Environmental groups are becoming more political and are using their funds to try to defeat Republican candidates, including President Bush, according to a Senate panel report.
“These groups have clearly established a record of partisanship and clearly demonstrated each election cycle that they simply have an agenda to work together against Republican candidates and work to elect Democrat candidates,” according to the report, which was compiled by the majority staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“Today’s environmental groups are simply political machines reporting millions in contributions and expenditures each year for the purpose of raising more money to pursue their agenda,” the report says.
“Especially in this election year, the American voter should see these groups and their many affiliate organizations as they are — the newest insidious conspiracy of political action committees and perhaps the newest multi-million dollar manipulation of federal election laws,” the report says.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and committee chairman, released the report during a Senate floor speech on Monday night.
The Sierra Club created a private political 527 group — named for the tax code under which they are regulated — and legally has been participating in elections since 1996.
The Sierra Club Voter Education Fund has raised $3.4 million this election, with $2.4 million in donations coming from the Sierra Club.
“Everything we have done through various programs was done by the letter of the law,” a Sierra Club spokeswoman Kerri Glover said.
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has raised more than $3.3 million dollars for the 2004 election and spent $4 million in 2000 to oppose 11 Republicans and one Democrat on its self-proclaimed “Dirty Dozen” list of federal lawmakers, the report says.
Mark Longabaugh, senior vice president for political affairs at the LCV, said that his organization has scored Mr. Inhofe’s lifetime environmental record at 5 percent and that the senator’s criticisms are not surprising.
“Is it really news that Senator Inhofe, well-known for his ideological extremism, went to a U.S. Senate hearing with a factoid menagerie of made-up, mixed-up and out-of-context facts to tell the world that environmental groups are bad?” he said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) received $55 million in donations last year and used some of the money to run television ads “claiming President Bush is rolling back a mercury regulation that never existed,” Mr. Inhofe said.
“Senator Inhofe is wrong about or funding, wrong about our motives and wrong about our actions,” said Alan Metrick, spokesman for the NRDC. “The fact is that most Americans want to maintain strong environmental protections. We think everyone in the Senate should keep that in mind.”
Those three environmental groups have joined forces this year to campaign against Mr. Bush in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, Mr. Inhofe said.
“To me, it seems that it is more important to the leadership of these groups to turn their once laudable movement into a political machine by sending out their partisan snake-oil salesmen and misleading the American public regarding their purely politically partisan agenda under the guise of environmental protection,” he said.