Steyer-Backed Montana Environmental Group All-In For Tester Re-Election
The Montana affiliate of the League of Conservation Voters, a group backed by California billionaire Tom Steyer, is all-in for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in the Treasure State.
A Western Wire review of campaign finance records at OpenSecrets.org uncovers Tester’s biggest contributor so far in the 2018 election cycle, after the group announced its support for the two-term Senator’s re-election in the fall.
Montana Conservation Voters (MCV) along with the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund (LCV) offered a full-throated endorsement for Tester for re-election this November.
“Senator Tester is one of the strongest voices in the U.S. Senate for keeping public lands in public hands, protecting our clean air and water, helping grow the outdoor recreation economy, and preserving lands for future generations to explore,” LCV Action Fund Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said in a March statement. “As the only working farmer in the Senate, he knows firsthand the effects of climate change and the threat it poses to Montanans way of life. We are excited to endorse Senator Tester for re-election.”
Tester accepted MCV’s support in the same press release.
“I am proud to have MCV’s endorsement. I will continue to relentlessly defend our public lands from outside attacks on our Montana way of life so that our kids and grandkids have the same access to Montana’s beauty, clean water, and public lands that we enjoy today,” said Senator Jon Tester.
So far in 2018, Steyer, along with his wife Kathryn Fahr, have donated $16,006,456 to Democratic candidates. Steyer led all contributors in the 2016 cycle, with more than $91 million in contributions, on top of his 2014-leading $75.4 million in the last midterm.
Even though Tester supported the Keystone XL pipeline—a big target for Steyer’s campaign spending, which he opposed—the Montana Senator drew $270,000 from environmental groups in 2014, banking on his LCV scorecard. Steyer even pledged in 2014 to support only anti-Keystone XL lawmakers.
From 2013 through 2018, LCV is Tester’s largest individual contributor from campaign committees, and the only campaign committee with six-figure backing, with $144,827 in contributions, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Tester is LCV’s second largest recipient, behind U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). LCV has backed 22 Democrats in the 2018 U.S. Senate cycle, for a total of $870,086. No Republican candidates in the U.S. House or U.S. Senate have received LCV contributions.
In Tester’s previous re-election campaign in 2012, LCV contributed $141,661, their third largest targeted race that cycle.
But LCV isn’t just targeting federal races, as it announced a $20 million effort for state races this cycle, a record amount for the group, double its previous highest output.
Those efforts will include Western states like New Mexico and Colorado, in addition to Montana.
LCV has jumped into governor’s races in New Mexico, which is an open seat. Conservation Voters New Mexico Action Fund, LCV’s state affiliate, endorsed Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) to replace term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez (R).
“Our state partner helped regain pro-environment leadership in the state legislature in 2016, so New Mexico is poised to enact proactive climate legislation if departing Governor Susana Martinez is replaced by an environmental champion,” wrote LCV’s Senior Vice President for Campaigns, Pete Maysmith.
Tipping the balance in the U.S. Senate and in state races alike is part of LCV’s goals. “LCV and our affiliates will also focus resources in states like Colorado, where once again winning just one seat in the state Senate would flip the chamber to a pro-environment majority,” Maysmith wrote.
In 2015, Conservation Colorado, LCV’s state affiliate, named Steyer as a “visionary” for its annual awards dinner. Maysmith, then Conservation Colorado’s Executive Director, praised Steyer’s efforts to “help elect candidates willing to take leadership and action.”
LCV was projected to spend approximately $40 million in the most recent election cycle.
LCV’s involvement across the West isn’t limited to election cycles, as recent efforts, uncovered by Western Wire, have revealed. In August 2017, LCV targeted members of the Congressional Western Caucus, spending $100,000 on a media buy to criticize elected officials as “anti-public lands.” The Western Caucus has more than 70 members, concentrated primarily in the Rocky Mountain West.
More recently, the Steyer-backed group poured money into defeating a local recall effort for a Colorado county commissioner embattled over environmental lobbying and ethics concerns. La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, still faces the possibility of being recalled, despite the revelation that Conservation Colorado has poured tens of thousands of dollars behind Lachelt’s retention. That includes the recall issue committee, United Against the Recall, sharing the same office address and phone number as Conservation Colorado’s southwest Colorado field office.