The political arm of the League of Conservation Voters endorsed Hillary Clinton for president on Wednesday.
“When it comes to fighting the climate crisis, the stakes couldn’t be higher—and we are confident that Hillary Clinton is the right person for the job,” Gene Karpinski, President of the LCV Action Fund, said in a statement. “Hillary Clinton is without a doubt the most effective leader to stand up to Big Polluters and push forward an aggressive plan to tackle climate change and get it done.”
Karpinski is also set to appear with Clinton at an event in New Hampshire to announce the decision.
A full year prior to the election is the earliest the group has ever endorsed a presidential candidate. In 2008, the LCV Action Fund endorsed now-President Barack Obama in July — just four months before the election and well after Obama had secured a majority of the party’s delegates.
Most environmental groups — and, in fact, most groups of any kind — have not yet announced their endorsements, although as we head into the winter, more and more people are expected to take sides. Grassroots environmental group Friends of the Earth announced its endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) over the summer.
“The League of Conservation Voters endorsement of Hillary Clinton is not surprising,” Friends of the Earth Action president Erich Pica told ThinkProgress. “She is the safe candidate in this race. She is also the establishment candidate in this race.” But noting Clinton’s early support of the TransPacific Partnership and longtime silence on Keystone, Pica said Sanders is more closely aligned with the grassroots environmental community.
“If you look at their records, Sen. Sanders has consistently led on the issues we care about,” Pica said.
LCV is known for tracking elected officials in its annual scorecard, which tallies voting records on environmental issues. During Clinton’s time in the Senate, she amassed an 82 percent lifetime record on the scorecard, compared with Sanders’s 95 percent. A spokesperson for the League pointed out that Clinton missed several votes during her 2008 presidential campaign, and LCV counts missed votes as negatives. In the 2006 scorecard, prior to the 2008 election cycle, Clinton had a 90 percent lifetime record.
“She got knocked because when she was running for presidents she missed a lot of votes,” Pica acknowledged. “But LCV’s policy has always been to score that against.”
A spokesman from the Sanders campaign, Mark Longabaugh, said the announcement was “very disappointing.” Longabaugh also pointed to Clinton’s record on Keystone XL as one example of where she was out of touch with the grassroots environmental community. “Hillary Clinton waffled on that issue for a long time,” only coming out against the controversial pipeline in September.
“Even at that moment, she said that the issue was a ‘distraction,'” Longabaugh said. “I don’t think the millions of grassroots activists in the movement across the country that worked to stop the pipeline — I don’t believe those individuals actually believe that Keystone was a distraction.”
Sanders has been against Keystone for years, and the senator from Vermont has made acting on climate change a central component of his campaign. He has raised millions from individual contributions, while eschewing corporate and big-donor money, but he lags behind on endorsements, especially among his senate colleagues.
On CNN on Sunday, Sanders said that Clinton’s Senate endorsements show she is a “candidate of the establishment.”
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has also been strong on climate action, calling for a phase-out of fossil fuels.
As the name suggests, LCV is among the environmental communities’ biggest political players. In the 2014 election cycle, the group and its affiliates spent more than $30 million, it reported.
In December 2014, Clinton spoke at a fundraiser for LCV. After the event, she was criticized for avoiding mentions of the Keystone XL pipeline and offering qualified support for fracking.
LCV leadership has ties to the Clintons, the Washington Post reported. The chair of the LCV board, Carol M. Browner, was President Bill Clinton’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator. She also served as a climate change adviser to Obama (and is a distinguished senior fellow at the Center for American Progress).
The Clinton campaign did not respond with a comment Monday morning.