MEMO: Climate, Clean Energy and Big Oil in the midterm elections
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Pete Maysmith, SVP, Campaigns, LCV Victory Fund
DATE: July 22, 2022
RE: Climate, Clean Energy and Big Oil in the midterm elections
It would be unwise to write off climate as an election issue in the wake of legislation stalling in Congress – in fact the opposite is true. Both candidates and voters are making clear that climate is a key priority. And as a movement we fully expect climate and clean energy to be crucial issues, especially in many of the closest races of 2022, in part because of our historic investments and collaboration on massive field and paid media campaigns.
The Climate Movement is not backing down.
Early this summer we joined with partners to announce an unprecedented $100 million effort with 5 other climate groups. The project will range from dynamic paid media to field and includes Climate Power Action, Climate Reality Action Fund, EDF Action Votes (EDF AV), LCV Victory Fund (LCVVF), NRDC Action Votes (NRDC AV), and NextGen PAC. This announcement built on previous work to propel climate to the top of the national agenda in 2020 and 2018. In 2018, LCV Victory Fund and affiliated entities invested over $80 million and won 84% of our races, including 23 of 25 House races. Our state affiliates also helped elect 10 new pro-environment governors and 294 state legislators. In 2020, with an unprecedented $115 million investment, we succeeded in delivering battleground states to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and played a vital role in electing five new pro-climate, pro-democracy senators. We also helped state affiliates win critical state and local races in places like Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, and New Mexico. This spring the New York Times described this movement as having “moved over the last decade from the periphery of Democratic political power to its very center.”
The stakes have only increased without a clear path to passing climate legislation in this Congress, and our marching orders are extremely clear–a 50-50 Senate is not a pro-climate majority and we need to throw everything we can into trying to build a true majority moving forward.
LCV Victory Fund’s sweet spot is in mobilizing climate voters – and research shows that even amongst all the noise in politics today climate can play a pivotal role in motivating the voters who can make the difference in a close election.
More specific details on our field and paid media programs in key races across the country will be announced by the end of the month.
Voters’ concerns about climate change have remained steady and can make a difference in close races.
In new national Navigator polling out today, 83% of voters say climate change is a problem, and President Biden and the Democrats are significantly more trusted than Republicans to address climate change, including by a net margin of 23% for Independents. Politico and Morning Consult’s latest national tracking poll similarly found that climate change and the environment continue to be the two issues that voters are most likely to trust Democrats over Republicans to handle.
The latest Economist/YouGov tracking poll also finds that a vast majority (68%) of voters say climate change and the environment are important issues, and when asked to identify the “most important issue” 9% of voters chose climate change, putting it in the same range as jobs/economy (12%), and health care (10%). In general health care, the economy, and climate have been steadily at the top of voters’ concerns for quite some time, though this year inflation has understandably had a significant impact.
Research by Data for Progress found that “three-quarters of voters (75%) support lawmakers in Congress making an investment to expand clean energy production in America.” Again this data showing the public wants the government to act on climate and protect the environment has been consistent across polls for many years. Concern about the climate crisis is also significantly high in state specific polls in states and districts with key midterm races, from New Mexico to Wisconsin.
Some have been pointing to a recent New York Times/Siena poll showing only 1% of respondents volunteered climate change as their most important issue, but a closer look at the responses show most issues polled at 3% or lower and many major issues of the day also polled at 1% including health care, education, and the Supreme Court. And earlier this week the New York Times reported on majorities expecting Congress and the President to take action on climate.
It’s also worth noting that with inflation polling at the top of many priority lists, the climate actions that have been under discussion in Congress are anti-inflationary measures, regardless of Senator Manchin’s rhetoric. To put a fine point on it, while concern about climate change has remained steady or increased, the economic issues that are currently polling high can be addressed through bold climate policy. Meanwhile, policies that only further our reliance on polluting fossil fuels do nothing to help voters, they only benefit the massive oil and gas companies currently reaping in record profits while gouging consumers.
Candidates understand these connections.
The politicians with close ties to the fossil fuel industry know they have a political vulnerability because voters are concerned about climate change, are upset about energy prices and don’t trust the wealthiest and most polluting industry in the world that is funding their campaigns. Next week we can expect to see what the Wall St. Journal describes as “gargantuan profits” with Exxon alone forecasting a quarterly profit as high as $18 billion. We can expect Republican midterm messages to include a contradictory mix of greenwashing, climate denial and misleading attacks on the good climate policy voters want. Meanwhile, pro-environment candidates are confronting the issue head-on and showing they will lead. Climate change, extreme weather, Big Oil’s influence, and related issues are regularly being brought up on the campaign trail this cycle.
- Nevada Senator Cortez Masto’s first re-election campaign ad following the GOP primary was about Adam Laxalt’s ties to Big Oil
- North Carolina Senate candidate Cheri Beasley condemned her opponent Ted Budd’s vote against the Big Oil price gouging bill – just one day after a major fossil fuel energy company’s PAC maxed out to his campaign
- Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s nonsensical remarks about polluted air floating from China to the U.S. occupied the Georgia political news cycle for days
- Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman first advocated for comprehensive climate and clean energy policy with a “carbon caps = hard hats” campaign in 2009 when he was mayor of Pittsburgh suburb Braddock, PA. He has referenced that campaign and the need for “massive” investments in clean energy in his current Senate campaign.
- In PA-08, VA-02, IA-03, OH-09, PA-07, GA-02, AL-07, NM-03, and IL-14, House Majority Forward is running ads in support of Reps. Cartwright, Luria, Axne, Kaptur, Wild, Bishop Jr., Sewell, Leger Fernandez, and Underwood’s re-election campaigns that highlight their votes to stop oil companies’ price gouging and lower the price of gas for their constituents.
Donors are enthusiastic to support climate champions.
In a testament to the power and enthusiasm of climate activists across the country who are eager to elect true climate champions, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Victory Fund and NRDC Action Votes earlier today announced more than $100 million has been raised and contributed for federal and state candidates through GiveGreen since the platform’s inception in 2009. $17.6 million of that total has been raised for the 2021-2022 election cycle alone. In 2020, GiveGreen was the biggest single-issue progressive candidate fundraising platform and so far this cycle, GiveGreen has outperformed fundraising numbers from the 2018 midterm election and expanded to include municipal races for the first time in program history, recognizing how important local climate action is.
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Paid for by LCV Victory Fund, www.lcvvictoryfund.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.