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Sanders Campaign Argues Green Group Betrayed Own Metrics To Back Clinton

While Sanders has received 95 percent lifetime rating from League of Conservation Voters, group went with Clinton who only agrees with it 82 percent of the time

Hillary Clinton, pictured here in New Hampshire on Nov. 9, 2015, only earned a lifetime score of 82 from the League of Conservation Voters. (Photo: Jim Cole/AP)

Hillary Clinton, pictured here in New Hampshire on Nov. 9, 2015, only earned a lifetime score of 82 from the League of Conservation Voters. (Photo: Jim Cole/AP)

An establishment environmental group is under fire for its recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, which environmentalists and Bernie Sanders supporters say contradicts the organization's own rubric for grading candidates' political records.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) on Monday threw its full weight behind Clinton, marking the organization's earliest endorsement of a presidential candidate. During an appearance in Nashua, New Hampshire, LCV Action Fund president Gene Karpinski touted Clinton's "long history of strong environmental leadership," saying she is "without a doubt the most effective leader to stand up to Big Polluters and push forward an aggressive plan to tackle climate change."

This strong statement of support comes despite the fact that the organization—which charges itself with electing "pro-environment candidates"—had essentially given Clinton a lifetime score (pdf) of 82 out of 100 for her environmental voting record, leading the Sanders campaign to cry foul.

"Bernie's record on the environment is unbeatable," said Sanders' spokesperson Michael Briggs. "He has a 95 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters." Sanders has already won a number of significant environmental endorsements, including from fellow Vermonter and co-founder Bill McKibben as well as Friends of the Earth.

In contrast, Briggs observed that the League only "agreed with former Sen. Clinton 82 percent of the time," adding that the endorsement is likely "based on something other than the merits."

National Journal reporter Ben Geman notes that LCV has close ties to the Demo­crat­ic es­tab­lish­ment. "It’s board chair­wo­man, Car­ol Brown­er, formerly served as a top cli­mate-change of­fi­cial in Pres­id­ent Obama’s White House and ran the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency un­der Pres­id­ent Bill Clin­ton," Geman writes. Also, Clinton's cam­paign chair­man John Podesta is a former LCV board mem­ber.


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Other environmentalists were equally quick to criticize the decision in light of Clinton's environmental record.

Blogger Brad Johnson tweeted that the group had chosen to back the Democratic candidate "with the weakest climate agenda," pointing to her historic support of fracking as well as the millions Big Oil has donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Similarly, the former Secretary of State's opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline came years after Sanders came out against the project—following a trend of Clinton following his lead on a number of progressive issues.

The endorsement is not insignificant. The group is now preparing to launch a pro­gram to mo­bil­ize mem­bers in early primary states to vo­lun­teer for the Clin­ton cam­paign. Further, according to the group, LCV ponied up $15 million in the 2012 elections and $30 million in the 2014 cycle.

In a statement defending the group's decision, LCV vice president for communications, David Willett, suggested that the endorsement came down to the question of perceived electability.

"We are enthusiastically endorsing her because she’s a proven leader," Willett said, "and we are confident she is the best candidate to both beat her eventual climate denier opponent in the general and then hit the ground running on day one as president."

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