Environmentalists Boast Record Fundraising, Membership Levels

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By Brian Dabbs

The likely confirmation of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator is continuing to galvanize grassroots activism and fundraising among environmental groups and legal teams, those organizations told Bloomberg BNA in recent days.

The advocacy groups are boosting advertisement purchases and, in some cases, new hires, drawing on a significant uptick in donations.

That activism and political activity still aims to thwart the Pruitt nomination. But despite Senate Democratic hopes to prevent the nomination, Pruitt almost certainly has the necessary votes for confirmation.

The beefed-up environmental coffers, however, will target environmental litigation and policy fights over the coming months and years, Earthjustice, the League of Conservation Voters and other groups told Bloomberg BNA.

‘We Will See Them in Court’

“Times like these are what this organization was made for,” Marty Hayden, Earthjustice vice president of policy and legislation, told Bloomberg BNA. “If they step out of the bounds of the law, we will see them in court. Just like we did during the Bush era. And we sued the Obama administration quite a bit as well.”

Earthjustice boasted a 160 percent increase in fundraising from election day to the end of January, compared to that period a year ago, Hayden said. Online donations specifically ramped up 300 percent, he said. Hayden also said he would be adding more lawyers to his team to fight the looming environmental agenda “tooth and nail.”

Pruitt is not the only threat, those groups say.

President Donald Trump vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency on the campaign trail, calling climate change a Chinese-purveyed hoax. Trump has broad authority to appoint federal officials and judges.

Trump’s victory at the polls has sent reverberations throughout the environmental world, those groups say.

‘700 Percent Increase': Sierra Club

The Sierra Club boasts a 700 percent increase in fundraising from Election Day to the end of January compared to last year, fueled by 30,000 new monthly donors, Trey Pollard, a spokesman for the group, told Bloomberg BNA.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented surge in membership and support from across the country that is more important than ever as we aim to take on the Trump administration in Congress, in the streets, in marketplace, and in the courts,” he said.

That spike is unique, but all environmental groups interviewed say they have also seen substantial upticks.

The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg L.P., parent of Bloomberg BNA.

The League of Conservation Voters claims a 100 percent increase in online fundraising during that period. Another environmental group spokesman, who requested personal anonymity and anonymity for his organization, said they had already met online fundraising targets for the 2017 fiscal year. Direct mail is lagging only slightly behind, the spokesman said.

Those interviewed represent a mix of nonprofits and political action committees. Some groups are organized as nonprofits but also have a PAC arm. Disclosure rules differ, and organizations walk a fine line to avoid violating Internal Revenus Service and Federal Election Commission regulations.

Conservative Comfort

Conservative organizations also say the nomination of the controversial Oklahoma attorney general is spurring a wave of support among Americans fed up with allegedly overzealous environment policies.

But those organizations are replicating the environmental drive to boost fundraising or add more staff to counter challenges from Pruitt’s opposition.

“We’ve raised very little money as it relates to [the Pruitt] campaign. The money that’s come in is mostly small dollar donations and pretty negligent,” FreedomWorks National Director of Campaigns Noah Wall told Bloomberg BNA. Still, Wall said FreedomWorks drove over 41,000 grassroots activists to contact Senate offices and show their support for Pruitt.

The group also sponsored ad buys and organized visits to the state offices of Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Jeremy Adler, spokesman for America Rising Squared, said his group’s existing resources are sufficient to repel attacks by environmental groups in the near future. “According to the results of the 2016 election, it doesn’t look like more staff or more money is the answer. America saw their message and rejected it,” Adler told Bloomberg BNA. “We’re happy with how things are going.”

Reports suggest Trump beat out competitor Hillary Clinton despite spending roughly half the money. America Rising Squared continues to skewer Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist and Democratic benefactor, for his alleged failure to garner victories in key swing states this election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Dabbs in Washington, D.C., at bdabbs@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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