Mary Landrieu Is Paying — and Getting Paid Big — for Her Stance on Global Warming

When it comes to Mary Landrieu and the environmental movement, it's complicated. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
March 23, 2014, 7:14 a.m.

En­vir­on­ment­al­ists need Mary Landrieu, but they don’t love her — and they’re prov­ing it with their check­books.

Louisi­ana’s Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or and Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Bill Cas­sidy are locked in a Bay­ou battle that will go a long way in de­term­in­ing wheth­er Demo­crats can hold their im­periled Sen­ate ma­jor­ity, a force that has proved an im­plac­able bul­wark against a steady stream of House Re­pub­lic­an at­tacks on en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions.

But that hasn’t con­vinced the en­vir­on­ment­al lobby’s heavy hit­ters to cut checks for Landrieu. In the past year, only one en­vir­on­ment­al or­gan­iz­a­tion has donated to her cam­paign. The Bat­on Rouge-based Cen­ter for Coastal Con­ser­va­tion gave Landrieu a $2,500 nod, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. The Si­erra Club, Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, and En­vir­on­ment­al De­fense Fund have handed over a com­bined con­tri­bu­tion of ex­actly noth­ing. All three groups de­clined to com­ment on the re­cord when asked wheth­er they would en­dorse Landrieu.

So why have en­vir­on­ment­al­ists thus far washed their hands of a cam­paign so crit­ic­al to their move­ment’s fu­ture?

In short: They just can’t stand her stance on glob­al warm­ing. Landrieu is an oil- and gas-in­dustry cham­pi­on who tip­toes around the glob­al-warm­ing de­bate and voted to block the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cli­mate rules for power plants. Lin­ing up be­hind a can­did­ate like that, en­vir­on­ment­al groups fear, would sig­nal to Demo­crats that their sup­port is un­con­di­tion­al — and that greens can be taken for gran­ted.

“We don’t want to be in a situ­ation where one party feels like we’re be­hold­en to them. That’s how we get taken ad­vant­age of,” said Ben Schreiber, a spokes­man for Friends of the Earth Ac­tion, the polit­ic­al fun­drais­ing arm of Friends of the Earth. “Can­did­ates need to know that there are con­sequences to the way they vote.”

Landrieu was nev­er go­ing to be a darling of the en­vir­on­ment­al move­ment. She rep­res­ents a state dot­ted with oil wells and re­finer­ies, and sides with the fossil fuel in­dustry more of­ten than not. She also backs the Key­stone XL pipeline at a time when op­pos­i­tion to the oil sands pro­ject has be­come the green move­ment’s call to arms.

The Louisi­ana Demo­crat also holds con­sid­er­able sway over en­ergy policy. She’s the chair of the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee, and if an­oth­er bi­par­tis­an en­ergy bill comes out of Con­gress un­der Landrieu’s watch, it would be covered in her fin­ger­prints.

“Landrieu puts the en­vir­on­ment­al com­munity in a dif­fi­cult situ­ation,” Schreiber said. “She’s been aw­ful on cli­mate change and she’s quite re­spons­ive to the oil and gas in­dustry. And she’s chair of the En­ergy Com­mit­tee. That makes things com­plic­ated.”

En­vir­on­ment­al groups have been will­ing to for­give oth­er mod­er­ates for their fossil-fuel em­brace as part of a broad­er cam­paign to keep their pre­ferred party in power.

NRDC Ac­tion Fund, the polit­ic­al fun­drais­ing arm of the Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, is already sup­port­ing Kay Hagan of North Car­o­lina and Mark Be­gich of Alaska, two vul­ner­able Sen­ate Demo­crats who, like Landrieu, say the pipeline should be built.

“It’s not real­ist­ic to ask people to be with you 100 per­cent of the time. A pur­ity test doesn’t work in polit­ics,” Heath­er Taylor-Miesle, the fund’s dir­ect­or, said. “We look for people we can work with on a num­ber of is­sues. They don’t have to have a per­fect re­cord.”

So why has Landrieu been left out in the cold?

The real deal-break­er is the sen­at­or’s stance on cli­mate. Landrieu’s not a cli­mate change den­ier, but she sidesteps the is­sue every chance she gets. Be­gich and Hagan, on the oth­er hand, have been out­spoken in their calls to ac­tion on glob­al warm­ing. Landrieu also op­poses En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency reg­u­la­tions to curb power-plant emis­sions, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s primary av­en­ue to counter cli­mate change and a key part of the pres­id­ent’s second-term cli­mate agenda. In the pre­vi­ous ses­sion of Con­gress, Landrieu voted in sup­port of a meas­ure to pre­vent the agency from reg­u­lat­ing green­house gases. Be­gich and Hagan did not.

The elec­tion year is young, and the en­vir­on­ment­al lobby is not a mono­lith, so it’s pos­sible that more mod­er­ate groups will shell out for the sen­at­or. The En­vir­on­ment­al De­fense Fund partnered with Landrieu on Gulf Coast res­tor­a­tion — as did the Na­tion­al Wild­life Fed­er­a­tion.

But where greens have with­held their fund­ing, the fossil fuel in­dustry has more than filled the void. 

The oil and gas in­dustry is the second-largest con­trib­ut­or to Landrieu’s cam­paign com­mit­tee and lead­er­ship PAC com­bined. The in­dustry has also done more to give the sen­at­or a boost than her Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics, Landrieu’s cam­paign has so far raised close to $9.5 mil­lion with a cool $564,350 com­ing from the oil and gas in­dustry. Cas­sidy, in com­par­is­on, has raised just over $5.1 mil­lion and got­ten $180,750 from the in­dustry.

It’s un­clear wheth­er Landrieu would even want en­vir­on­ment­al­ists’ back­ing.

When Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate Ac­tion, an en­vir­on­ment­al group backed by bil­lion­aire Tom Stey­er, raised the pos­sib­il­ity last month of tar­get­ing the sen­at­or through an anti-Key­stone XL ad cam­paign, Landrieu said Stey­er’s ad buy would likely boost her pop­ular­ity in Louisi­ana.

The Si­erra Club’s stamp of ap­prov­al isn’t ex­actly a badge of hon­or in an oil state. “That’s something an op­pon­ent could seize and run with,” said Frank O’Don­nell, pres­id­ent of Clean Air Watch, an en­vir­on­ment­al or­gan­iz­a­tion that does not take part in elect­or­al polit­ics. “Nobody wants to waste money do­ing something that could back­fire.”

What We're Following See More »
MARCIA FUDGE TO PRESIDE
Wasserman Schultz Stripped of Convention Duties
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz "will not have a major speaking role or preside over daily convention proceedings this week," and is under increasing pressure to resign. The DNC Rules Committee on Saturday named Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge as "permanent chair of the convention." At issue: internal DNC emails leaked by Wikileaks that show how "the DNC favored Clinton during the primary and tried to take down Bernie Sanders by questioning his religion."

Source:
EARLY BUMP FOR TRUMP?
New Round of Polls Show a Tight Race
2 days ago
THE LATEST
  • A Rasmussen Reports poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton, 43%-42%, the fourth week in a row he's led the poll (one of the few poll in which he's led consistently of late).
  • A Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Clinton leading 40%-36%. In a four-way race, she maintains her four-point lead, 39%-35%, with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein pulling 7% and 3%, respectively.
  • And the LA Times/USC daily tracking poll shows a dead heat, with Trump ahead by about half a percentage point.
BELLWETHER?
Candidates Deadlocked in Ohio
3 days ago
THE LATEST
17-POINT EDGE AMONG MILLENNIALS
Clinton Dominates Among Younger Voters
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

In an election between two candidates around 70 years of age, millennials strongly prefer one over the other. Hillary Clinton has a 47%-30% edge among votes 18 to 29. She also leads 46%-36% among voters aged 30 to 44.

Source:
NEW POLL SHOWS TROUBLE FOR TRUMP
Clinton Leads Trump Among Latinos by Nearly 70 Points
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

According to an online tracking poll released by New Latino Voice, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump among Latino voters, attracting support from 81 percent of Latino voters, to just 12 percent support for Trump. The results of this poll are consistent with those from a series of other surveys conducted by various organizations. With Pew Research predicting the 2016 electorate will be 12 percent Hispanic, which would be the highest ever, Trump could be in serious trouble if he can't close the gap.

Source:
×