Established in 1970 by Friends of the Earth, the League of
Conservation Voters (LCV) is a political action committee (PAC)
that bills itself as "the bipartisan political arm of the
environmental movement." Examination of Federal Election
Commission records reveal otherwise: 155 of the 164 candidates
receiving donations from the LCV during the 1994 congressional
election cycle -- or 95% -- were Democrats.
The LCV's leadership also brings the group's bi-partisanship into question. Former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, now U.S. Secretary of Interior, served as President of the League prior to joining the Clinton Administration in 1993. His tenure as LCV may be most remembered for a rather intemperate remark he included in the introduction to a 1991 LCV publication: "We must identify our enemies and drive them into oblivion."
The League's current president is Debra Callahan. Callahan worked on the presidential campaign of Walter Mondale in 1984, served as deputy campaign manager for Senator Kent Conrad (D-MT) in 1986 and was national field coordinator for the 1988 presidential campaign of Albert Gore. More recently, she served as environmental program director for the W. Alton Jones Foundation, one of the top funders of environmental causes. Established with oil money, the W. Alton Jones Foundation's mission is "to protect the earth's life support systems from harm and to eliminate the possibility of nuclear war." This mission has led it to fund such disreputable groups as the World Watch Institute. The World Watch Institute's Lester Brown said in 1975 that inflation was caused by population growth. The same year, he spoke favorably of communist China saying, "Chinese success in agriculture cannot be viewed apart from the social reforms and regimentation that have resulted in a rare degree of social equity not only within the rural sector but between the rural and urban sectors as well."
While serving at the W. Alton Jones Foundation, Callahan wrote an astute analysis of the growing wise use movement that she presented at a meeting of the Environmental Grantmakers Association. "...What we're finding is that wise use is really a local movement driven by primarily local concerns and not national issues... And in fact the more we dig into it, having put together over a number of months a fifty-state fairly comprehensive survey of what's going on, we have come to the conclusion that this is pretty much generally a grassroots movement, which is a problem, because it means there's no silver bullet."
Immediately prior to joining the League of Conservation Voters, Callahan served as Executive Director of the Brainerd Foundation, another environmental movement funder.
The LCV is perhaps best known for its annual National Environmental Scorecard, which scores Members of Congress for their support of the environmental movement's agenda based on a series of "key votes." While the LCV laments "the unprecedented access by special interest lobbyists in the lawmaking process" in its 1996 Scorecard, it neglects to mention its own special interest influence. Members of the House of Representatives who received contributions from the LCV in 1994, for example, voted with the LCV's agenda (as measured by the League's own National Environmental Scorecard) an average of 89% of the time. Over 46% of Members of the House who received donations from the LCV voted for the LCV's position 100% of the time, while 86% voted for the LCV position 75% of the time or more.
Under the leadership of Debra Callahan, the League of Conservation Voters has taken an uncharacteristically harsh and partisan view of Congress. "In our 25-year history, the League has never witnessed such an egregious attack on our environmental laws," she has said. In a March 6, 1996 commentary in The Hill, she wrote: "In 1994 voters turned out a striking number of incumbents and changed leadership in both houses. Anti-environmentalists ascended to committee chairmanships backed by a virulently anti-regulatory freshman class... Only a new election -- the 1996 election -- can turn the tide."
The LCV claimed much of the credit for the success of Democrat Ron Wyden's campaign to succeed Robert Packwood as U.S. Senator from Oregon. The group has vowed to spend more than $1 million in the 1996 elections in support of "pro-environment" candidates.
Selected League of Conservation Voters Quotes
"We must identify our enemies and drive them into oblivion." - Bruce Babbitt, then League of Conservation Voters president, in the introduction to the LCV's 1991 National Environmental Scorecard
"...We have come to the conclusion that this [the wise use/property rights movement] is pretty much generally a grass roots movement, which is a problem, because it means there's no silver bullet." - LCV President Debra Callahan speaking at a 1992 meeting of the Environmental Grantmakers Association
"...This is a class issue. There is no question about it... the environmental movement is, has been, traditionally,... an upper class... white movement." - LCV President Debra Callahan speaking at a 1992 meeting of the Environmental Grantmakers Association
"In 1994 voters turned out a striking number of incumbents and changed leadership in both houses. Anti-environmentalists ascended to committee chairmanships backed by a virulently anti-regulatory freshman class... Only a new election -- the 1996 election -- can turn the tide." -LCV President Debra Callahan, The Hill, March 6, 1996
Version Date: March 11, 1996
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