To: Interested Parties From: Gene Karpinski & Navin Nayak, League of Conservation Voters Re: The 2012 Elections & the Shifting Politics of Energy Date: November 7, 2012
Two years ago, it was clear that the 2012 election would be a daunting one for the environmental community. We knew that oil and coal-backed groups would pour unprecedented resources into key races to try to defeat pro-environment candidates and elect more climate deniers. With the $200 million the Koch Brothers alone had pledged to spend, pro-environment candidates should have been wiped off the map. Instead, we saw a very different outcome last night.
While we can never match the spending of the fossil fuel industry, we knew from extensive polling that voters are with us on the issues; they strongly support clean energy and want leaders who will confront the challenge of global warming. Our goal this cycle was to win priority races by ensuring that we invested enough so that voters would hear our message. If we could do this, we believed that we could show that there are consequences for siding with oil companies and denying global warming. We also wanted to demonstrate to our allies that there was an effective political force that had their back in the face of unprecedented attacks.
Given the results from last night, it’s clear that there has been a shift in the politics of energy and climate change. As promised, outside groups funded by the fossil fuel industry spent heavily. According to an analysis by the Center for America Progress Action, outside groups funded by polluters spent more than $270 million on TV ads in the last two months alone. Yet, President Obama was re-elected, the Senate became decidedly more pro-environment, and a handful of House incumbents targeted specifically for denying climate change were defeated.
In short, candidates that stood by the environmental community and a clean energy agenda were overwhelmingly elected, while candidates tied to oil and coal companies lost. Being a climate change denier is not only an unconscionable position, it is now increasingly bad politics.
At the same time, LCV and the environmental community have emerged as a more effective and significant force in electoral politics, capable to defend climate champions and pressure deniers in targeted races. While we will never discount the financial advantage the oil and coal interests will continue to enjoy, the 2012 election demonstrates that when we have the resources behind us, our message resonates more.
This cycle, LCV and its affiliated political committees spent nearly $14 million overall—including $10 million against our Dirty Dozen candidates alone. We picked our targets explicitly because they denied scientific consensus on climate change or opposed taking action on the issue. While one House race has yet to be called, we appear likely defeat 11 of the Dirty Dozen, a 91 percent win record, which is by far our best ever. At the same time, LCV Action Fund raised or contributed more than $2 million for pro-environment candidates this cycle, far more than ever before.