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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

League of Conservation Voters

Political leanings: Pro-environment/liberal

2020 total spending: $42.3 million for the super PAC alone

The League of Conservation Voters is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that works to defeat “anti-environment” candidates and elect politicians “who will implement sound environmental laws and policies,” 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 Earthjustice, 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. The league’s super PAC, the LCV Victory Fund, 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. It also names a state-level Dirty Dozen.

In addition to the super PAC, the league has three other affiliated organizations: the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, a traditional political action committee; the LCV Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that does public outreach and education; and the LCV Political Engagement Fund, a 527 political organization that focuses on state elections.

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

Most of the super PAC’s independent expenditures support Democratic candidates and oppose Republicans. As of July 31, the super PAC had raised around $22 million and had spent $5.4 million on independent expenditures for the 2022 election cycle.

Nearly $1.5 million of that spending has gone to opposing Republican Adam Laxalt, Nevada’s attorney general, in his Senate race against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. The group has also spent close to $1 million in Arizona supporting Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in his Senate race against Republican challenger Blake Masters.

As a super PAC, the LCV Victory Fund is required to disclose its donors to the Federal Election Commission. So far, the super PAC’s largest donor is the League of Conservation Voters, the nonprofit, which donated almost $12.8 million.

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the League of Conservation Voters does not need to disclose its donors and can make unlimited contributions to super PACs. Spending to influence elections in which the source of the money is undisclosed is known as “dark money” spending, as the research group OpenSecrets.org explains. 

Other major donors to the LCV Victory Fund include America Votes, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that labels itself “the coordination hub of the progressive community,” which gave $1.5 million and Reuben Munger, founder of sustainable investment firm Vision Ridge Partners and a member of the LCV’s board of directors, who donated $735,000. Former New York City mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg contributed $400,000.

As of July 31, the league’s traditional PAC, League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, has raised about $715,000 and has contributed roughly $600,000 to federal candidates and other political committees for the 2022 cycle.

In the 2020 election cycle, the LCV Victory Fund raised around $61.1 million and spent almost $42.3 million on independent expenditures. The super PAC spent much of that on the presidential race, using about $10 million to oppose then-President Donald Trump’s reelection and almost $7.2 million in favor of Democrat Joe Biden. In its 2020 Dirty Dozen list, the super PAC named Trump the “Dirtiest of All-Time.” The LCV Victory Fund also spent nearly $19.7 million on Senate races and almost $5.5 million on contests in the House of Representatives.

In that cycle, the super PAC received $16.3 million from the League of Conservation Voters. The super PAC’s second largest donor was the Sixteen Thirty Fund — another 501(c)(4) nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors — which gave nearly $6.8 million.

Other top donors included Michael Bloomberg, who gave $4.2 million, and Robert Grantham, CIO and co-founder of investment management firm Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., who donated $3 million.

The league’s traditional PAC, the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, raised around $1.2 million in the 2020 cycle. It made about $1 million in contributions to federal candidates and other committees, according to FEC tabulations.