A trio of dominant environmental political groups are joining forces to form a fundraising power base for the eventual Democratic nominee and to boost candidates who embrace bold climate action during the primary.
LCV Victory Fund, NRDC Action Fund PAC, and NextGen America are expanding their GiveGreen fundraising platform on Tuesday, launching the Beat Trump Presidential Climate Unity Fund to raise money for President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-decided opponent in 2020.
“Given that President Trump is the most anti-environmental president we’ve ever had by far, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that [the] eventual nominee on the Democratic side, that she or he has the resources to win, to beat Trump, and to move forward on the climate action we desperately need,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, told BuzzFeed News.
Donors will also be able to give to individual nominees who have committed to tackling climate change as soon as they get in office. At least nine Democratic candidates have already met the qualifications: Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Others will be added on a rolling basis.
By offering this panoply of fundraising options for pro-climate candidates, environmental groups are looking to ensure that climate change is a key issue in both the Democratic primary and the general election. And the high early participation among nominees suggests a common interest in competing for the climate vote.
To get on the platform at this early stage in the race, nominees had to fill out an eight-question climate survey. The initial batch of nominees all agreed to make the climate emergency a top priority on day one as president, endorsed the Paris climate agreement, and committed to the goal of 100% clean energy and net-zero climate emissions for the US by 2050 at the latest, according to answers reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
They also committed to rejecting political action committee contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries. However, this commitment does not go as far as the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, which excludes nominees from accepting donations over $200 from oil, gas, and coal executives. This slightly different criterion explains why O’Rourke, who unveiled his detailed climate plan this week, will be able to fundraise through GiveGreen but hasn’t signed the main money pledge.
As part of the survey, candidates also had to describe what motivated them to address climate change. The answers revealed some nuances in their approach to the crisis, despite their largely overlapping climate goals.
“I have seen communities around my home state of New York dramatically affected by pollution,” Gillibrand wrote, “and know that the consequences of ignoring climate change are dire.” She also emphasized her full embrace of the Green New Deal, a broad policy proposal calling for adjusting every sector of the economy to take climate change into account.
In a nod to being the youngest candidate, Buttigieg wrote, “My generation will be on the business end of climate change, and in fact we are already seeing its enormous impacts right now in our communities.”
Inslee pitched himself as the climate candidate when he announced his bid in March, and expanded on this sentiment in his survey response. “I am the only candidate for president who has declared unequivocally that this must be the highest priority for the next administration,” Inslee wrote. A grandfather, he then added that “this is the most important work we can do” for his own grandchildren and all the other kids across the country.
Similarly, Hickenlooper, O’Rourke, and Sanders generally described climate change as the biggest challenge currently facing the planet. Hickenlooper expanded on the climate efforts he took as governor, from cutting local emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to expanding the state’s renewable-energy standard.
After citing some recent climate disasters and records, including 2018’s status as the fourth-warmest year on record globally, Klobuchar committed to bringing back Obama-era policies limiting power-plant and car pollution rolled back by the Trump administration.
Harris, in contrast, wrote about the communities of color and low-income families on the front lines of climate change: “We must use this opportunity to reinvest in and revitalize vulnerable communities that have shouldered the burden of environmental justice for far too long and are on the front lines of climate change.”
Booker also discussed climate change's disproportionate impact on communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities in an emailed response to BuzzFeed News: "That's why I support the Green New Deal, which is a bold plan that addresses the existential challenge of climate change and have begun rolling out my environmental justice agenda."
The three groups have not yet rejected any presidential hopeful who has turned in the questionnaire, according to Sittenfeld. “That’s a reflection of the extent to which presidential candidates are really prioritizing climate change,” she said.
This story has been updated to include a comment from Sen. Cory Booker.