League of Conservation Voters

The League of Conservation Voters is a radical environmental advocacy group that aims to hold “elected officials accountable for their votes and actions.” The organization consists of a 501(c)(4), a 501(c)(3) called the LCV Education Fund, and a PAC called the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund. The organization also has statewide branches that advocate for policy on the state and local levels. 

Unlike many environmental groups that partner their advocacy with actions that actually help the environment, the LCV strictly focuses on policy and politicians. 

Nonpartisan Nonsense

The LCV was founded by Marion Edey, a congressional staffer who wanted to support candidates who defended the environment. He wanted the LCV to act similar to a political party while supporting Democratic and Republican environmentalists and opposing candidates who did not prioritize the environment. 

To this day, the LCV continues to tout that all of its political decisions are made “regardless of party affiliation.” In practice, LCV has been an arm of the Democratic Party. 

According to data from Open Secrets, the LCV Action Fund hasn’t donated more than one percent of its $750,000 + political fund to Republicans since 2014. In the 2018 election cycle, the LCV Action Fund didn’t give a single penny of its $847,000 in political donations to a Republican. 

When it comes to running political advertisements, the PAC spent two-thirds of its money running advertisements against Republican candidates and one-third of its money running advertisements for Democratic candidates in 2020. 

It is also quite clear that LCV is working to maintain a Democratic majority, rather than focusing on ousting officials who have the worst view on environmental issues. A prime example of this is the LCV’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list. The list includes 12 candidates who “consistently side against the environment.” In recent years, the list has consisted solely of Republicans in swing districts. 

In 2020, the group targeted Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner. That same year, Gardner authored the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill that aimed to restore and protect national parks. The bill, which passed Congress and was signed into law, was one of the most impactful pieces of environmental law in decades, yet Gardner landed atop the LCV’s Dirty Dozen list. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Gardner was a vulnerable Republican. 

Oh, and Gardner’s opponent, John Hickenlooper? He spent the 2020 election cycle attempting to explain why he allowed oil companies to fund initiatives in his office while he was governor. 

Gene Technology

LCV has made a point to criticize politicians who do not believe the science when it comes to climate change, but it has also ignored some pretty clear science when it comes to the safety of genetically modified crops. 

LCV opposed legislation in 2015 that would have prohibited single states from requiring labels on foods produced with genetically engineered ingredients. The addition of labels was lobbied for by people who believe modified crops are unsafe, despite no evidence supporting that belief. 

In fact, modified crops are better for the environment in many ways. First, modified crops produce higher yields thereby requiring less land. Modified crops also are resistant to pests thereby requiring fewer pesticides.

Still, LCV ignored the science on GMOs and included any votes in favor of the bill as a strike on a candidate’s environmental scorecard. 

Misleading Voters

Over the years, LCV has used unethical means to sway voters. 

In 2020, LCV was criticized for running a “libelous” advertisement against a Republican candidate in North Carolina. LCV claimed that state Rep. Chris Humphrey secured “$50,000 in taxpayer money to go to a non-profit directly connected to his wife.” 

In reality, Humphrey was not married at the time of the alleged scam and, even if he had been, his wife did not work for the non-profit at the time. Humphrey called for a “full apology and retraction” from LCV, but one was never issued. 

LCV has also funded groups that have misled voters. In 2020, the fund gave $2.5 million to a voter registration group in Florida that sent misleading registration cards. The registration cards looked official but they were sent to many people who could not vote, including some dead Floridians and at least one dog. An official from Broward County said this group had repeatedly misled voters. 

“This group continues to disrupt and anger voters by using sloppy data tools that yield inaccurate mailers. We have repeatedly asked them to stop as they do incalculable harm and no discernible good,” the official said.  

Pitiful Plastic Policy

LCV has placed plastic products in its sights, no matter the repercussions on the public’s health. 

LCV supported legislation that would have prohibited National Parks (those evil places the Dirty Dozen’s Cory Gardner protected) from selling plastic water bottles. 

A few parks had already implemented the ban, including the deserts of Zion National Park, but the Trump administration overturned the policy. The administration opposed the policy because sugary sodas and sports drinks could be sold in plastic bottles, but not healthy options like water. LCV joined the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in attempting to codify the policy so that it cannot be overturned by presidential administrations. 

LCV has also advocated for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, a piece of legislation promoted by the #BreakFreeFromPlastic coalition. This was part of LCV’s bigger effort to have people live “plastic-free” lives — an effort the organization has promoted from plastic computers and phones. 

Dark Money Hypocrisy

LCV has run several campaigns against dark money while, at the same time, using its own dark money to cut checks to politicians. 

The Center for Public Integrity deemed LCV a dark money “heavyweight” in 2013. That year, LCV accepted roughly $15 million from progressive foundations that were then funneled to Democratic politicians, adding layers of opacity between politicians and their campaign contributors. 

A review from Issue One found that roughly a quarter of LCV’s funding classifies as “dark money.” That rating landed LCV in Issue One’s top fifteen dark money groups. 

Although LCV is a top dark money group, it has pretended to oppose dark money. In 2019, the organization praised a senate bill that would have limited dark money contributions that allow “polluter” dollars to go to politicians. 

“We desperately need to reform our democracy, get polluter money out of politics, and ensure that the communities most impacted by the climate crisis and toxic pollution have a seat at the table when we advance ambitious and equitable national climate policies,” said a LCV senior vice president, Tiernan Sittenfeld.

Maybe LCV just believes dark money threatens democracy when it comes from “polluters.”

Funding “Green Decoys”

One example of LCV’s dark money at work is the money it has given to environmentalist groups posing as sportsmen’s groups. In 2012, the Montana Hunters and Anglers, an environmentalist group posing as a pro-hunting and fishing organization, received $13,000 from LCV. MHA also received $140,000 in funding from the Washington D.C.-based group Citizens for Strength & Security Fund. The Citizens for Strength & Security Fund received $270,000 from LCV in 2012

It’s difficult to even understand how the Citizens for Strength & Security Fund operated. The address the group lists on its documentation is the address of a UPS store in downtown Washington, D.C. The Montana Hunters and Anglers group is similarly opaque, as ProPublica noted:

“Even though super PACs have to report their donors, the Montana Hunters and Anglers super PAC functioned almost like a dark money group. Records show its major donors included an environmentalist group that didn’t report its donors and two super PACs that in turn raised the bulk of their money from the environmentalist group, other dark money groups and unions.”