsh, Pryor, and Hagan with Tea Party Republicans. Since the Dems have already lost South Dakota and West Virginia, that will give the GOP an extra seat margin in case McConnell loses in Kentucky. And maybe, if we're lucky, Udall will lose in Colorado and Braley in Iowa.

    I am certain that a Republican Senate will do far more for climate change and other environmental issues - let alone civil rights, women's rights, health care, fair wages, and a host of other issues.

    Not to mention the great moral victory we can claim.

    •  You are not understanding, or admitting, the (6+ / 0-)

      distinction between "endorsing"/sending organizational money and "biting the bullet." We all have to bite the bullet all the time as voters, and we expect the organizations we trust to help us do that most wisely. Sure we are better off with Dems in those places on "a host of ... issues." That is not the issue the diarist is addressing. The diarist clearly says: "That's fine as a way to make voting decisions in close races. But for time and money? You should expect more." Please see my comment below.

      garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

      by Galtisalie on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 03:42:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The chemicals in the atmosphere don't care (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Galtisalie, NoMoreLies

        whether there are Tea Partiers or Fossil Fuel Democrats in Congress. And the reactions these chemicals will have will proceed either way, and the effects on us inhabiting that atmosphere will be just as harsh either way.

        Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 01:09:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Conflation (8+ / 0-)

      As Galtisalie notes above, you are conflating two things: (1) official endorsements with organizational backing and (2) votes (or recommendations to "hold your nose and vote" for such a candidate).

      Organizational money is in short supply and should be used only for candidates that merit it. Kay Hagan and Mark Begich would certainly be better on environmental issues than a Republican challenger and merit a vote because of that. They do not deserve the official endorsement of green groups (and all the money that entails) because that sets the bar quite low for those groups.

      From an environmental perspective, Mary Landrieu will be no better or no worse than her Republican challenger. From the perspective of some other issues, she will be better. But you can't say that on energy/environment when the woman can only bring herself to mention renewables on her website in order to disparage them.

      •  When One Says, "It Can't Get Worse" (7+ / 0-)

        It usually can.

        You are unlikely to get anyone better than Landrieu out of Louisiana for the next generation - and you can get a lot worse. Remember, an increasing number of Goppers favor selling off - make that giving away - the public domain.

        League of Conservation Voters -

        Landrieu - 69%/51%
        Vitter - 15%/5%

        http://scorecard.lcv.org/...

        So, if anyone is doing a bit of conflation, I suggest that it is the two of you. There is a huge difference between those Dem senators I mentioned above and their likely GOP replacements. Even on environmental issues.

        PS - Although I agree that an organization should focus its support, painting red state/energy state Dems as ogres is disingenuous and, ultimately, counterproductive.

    •  You didn't really read the argument, did you? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Galtisalie, NoMoreLies

      We're talking about endorsements from issue groups. Those issue groups are not the Democratic party; it's not their job to ensure Democratic majorities. They are issue groups. It's their job to push for progress on their issue. That's all.

      For the environment, a Hillary Clinton White House is little better than a Jeb Bush White House.  She is pro-KXL, pro-global fracking, and if she's taken any position against fossil fuels I don't know about it.  The same goes for these Senators. Basically, if you're in favor of dilbit and fracked natural gas, it doesn't matter what else you're for; chemical reactions in the atmosphere don't operate according to Washington rules of negotiation and compromise.

      Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 01:07:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I could not agree more. Organizational money (4+ / 0-)

    and "endorsements" should only go to candidates with high ratings on the metrics of that organization.

    I realize, as a famous frog said, that it's not easy being green. Fine to publish general election voting guides that honestly say for instance, "We suggest you bite the bullet and support with your vote, time, and money highly imperfect, C-rated Democratic candidate so and so over truly horrible F-rated Republican candidate so and so."

    I would extend this beyond green organizations to multi-issue (and in my case truly leftist) organizations. For instance, I do not want my democratic socialist organization "endorsing" and sending the membership's funding to some crappy centrist candidate. I want a full-throated articulation of our views in Democratic primaries, or the organization should stay out of a race endorsement-wise and money-wise.

    However, when push comes to shove, in general elections, I want my organization suggesting how I should most wisely pull the lever, write my tiny checks, and dedicate my time before and on election day in GOTV and fighting voter suppression. I do not want any more President W's. But I do not want the cause I believe in tarnished by association with "endorsement" of crappy centrist candidates. I have the big tent Democratic party, which I support, albeit begrudgingly (I wish I lived under a parliamentary system where I could do otherwise), for that.

    garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

    by Galtisalie on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 03:33:58 AM PDT

  •  XL is a very small thing environmentally, the NRDC (4+ / 0-)

    maybe recognises this.

    Democratic senators even if they had an abysmal LCV score would still caucus with the Dems, and having a Dem senate is overall going to be much much better for conservation than a Republican one.

    It's just this sort of thinking that has the NRA supporting a poor candidate for guns who is R rather than a pro gun D, they know that the courts and the control of the senate or house is more important than any individual.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 06:50:07 AM PDT

  •  Where's the money? (0+ / 0-)

    If we environmentalists had the money to buy the media for the Landrieu and Begich campaigns, for example, it would still not be possible to say to each of them, in of course the most velvet of speech, here's the deal.  Back off Keystone XL support or you don't get the money.

    This is because 52% of the people favor the damned thing.  In each of those states, the concentration is probably higher.  So to win this fight it was necessary to buy the media and overcome the propaganda and we have not done so.  We can't.  We don't have the dick or the dough.  

    Therefore we need to do 3 things.
    1. Hold our noses and support
    2. Get the clout and the money and amplify the message in the select districts and states with the best possible media campaigns
    3. Register green and minority voters and gotv.

    Otherwise, no change.

    This is us governing. Live so that 100 years from now, someone may be proud of us.

    by marthature on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 08:57:09 AM PDT

  •  Not sure that I agree (0+ / 0-)

    I get what you're saying and I'm not a fan of conservadems at all, but at the same time having a democratic majority is essential to getting anything done on the environment. It might well be a better use of funds to spend on close races that preserve a senate majority than to fund real liberals who are going to win their races without help.  

    Consider that if the Republicans gain control of the senate they'll probably end the filibuster first thing and send the Keystone pipeline to Obama, who will probably not veto it.  

    •  2008-10 disproved that. (4+ / 0-)

      We saw fossil fuel Democrats block meaningful climate legislation when they had the Senate majority. Getting a Democratic majority doesn't ensure action on climate change. Only supporting candidates who actually support action on the issue will result in laws being passed. Obama wasn't the problem in 2009 on energy issues. Fossil fuel Democratic Senators were.

      •  It's tough (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ban nock

        It does seem like it's one step back with democrats, 3 steps back with republicans.  But it seems unlikely that we're going to have 51 senators with +90% ratings any time soon.

        How do we work with that?  I don't know the answer. It seems unlikely that an anti-oil Democrat is going to come out of a place like Alaska.  

      •  Apply this to every issue. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dfarrah

        2008-10 disproved that on every issue.

        I disagree on Obama, though. Read a very disturbing analysis in the New Yorker a couple years ago on the role of the White House in derailing the last attempt at a climate agreement in the Senate.

        Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 01:11:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The formula is something like (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LakeSuperior

      Looking for the biggest marginal gains for the buck.  Spending on safe, sure votes isn't a good use of cash. The ideal candidate is one who

      1) Represents a big step from the likely opponent
      2) is vulnerable
      3) has a good enough record that they can be deemed persuadable if you help them win narrowly

      That's how you increase leverage.   Spending on people already in your camp isn't as useful provided they don't lose

      Thus this strategy is a calculated risk that the good guys win, and the ok guys are a little beholden to you.  That's how to maximize senate votes

  •  A lobbyist's goal is to pass legislation or (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, Egalitare

    shut down legislation. They do this by strategically supporting candidates - sometimes a candidate might not be perfect on an individual policy but if the lobbyist can get that candidate to vote for or against a particular bill that is the only thing that matters.

    The only thing. Don't think of congress as a bunch of individuals, think of it as a body that can be manipulated and you'll see why they do the things they do.

  •  Big greens and Pat Quinn in IL. (2+ / 0-)

    Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has launched a massive assault on the environment in Illinois coal and fracking regions. It's essential that we oppose him on those efforts if we're going to protect clean water and deal with climate. Instead, a few big green groups including NRDC, Sierra Club, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Faith-in-Place haven't spoken a word of criticism against Quinn, and even helped pass his terrible fracking law.

    These groups are building their relationship with those in power at the expense of the environment in low-income, disempowered communities. They're enablers of environmental destruction. If they don't correct their mistake then people in rural Illinois will have to make it clear to political leaders that the big greens don't speak for us.

  •  As they said to me at NRDC when I interned there: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare

    "We're not activists."

    Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 01:02:17 PM PDT

    •  They aren't (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LakeSuperior

      They're advocates

      •  I don't hate them. (2+ / 0-)

        They do good work--for what they do. Well, for the most part they do; I think supporting KXL-supporting Democrats is a bad decision.

        But given that they're not activists, they're much more likely to be hobnobbing with powerful insiders than they are to be standing in solidarity with people fighting for good policy from the grassroots. So you can't really expect solidarity from them.

        Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 01:48:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Depends on what you mean by operationalize (0+ / 0-)

          the people who work there spend most of their time meeting in capitols, working in court or meeting with agencies.  Mass protests, etc. isn't the focus.

          That said, they tend to push for policies they have good evidence for and also get deeply into the weeds on policy issues (e.g., do you have statutory definitions for "transit oriented development" that includes sites within a half-mile of a transit route, or would a quarter-mile be better?  What are the population genetic markers of a particular distinct population candidtate for listing, or how do you structure net metering rates for electric vehicle owners to maximize level 2 charger uptake).  The level of detail at which they operate in drafting rules line by line is not the sort of thing a mass protest is going to have any interest in figuring out.

          However, there is solidarity in the sense that they operationalize the objectives expressed in mass movements (except ones, like opposition to smart metering, where mass movements are anti-environmental of course).  

          That said, my sense is that NRDC in particular is aware of this gulf and thinking of ways to tackle it.

          •  When I was there, there was some attempt to do so (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mindful Nature, Galtisalie

            like I said, I don't hate them or think they're evil.

            When things are going well, they do operationalize the objectives expressed in mass movements, and do it well. As DC politics gets more noxious, this relationship becomes more and more strained as the deals available on Capitol Hill and elsewhere become increasingly nasty. That's not NRDC's fault, unless in the sense that they need to know when to display a Churchill-like refusal to compromise rather than engage in the sensible conventional-wisdom reliance on negotiation and compromise that almost everyone in politics prefers.

            Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

            by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 02:14:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I've been a member of NRDC for (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mindful Nature

            40 years, and the reason I've stuck with NRDC is because
            of all of the environmental groups out there, NRDC's program and staff conduct the best, most credible and most professional work of all of the major environmental organizations.

            What NRDC does as an organization makes a big difference for the environment.    

            •  I respect their work (0+ / 0-)

              I did choose to intern for them, you know.

              It's just better to know the limits of what you can expect from an ally. They're sure not going to be hammering Congress to not support KXL, nor are they going to be on the front lines with us when we have to commit civil disobedience along the pipeline route, nor do I really expect them to give us legal aid in that eventuality. We'll get more help from the National Lawyers' Guild or maybe the ACLU.

              Some big NGOs have an intimate relationship with the grassroots; others do (admittedly good) work among the powerful. However, as the halls of power get increasingly corrupt and approach being unreclaimable, those who try to get good deals out of the powerful are liable to get dragged further away from their goals and forced to make worse and worse compromises and call them progress.

              Or, they can take a Churchill-like stance and refuse to deal. But that would not, IMO, be their first, second, or third favorite choice, given that working within the system--both legislative and judicial--for good policy outcomes IS their actual mission.

              Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

              by SouthernLiberalinMD on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 09:01:12 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Id wager (0+ / 0-)

    its because some of the more sane people heading the major green groups realize that Keystone XL is more a political issue than it really is an environmental issue.

    Any way a low "score" of 77% seems rather reasonable unless your an extreme purist.

    Hell if my friends agreed with me 80% of the time, it would be boring to even talk to them.

  •  Begich has no viable opponent in the primary (0+ / 0-)

    and his probable Republican challenger (Sullivan) would certainly be a worse Senator on environmental issues. Sullivan has a post on Facebook saying "President Obama’s environmental agenda is undermining Alaska and America’s future." (Joe Miller, a Tea Party nutcase, is also running on the Republican side). So this is one race where I think it is worth holding your nose a bit and backing the Democrat, imperfect though he may be.

  •  Beware of supposed "Green" Action groups (0+ / 0-)

    I would never discourage anyone from joining the Sierra Club,if they want to meet older, conservation minded people who like to hike. But they have been co-opted, and that is not even a recent event.

    Same with Natural Resources Defense. I never could figure out who funded them but they were totally excited about MTBE, the extremely toxic gas additive back in the 1990's. (As was the Sierra Club.)

    Also I am rather leery of the President's notion of stopping Climate Change. I envision his system as one wherein the environmentally-minded individual is taxed and fined for such atrocities as forgetting to separate their re-cycling properly, while the Big and Bad Usual Group of Suspects go on tossing their poisons into the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food and personal care products we use. The elected officials will continue to tout the value of tax credits and other nonsense, whereas what really needs to happen is to stop the Pipeline and outlaw fracking.

    And that of course, our elected officials do not have the will to do,as they are so dependent on the Campaign Contributions from the usual Suspects of Big Bad Polluters.

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