Extra: Environmental Groups to Fight Republicans


DATE: May 7, 2001
BACKGROUND: With Republicans in control of the House, Senate and Administration, Environmental groups are making elaborate plans to thwart the GOP agenda and take control in the 2002 and 2004 elections.
A look back at 2000:  The League of Conservation Voters, working with the Sierra Club and others, succeeded in defeating seven of the 12 Republicans they targeted as their "Dirty Dozen" in the 2000 election. Their defeat of Senators Spencer Abraham in Michigan and Slade Gorton in Oregon cost Republicans outright control of the U.S. Senate and other races narrowed the Republican control of the House. Conversely, all 12 of the candidates whom these organizations actively supported won. Of course, there were other factors involved in each election. However, the numerous "troops on the ground" and money spent (LCV alone put $4.1 million into the campaigns) had an influence. As these groups get even better organized and financed, failure to offset their efforts could cost the Republican Party control of both Houses of Congress. Here is a run-down of what we see on the environmental front.  
The groups involved: Earth First, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, President Bush Watch (a newly-formed coalition of groups), Wilderness Society, Wildlands Project, Public Interest Research Group, Environmental Defense (formerly Environmental Defense Fund), Natural Resources Defense Council, Alaska Wilderness League, EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund, Endangered Species Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Environmental Working Group, National Environmental Trust, Community Rights Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Earth Liberation Front, World Wildlife fund, Oregon Natural Resource Council, Infoshop, Greenpeace and a host of others. 
Financing: Combined, for the full range of their activities, these groups have nearly limitless financing. The bulk of it comes from "charitable" organizations, such as the Pew Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Turner Foundation, Bullit Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, W. K. Kellogg Fund, and many others. Nearly all of this funding is coordinated by the Environmental Grantmakers Association, of which these trusts, funds and foundations are members.  
Government funding of some of these groups is provided by various agencies, principally the Environmental Protection Agency, which doles out approximately $1.7 billion per year in non-competive bid "X" grants, a portion of which goes to these groups. 

For information about those "environmental" groups which oppose trade and agriculture policies, as well as an elaborate analysis of their funding, visit http://www.truthabouttrade.org
Goals: "Environmental protection" appears to be a tool rather than a goal of leaders of the environmental movement. The goal appears to be political power. This conclusion comes from two facts. The first is their ever-increasing role in political activity and elections, as was evidenced in the last election and the plans they are making for the next. The second is that they often advocate policies which are harmful to the environment but which increase their political influence.  
Activities: While all groups are involved, to one degree or another, in politics, they generally assume different, but well-coordinated roles.  
For instance, groups such as the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters assume a "moderate" public stance and participate very openly in political campaigns. 
Groups such as the Wilderness Society play an active role in developing legislation to restrict economic progress.  
Others, such as EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund, National Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense are active in advancing their goals in the courts (a common practice of these organizations during the Clinton/Gore Administration was to take grants from EPA and then sue the agency to implement a policy the agency wanted to implement but found politically unpopular - i.e., the environmental groups provided the Clinton/Gore Administration with political cover).  
Others, such as Earth First, specialize in demonstrations, such as those in Seattle, Washington, DC and most recently in Davos, Switzerland, protesting the WTO and the World Bank. 
More extreme are the terrorist groups such as Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front ,which specialize in bombing and arson of research laboratories, agricultural research farms and housing developments - most recently, on Long Island. Earth First occasionally joins in such acts of terrorism, primarily in and near western forests.  
Some groups are blatant "red meat" organizations, such as Infoshop, which openly advocates socialism.  You can find Infoshop at http://www.infoshop.org/octo/index.html. However, be warned that this web site contains sexually vulgar language and is not for everybody. [Webmaster note: this link stopped working on November 16, 2001]

While these organizations play distinct roles, and though they sometimes act outside those roles, they generally coordinate well with each other and provide mutual assistance. 
The bottom line: For all these organizations, their financial supporters and members, losing control of both Houses of Congress, and now the White House, have been both shocks and bitter disappointments. These groups formed the hard core nucleus of Al Gore's support -- and lost. They have begun campaigns 2002 and 2004 with renewed determination to win by attacking on every environmental issue, portraying Republicans as destroyers of the environment, pawns of big business, and poisoners of the air and water. 

by Tom Randall, Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, The National Center for Public Policy Research

Contact the author at 773-857-5086 or TRandall@nationalcenter.org
The National Center for Public Policy Research, Chicago office
3712 N. Broadway - PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613