For Immediate Release:
April 14, 2015

Craig Richardson

E&E Legal Releases a Sierra Club Unearthed Report on Green Groups Record-Breaking Spending on the 2014 Elections; Precious Resources Used to Buy Campaign Ads Instead of Helping the Local Environment

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), a 501 (c) (3) watchdog group, released an investigatory report analyzing the money green groups spent on the 2014 elections. The report was released through E&E Legal’s recently launched special project, Sierra Club Unearthed, which is an investigatory portal aimed at revealing the extent to which a small group of national hacks have hijacked the Sierra Club and have used it for their own financial and political purposes.

The report details how green groups, including the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and the Environmental Defense Action Fund – to name a few – spent an unprecedented amount of money during the 2014 election cycle supporting leftwing candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and state, and local candidates with virtually nothing to show for it once all the ballots were cast. As the report notes, “The largest and most visible groups, counting only money directly spent on electioneering, bragged about spending upwards of $85 million dollars for the midterms,” which is probably a significant underestimation when you consider other types of non-direct campaign spending such as phone banks, and get-out-the-vote efforts. $40 million of this money was a failed attempt at maintaining the Democrats majority in the U.S. Senate.

“The bottom line is that at least in 2014, green groups spending on elections was a colossal failure if you examine the results of the races where they played,” said E&E Legal Executive Director Craig Richardson. “Sadly, however, this isn’t just about whether or not this unprecedented election spending was a good investment. It represents a real departure from what these green groups were founded to accomplish, and local Sierra Club members have intimated to us that they believe they could do a lot more for the environment with a million dollars than blowing it on a 30-second attack ad like the national did.”

The Sierra Club, while not putting up the same amount of hard dollar cash donations that groups like the League of Conservation Voters committed, dedicated other resources to the cause such as foot soldiers. The report cites a 2012 Sierra Club political document that shows how the group’s “national leadership applied top-down mandates on their local clubs – mandates that were directly coordinated with ‘Obama campaign staff.’ The Sierra Club recruited more than 12,000 of its members to join Environmentalists for Obama, to participate in Get Out the Vote shifts on Election Day, and to plug into the Obama campaign’s dashboard, making over 30,000 phone calls in the final two weeks before the election.” It is clear the group provided similar resources for the 2014 cycle.

In terms of actual cash, the Sierra Club spent nearly $1 million on a television ad buy in Iowa last September trashing now Republican Senator Joni Ernst. E&E Legal filed a complaint with the FEC Chair Lee Goodman at the time asking his agency to examine how the Sierra Club Independent Action could have spent such a large amount when it had less than $50,000 cash-on-hand just a few weeks earlier.

“There is no question that the Sierra Club is playing a shell game with its various entities, moving high-dollar donor money from its 501 (c) (4), and possibly its 501 (c) (3), that eventually makes its way into the form of negative television ads just weeks before an election,” said David W. Schnare, E&E Legal’s general counsel. “This not only violates the spirit and mission of Founder John Muir, it also violates IRS non-profits laws, which is why we advised the agency of the Sierra Club’s practices.”

As the report concludes, “Every dollar misspent on a political campaign, every hour of a dedicated environmentalist’s time, is a dollar and an hour not spent on the core purposes of environmental organizations…John Muir would not approve, and those of us deeply committed to sensible management of our land, air and water are saddened by the loss of these volunteers and resources that had for so long been an important part of our conservation culture.”

Sierra Club Unearthed is a project of The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), whose mission is to address and correct onerous federal and state governmental actions that negatively impact energy and the environment. E&E Legal advocates responsible resource development, sound science, respect for property rights, and a commitment to markets as it holds accountable those who seek excessive and destructive government regulation that’s based on agenda-driven policy making, junk science, and hysteria. It is the latter part of this mission – holding accountable those who seek excessive and destructive government regulation – that inspired the creation of Sierra Club Unearthed.


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