A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

League of Conservation Voters


Political leanings: Pro-environment/liberal

Spending target: Unknown

The League of Conservation Voters works to defeat “anti-environment” candidates and elect politicians “who stand up for a clean, healthy environment,”according to its mission statement.

The group was founded in 1969 by activist David Brower, executive director of the Sierra Club in the 1950s and ’60s and founder of Friends of the Earth. Its current president is Gene Karpinski, former executive director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Several well-known environmental organizations are represented on its board, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth and The Wilderness Society.

The League of Conservation Voters tracks the voting records of members of Congress on environmental issues in its National Environmental Scorecard, and it annually names a “Dirty Dozen,” a list of politicians whom the group aims to defeat because of their voting records on conservation issues, and their political vulnerability. (The group also names a state-level Dirty Dozen.)

The league operates three political committees: the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, a traditional political action committee, and the LCV Victory Fund, a super PAC, as well as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which doesn’t have to disclose its donors.

The traditional PAC contributes directly to candidate or party committees, while the super PAC and nonprofit primarily spends money on independent expenditures advocating for or against the election of candidates.

The super PAC and nonprofit direct their independent expenditures primarily in support of Democratic candidates and against Republicans.

In the 2016 election cycle, the super PAC spent about $15.7 million on independent expenditures — $7.4 million backing Democrats and $8.3 million opposing Republicans, mostly in support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign ($6.3 million) and against her opponent, Donald Trump ($2.1 million).

The league’s nonprofit spent $3.9 million — $3.3 million against Republican candidates, and more than $623,000 in support of Democrats. More than half of the nonprofit’s total independent expenditures that election, about $2 million, went toward opposing Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who was reelected.

In addition, the league’s traditional PAC spent $4.5 million in 2016, continuing a decade-long trend of increased spending. Its contributions to federal candidates were almost entirely for Democrats in 2016.

The league’s nonprofit does not have to disclose the sources of its funding, but the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has previously identified the Advocacy Fund, the Sea Change Foundation and the Green Tech Action Fund as donors from IRS reports.

The Advocacy Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that provides strategic management services to those advocating on “issues of social justice, environmental sustainability, human rights and economic inequality,” gave more than $2 million in 2013. Both the Sea Change Foundation and the Green Tech Action Fund operate skeleton websites that say the groups give grants to further environmental causes. The Sea Change Foundation contributed more than $5 million in 2012, and Green Tech Action Fund gave more than $4 million in 2011. All of the groups are based in San Francisco.

The super PAC, which does disclose its donors, received its largest donation for the 2016 election cycle from Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Asana, an organizational software service. Moskovitz contributed $4.5 million, while Robert Grantham, co-founder of the Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. investment management firm, contributed $2.7 million. The Environment America Action Fund and Priorities USA Action super PACs each contributed an additional $2.5 million.

As of April 27, neither the super PAC nor the nonprofit had made independent expenditures for the 2018 election. The super PAC’s largest donors so far are Rubin Muenger, the founder of the Vision Ridge Partners investment firm, and environmental philanthropists David and Linda Cornfield. They each gave $50,000 in late 2017.

On the other hand, the league’s PAC had contributed over $245,000 to Democratic federal candidates, according to CRP data as of April 16. To date, its largest single donation this cycle was $30,000 from Carl Shapiro, a business and economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.