Memos & Research

PRE-ELECTION MEMO: Our historic $115 million investment to defeat Trump and elect climate and environmental justice champions at all levels

Oct 30, 2020

Contact: Emily Samsel,, 828-713-9647

To: Interested Parties
From: Pete Maysmith, SVP of Campaigns, LCV Victory Fund
Date: October 30, 2020
Re: Our historic $115 million investment to defeat Trump and elect climate and environmental justice champions at all levels 

With just a few days to go before Election Day, it’s increasingly clear that voters are prepared to give a stinging rebuke to President Trump’s toxic, anti-science, anti-environment, racist agenda and instead support Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and candidates up and down the ticket who are committed to putting people’s health and safety first. 

While it will likely, and appropriately, take some time to count all the votes in this year’s election, there are already signs that voters are looking for change, and they are looking for bold action on climate. 

In the face of a global pandemic, a national reckoning on racial justice, and the already–too-real–impacts of climate change, LCV Victory Fund and affiliated entities had to take a different, or even more ambitious approach to four key elements of our work:

  • The voters we engaged: With safety precautions requiring more remote organizing tactics, we called, texted, mailed and served ads to more voters — in particular more voters of color and young voters — than ever before. And did so not only to persuade them, but also to help voters navigate the new methods of voting this cycle.
  • The partnerships we’ve forged: While we have long partnered with others on elections, this year we expanded those efforts, either by working jointly, or supporting the work of groups like Advance Carolina, BlackPAC, Black Male Voter Project, Black Voters Matter Action PAC, BLOC, Collective PAC, Color of Change PAC, Family Friendly Action PAC, People For the American Way, Somos PAC, Texas Organizing Project, WOMEN VOTE!, along with our long time environmental group partners like EDF Action, NRDC Action Fund, and NextGen America as well as Priorities USA, America Votes, American Bridge PAC, Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC. We also worked hand in hand with the United Steelworkers’ USW Works once again through The New American Jobs Fund (a joint effort between LCV Victory Fund and the United Steelworkers’ USW Works).
  • The issues we talked about: In conjunction with messaging on the climate crisis, clean water and clean air, we talked about the systemic racism at the root of many environmental harms, racial justice as well as public health and corporate polluters’ influence over politicians. We also made the connection between Trump’s denial of and failure to address both coronavirus and climate change.
  • The candidates we support: For several cycles LCV Action Fund has been increasing the racial and gender diversity of our endorsed candidates and this year that effort reached new heights. Forty percent of LCV Action Fund’s endorsed candidates this cycle identify as candidates of color and 52 percent identify as women — making this year’s endorsements our most diverse to date and more reflective of our country’s racial and gender diversity.

By The Numbers

By the end of election day, LCV Victory Fund and affiliated entities will have contacted millions of voters through over 10 million phone calls, 100,000 texts, over 25 million pieces of mail, and over 100 television, digital and radio ads.

Over $115 million invested in priority races for the 2019/2020 election cycle:

  • Over $22.3 million invested in the Presidential race
  • Over $23 million invested in 8 Senate races
  • $5.2 million invested in 14 House races
  • $20 million invested in 2 Governors races and legislative and local races in 31 states
  • $43 million raised directly for pro-environment candidates through GiveGreen
  • $1.3 million invested in GreenRoots member mobilization 

On the 50th Anniversary of the Dirty Dozen list of some of the worst anti-environmental candidates, LCV Victory Fund named Donald Trump the “Dirtiest of All Time,” named a slew of dangerous Trump evangelists to an expanded federal Dirty Dozen list, and put 12 pro-polluter villains at the state and local level on the Dirty Dozen in the States list this year.

The Story Behind the Numbers

The stakes in the 2020 election could not be higher. Our democracy is on the line and our rights to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in safe and healthy communities are at extreme risk. 

At the same time, more voters want to see bold, ambitious action on climate than ever before. We first saw climate jump to the top of voters’ priorities in our February 2019 poll with CAP Action Fund and EDF Action — and poll after poll since then has found that the majority of voters want to see the government act on climate. Rounding out the cycle are two critical public polls: An October 20 New York Times/Siena College poll found that 66 percent of voters support Biden’s $2 trillion climate and economic recovery plan and an October 25 Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 69 percent of registered voters support transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy. 

If elected, Joe Biden will have the strongest mandate to act on climate and environmental justice of any president-elect in history. That is why we invested $115 million this year. 

Pro-environment candidates up and down the ticket campaigned on climate action, environmental justice, protecting our public lands, and access to clean air and clean water like never before this cycle. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris released three TV ads entirely focused on climate: “Cherries”; “Climate Change”; “Melanie.” And in competitive Senate and House races across the country, pro-environment candidates highlighted the climate and environmental issues impacting their states and districts. From Arizona, to Montana, to Colorado, to Michigan, to South Carolina, and everywhere in between, candidates touted their visions for protecting people and the planet.

At the same time, Republican Senate candidates — seeing the same polling we are — have attempted to “greenwash” their anti-environmental records in an election year scramble to win votes. For example, Cory Gardner has attempted to portray himself “a champion for Colorado’s public lands” despite the fact that he refused to support the CORE Act that would protect over 200,000 acres of Colorado land from Development. In North Carolina, Thom Tillis applauded Trump’s decision to extend an offshore drilling moratorium to North Carolina — conveniently ignoring that in his very first speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, he advocated for offshore drilling. And with protecting public lands a top concern for Montana voters, Steve Daines has been claiming that he has fought to protect Montana’s open spaces, even though he has sponsored or supported various bills that would open the door to selling off our public lands.

Our most ambitious electoral program in history included a massive presidential program aimed at persuading swing voters on the environment, an equally sizable investment in flipping the U.S. Senate to a pro-climate majority, critical work to maintain a pro-environment majority in the House, support for our state affiliates’ investments in electing climate champions at the state and local level, and an unprecedented level of support and enthusiasm for contributions to pro-environmental candidates through (in partnership with NextGen America and with support from NRDC Action Fund PAC).

The White House – Over $22.3 Million

LCV Victory Fund’s top priority is to defeat President Trump. To meet the moment and defeat the dirtiest president of all time, LCV Victory Fund devised a two pronged presidential strategy: In six critical battleground states, we persuaded environmental swing voters to move away from Trump and toward Biden-Harris, and maximized turnout of climate voters. 

In Fall 2019 we learned through testing that when swing voters who care about the environment learn basic factual information about Trump’s environmental record, their support for a Democratic candidate grows by a stunning 20 points. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, we re-tested our thesis and found that tying Trump’s refusal to listen to experts and denial of science in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis was also a persuasive message.

From May through the Democratic Convention, LCV Victory Fund ran a $14 million high-impact paid media program layering digital and direct mail advertising about Trump’s harmful environmental record to 1.58 million voters across six battleground states — AZ, FL, MI, NC, PA, WI — who are most persuadable. We partnered with Priorities USA Action for the digital programs in MI, FL, PA, and WI. 

The ads were focused on three key areas: Trump’s denial of science and climate change (“Believe”; “Laughing”); Connecting Trump’s denial of science in response to climate change to his failed response to the coronavirus (“Time”; “Hoax”); and Trump’s dangerous record of rolling back protections of our air and water (“The Pour”; “Safety”). We also aired a number of comparative ads drawing a contrast between Trump and Biden on climate and the environment (“Led The Way”; “No Comparison”). Ads ran in English and Spanish in Arizona and Florida, where large percentages of the environmental swing voter universe is Latinx. 

In August, we worked with Hart Research and BlueLabs to survey environmental swing voters again and found that they shifted significantly in Biden’s favor. We also saw a meaningful uptick in awareness of Trump’s record and policies on the environment. Despite the converging crises our country is facing, voters are more concerned about climate change than ever before, and talking to swing voters about Trump’s dangerous anti-environmental record throughout the spring and summer was extremely persuasive.

For the final months we shifted much of our presidential spending to mobilizing climate voters — especially historically underrepresented groups including young voters and voters of color — to turn out for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Tactics included phone calls, texting, digital ads, and direct mail encouraging voters to request their ballot, turn in their ballot, vote early if preferred, vote on Election Day if preferred, and ‘VoteTripling’ – asking voters to commit to reminding three friends or family members to vote. In Florida, Maine, and North Carolina we also ran ballot curing efforts and contacted voters whose ballots were rejected in order to assist them with the process of curing their ballots to ensure their votes count.

In October, we put “Led The Way” and “Time” back up on digital in FL, NC, and PA in English and Spanish and served the ads to critical Latina voters who can help make the difference for Biden in the three battleground states.

Additionally, LCV Victory Fund took the message straight to some of Trump’s favorite supporters: Big Oil. In the final weeks of the election, we put $2 million behind a national cable and digital ad campaign focused on urging voters to break Big Oil’s hold on our elected officials by defeating Donald Trump and electing Joe Biden. Watch: “Make Them Pay” 

The Senate – Over $23 Million

Taking control of the Senate away from Mitch McConnell and flipping enough seats to secure a pro-climate majority was another top priority this year. We made significant investments in eight senate races where highlighting the clear difference between the candidates on the environment could make a difference for voters: 

Early investments:

In Arizona, where polluted air and extreme heat are top campaign issues, we invested $1.7 million to defeat Martha McSally and elect Mark Kelly. The spending included two persuasion television ads that ran in Phoenix in late June/early July. The ads highlighted McSally’s support from oil and gas polluters and her votes to gut clean air protections. We also ran a GOTV field program in Arizona including calls and texts to Arizonans encouraging them to turn out in support of Mark Kelly, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris.

In Maine, we invested over $1.7 million to defeat Susan Collins and elect Sara Gideon. The spending included a variety of persuasion digital ads and direct mail highlighting the money Collins has taken from the oil and gas industry and her votes to give corporate polluters tax breaks. We also sent GOTV direct mail and ran a GOTV field program in Maine including calls and texts to Mainers encouraging them to turn out in support of Sara Gideon. Additionally, our organizers followed up with Maine voters whose ballots were rejected in order to assist them with the process of curing their ballots to ensure their votes count.

In Michigan, where environmental justice — including access to clean air and water for Black and Brown communities who are disproportionately exposed to toxic pollution, is a top campaign issue — we invested over $1.8 million to re-elect Senator Gary Peters and defeat challenger John James. The spending included a persuasion television ad in partnership with NRDC Action Votes and EDF Action Votes, persuasion radio ads and direct mail with BlackPAC, a radio ad with NRDC Action Votes, and support for Collective PAC and Black Voters Matter’s mobilization work to turn out Black voters in Michigan. Black voters will make the difference in Michigan. Through the New American Jobs Fund (a joint effort between LCV Victory Fund and the United Steelworkers’ USW Works), we also ran GOTV digital ads, dropped GOTV direct mail, and ran a GOTV field program in Michigan, including calls and texts to Michiganders encouraging them to turn out in support of Gary Peters, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris.

In Montana, where keeping public lands in public hands is a top campaign issue, we invested over $5.6 million to defeat Steve Daines and elect Steve Bullock. The spending included a persuasion television ad in August, a September television ad in partnership with EDF Action Votes, and a television ad in partnership with Montana Hunters & Anglers Leadership Fund. We also ran GOTV digital ads, dropped GOTV direct mail, and ran a GOTV field program in Montana including calls and texts to Montanans encouraging them to turn out in support of Steve Bullock.

In North Carolina, where environmental justice — including access to clean air and water for Black and Brown communities who are disproportionately exposed to toxic pollution — is a top campaign issue, we invested over $3.1 million to defeat Thom Tillis and elect Cal Cunningham. The spending included persuasion digital ads as well as digital ads, mail, and organizing and paid media partnerships with Black-led groups focused on Black voter outreach including Advance Carolina, BlackPAC, the Black Male Voters Project, Black Men Vote PAC, and Color of Change. Black voters will make the difference in North Carolina. Through the New American Jobs Fund (a joint effort between LCV Victory Fund and the United Steelworkers’ USW Works), we also ran GOTV digital ads, sent GOTV direct mail and ran a GOTV field program in North Carolina, including calls and texts to voters encouraging them to turn out in support of Cal Cunningham, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris. Additionally, New American Jobs Fund organizers followed up with North Carolina voters whose ballots were rejected in order to assist them with the process of curing their ballots to ensure their votes count.

Later investments in close races:

In Alaska, we invested $900,000 to defeat Dan Sullivan and elect Dr. Al Gross. The spending included a statewide persuasion television ad about Sullivan and Gross’s contrasting records on Pebble Mine and GOTV digital ads encouraging Alaskans to turn out in support of Dr. Gross. 

In Iowa, we invested over $6.2 million to defeat Joni Ernst and elect Theresa Greenfield. The spending included a statewide persuasion television ad and direct mail highlighting Ernst’s cozy relationships with corporate polluters. We also ran GOTV digital ads, sent GOTV direct mail, and ran a GOTV field program in Iowa including calls and texts to Iowans encouraging them to turn out in support of Theresa Greenfield.

In South Carolina we invested close to $2 million to defeat Lindsey Graham and elect Jaime Harrison. The spending included a persuasion radio ad and direct mail program in October calling out Graham’s support for offshore drilling and acceptance of hundreds of thousands in campaign donations from oil and gas. We also ran a GOTV field program in South Carolina including calls and texts to South Carolinians encouraging them to turn out in support of Jaime Harrison.

Honorable Mention:

In Colorado, protecting public lands and transitioning to a clean energy future are major campaign issues and pro-environment senate candidate John Hickenlooper campaigned on climate and public lands all cycle. We released a digital ad opposing pro-polluter Senator Cory Gardner’s re-election campaign because of Gardner’s history of voting against the environment and putting Coloradans’ health at risk. Despite his best efforts to greenwash, the real Cory Gardner votes with Donald Trump 90% of the time and his dangerous anti-environmental record shows he will ultimately side with corporate polluters over our Coloradans’ well-being. 

The House – $5.2 Million

In 2018, LCV Victory Fund helped elect the most pro-environment House majority ever including many members who campaigned on climate and clean energy and used their first term in Congress to push these issues forward. We must protect and expand the pro-environment House majority this year.

House battleground polling we released this summer with NRDC Action Votes, EDF Action, and House Majority PAC, found that environmental messaging, both critiques of anti-environmental politicians and positive messaging in support of environmental champions and highlighting environmental injustices like  PFAS, coal-ash and toxic cancer causing chemicals in water that disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities, can swing competitive House races. Armed with that data, we invested $5.2 million in competitive House races where climate and environmental justice are on the ballot including: CO-03, FL-26, MI-08, MT-AL, NC-08, NJ-03, NM-02, NY-02, NY-22, SC-01, TX-23, TX-24, TX-28 (primary), VA-07.

Critically, LCV Victory Fund made the following new investments to elect more women of color to Congress:

  • FL-26: LCV Victory Fund ran two Spanish-language television ads to re-elect Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
  • NC-08: LCV Victory Fund ran a digital ad campaign to elect Pat Timmons-Goodson. The ad calls out Timmons-Goodson’s opponent for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in donations from Duke Energy PAC, the same company that dumped toxic sludge in an NC river, and for voting against water protections.  
  • NM-02: LCV Victory fund ran a television ad in September and is running another television ad in partnership with EDF Action Votes in the final days of the election to re-elect Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. Both ads point out Torres Small’s opponent’s connections to corporate special interests who want to develop New Mexico’s public lands.
  • NY-02: LCV Victory Fund ran a direct mail campaign in support of Jackie Gordon. View: 1, 2, 3, 4. The mail points out Gordon’s opponent’s support for corporate polluters and the effect that climate change (made worse by pollution) has on superstorms like Sandy.
  • TX-23: LCV Victory Fund ran radio ads in English and Spanish to elect Gina Ortiz Jones. The ad calls out Ortiz Jones’ opponent for taking over $100,000 from corporate polluters putting toxic chemicals in the air and water.
  • TX-24: LCV Victory Fund and House Majority PAC ran a TV ad to elect Candace Valenzuela. The ad tied Valenzuela’s opponent to Trump and polluters — and the risk they pose to Texans’ health.

And don’t worry – we had a little fun with our House race ad campaigns too. In case you missed it, an ad we ran with House Majority PAC in opposition to Matt Rosendale’s campaign to represent Montana’s at large Congressional district was narrated by … an elk. Listen: “Elk”

The States – $20 Million

With over 30 state affiliates, LCV has always understood the importance of investing in elected offices at every level. But the last four years have shown us that state action can hold the line against a dangerous, climate denying, racist federal administration. Without state level clean energy initiatives, US emissions over the last four years would have been 37 percent higher. These races build champions who make critical environmental decisions every day and are a proving ground for policies that bold federal leaders can follow.

Key Conservation Voter Movement state and local priorities:

  • NC and MT Governors’ races
  • Six campaigns to flip State Legislatures — AZ, NC (both chambers), PA, MN, MI
  • New investments in one lieutenant governor race, two State Supreme Court campaigns and three Utility Commission races to ensure we have environmental champions in crucial decisions making bodies 

While this includes all major campaigns in the states it is not comprehensive to every single race or every dollar being spent by LCV affiliates across the country.

  • Arizona – Over 2019 and 2020, Chispa AZ PAC has invested nearly $4 million in efforts to elect Regina Romero as the first Latina Mayor of Tucson, flip the AZ state House, defend environmental champions in the state Senate, and build a pro-clean energy majority on the Arizona Corporation Commission.
  • Montana – While the nation’s eye have been on the Senate race, races for Governor, the legislature, and Public Service Commission will make critical choices as the state transitions from one of the nation’s largest coal producers to a clean energy economy as well as major decisions for a state with nearly 100 million acres of wilderness and public lands. Montana Conservation Voters Action Fund has spent over $1 million on the Governor’s race alone, one of the largest investments in their history.
  • North Carolina – One of the most watched and expensive states in 2020, North Carolina has important races at every level this year. There is a possibility to flip both chambers of the legislature and elect leaders who will support clean energy development and hold major corporate polluters like Duke Energy accountable. There is also a race for Lt. Governor that NCLCV’s Conservation Votes PAC has invested as well as a major effort to re-elect Roy Cooper as Governor who has been a champion for North Carolina’s environment and clean energy in his first term.
  • Pennsylvania – In total, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania Victory Fund will invest over $2 million to flip their legislature. This state has been ground zero in the fight against expanding fossil fuels and has a chance to show what it can look like to build a just transition to clean energy.
  • Minnesota – Recent efforts to enact clean car standards and increase the state’s renewable energy standard have been blocked in the anti-environmental State Senate. Climate Vote Minnesota is working to flip the State Senate and give Minnesota a trifecta of pro-environmental leadership.
  • Nebraska – We invested more than ever before to gain two seats on the Nebraska Public Power Board for a pro-environmental majority willing to pass 100% clean energy. 
  • Florida – Florida Conservation Voters Action Fund invested in the Miami mayor’s race and flipping two state Senate seats. 
  • Michigan – Our Michigan affiliate is working to flip the State House and elect two environmental champions to the Supreme Court. Whether it’s drinking water protections, voting rights, or election results the importance of state supreme courts seats in places like Michigan have never been clearer.
  • New Mexico – Conservation Voters New Mexico’s Verde Voters Fund is supporting women of color running for state legislature and potentially picking up a super majority in both chambers of the state legislature. 
  • Nevada –  Our Nevada league is working on two key state Senate races that could lead to a pro-environment supermajority in both chambers, which is key to passing new clean energy initiatives. 
  • New York – NYLCV PAC is defending environmental champions in the state Assembly currently being targeted by an out-of-state SuperPAC.
  • Ohio – In Ohio we are supporting efforts by Conservation Ohio to break the anti-environment supermajority in the House and elect Jennifer Brunner to the Supreme Court.
  • Wisconsin – Our Wisconsin league is preventing an anti-environment supermajority in the state senate and a late attempt to defeat the stridently anti-environment House speaker. 
  • Colorado – Conservation Colorado Victory Fund is trying to flip two county commissions in four of the state’s oil and gas producing counties as well as add to their majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

To view 2019 state work included in this cycle’s numbers please see last year’s memo.

GiveGreen Candidate Fundraising – $43 Million

Forty three million dollars has been raised for federal and state candidates through GiveGreen, a project of LCV Victory Fund, NRDC Action Fund PAC, and NextGen America, in this election cycle — shattering numbers from previous years and cementing GiveGreen as the biggest single-issue fundraising platform of any progressive group. Over $20 million of this historic total has been raised in support of the Biden-Harris campaign via GiveGreen, including $15 million by Climate Leaders for Biden. In addition to the historic total raised in support of the Biden-Harris campaign, GiveGreen donors have raised over $700,000 for four Senate candidates and over $500,000 for two Senate candidates — massive increases from our GiveGreen Senate fundraising in past cycles. This historic effort is being fueled by grassroots donors from across the country who are energized to support climate champions up and down the ballot.

Mobilizing Members – $1.3 Million 

Since 2012, LCV has mobilized its members to volunteer with pro-environment candidates through GreenRoots, a coordinated membership communications program. A pandemic and remote work did not stop LCV from deploying 75 organizers to mobilize LCV members in support of LCV Action Fund-endorsed candidates, including Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, in 15 key states: AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, ME, MI, MT, NC, NH, NV, PA, VA, and WI. Additionally, LCV partnered with Vote Forward to increase civic participation by organizing our members to send letters to voters — including at an event with Lin Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton.

For the second major election cycle in a row, LCV partnered with EDF Action, NRDC Action Fund, NWF Action Fund, and the Sierra Club for GreenWave 2020 — an effort to activate the groups’ collective membership to volunteer for pro-environment candidates across 15 states. 


Paid for by LCV Victory Fund,, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.