For the first time, national environmental groups are looking beyond federal politics and allocating a portion of their campaign financing to state elections in California, New York and elsewhere. The Sierra Club is spending a third of its $4 million campaign budget on state races. The League of Conservation Voters is chipping in 10 percent of its $7 million political war chest to state contests as well. A good chunk of this money is finding its way into the campaign coffers of California”s incumbent Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Democratic challenger Eliot Spitzer, but some green state legislature candidates are also receiving funding boosts from environmental groups.
Tony Massaro, political director for the League of Conservation Voters, says that with state leaders “you don’t have the type of congressional leaders who have worked at the beck and call of Big Oil or who have bottled up aggressive energy legislation.” He adds that governors have the ability “to do things without those guys getting in the way.”
Cathy Duvall, the Sierra Club’s national political director, couldn”t agree more. “Our states are the laboratories of democracy and good public policy,” she says. “We are seeing how they are meeting their energy needs, growing their economies and protecting their environment all at the same time.”
Green groups continue to be frustrated by the lack of action on environmental issues by Congress and the White House, and recognize the important role states play in stemming the onslaught of global warming, among other issues. Recent state-led pollution-bucking initiatives in California and several Northeastern states have shown what a powerful force states can be in the fight to enact environmental protections. The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, among others, hope to bolster this trend by helping get their candidates elected in state capitols across the country.