Sierra Club Promotes Climate-Focused Economic Recovery Plan After Spending Big On Lobbying And Political Donations
The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s leading environmental activism groups, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2020 on lobbying efforts and donations to elected officials, hoping to influence policy and elect candidates sympathetic to its cause.
At the same time, the organization has proposed a COVID-19 economy recovery plan that would spend nearly $6 trillion in taxpayer funds over the next decade on clean energy, land restoration, and environmentally focused transportation and infrastructure projects. In comparison, the federal government’s annual discretionary budget for 2020 is $4.8 billion.
The plan, commissioned by the Sierra Club and authored by two economists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, proposes a “$580 billion per year public investment program” for each of the next 10 years – money that would have to be appropriated by Congressional leaders the Sierra Club has been lobbying and supporting through fundraising.
“With unemployment approaching Great Depression levels, now is the time for Congress to take bold action to put millions of people back to work building a healthier, more just future for all,” a top Sierra Club official said.
The plan advocates spending $320 billion a year in taxpayer funds on clean energy, energy efficiency, and land restoration each through 2029. It proposes another $260 billion a year over the same time frame on infrastructure based on the recommendations of the BlueGreen Alliance – a collaboration of labor unions and environmental groups.
The Sierra Club claims these measures would create 9 million government-backed jobs a year for five years at a cost of $2.9 trillion in federal spending.
Earlier this month, Western Wire covered the lobbying expenditures by the Sierra Club and other prominent environmental groups to push certain climate policies and restrict federal aid to fossil fuel companies at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In first quarter of 2020, the Sierra Club spent $150,000 on lobbying work in the U.S. House and Senate, according to its disclosure report. Those efforts included support for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and multiple bills boosting renewable energy production including the 100% Clean Economy Act and the Renewable Energy Extension Act of 2019.
The group also lobbied in support of several bills aimed at the oil and natural gas industry such as the Fracking Ban Act, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that they called “the first-ever federal bill to phase out fracking nationwide.” Additionally, there was lobbying support for the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2019, which would restrict production in New Mexico against the wishes of the Navajo Nation’s tribal council.
The Sierra Club did oppose The Trillion Trees Act, a priority of President Trump to begin planting trees globally on a massive scale for carbon sequestration.
While these lobbying efforts were underway, the Sierra Club has made $87,000 in campaign contributions to Democratic incumbents and candidates during the 2020 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, including $20,914 in contributions to Sanders, more than double the amount to any other candidate. The group also made contributions to fellow presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) of $3,178 and $9,989 respectively.
In Congress, Reps. Dan McCready (D-N.C), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Sean Casten (D-Ill.) were among the biggest beneficiaries of the Sierra Club’s contributions, each receiving more than $3,000.
OpenSecrets.org ranked the Sierra Club in the top 15 percent of biggest donors. Similarly, Sierra Club was ranked in the top 15 percent on lobbying expenditures.
All of these candidates receiving significant financial support from the Sierra Club are strong opponents of oil and natural gas production and would likely be reliable allies in the group’s push for its multi-trillion COVID-19 recovery plan that hinges heavily on clean energy.
In April, the group wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democratic Committee Chairs advocating for a CARES 2.0 stimulus package that was heavily focused on tough regulatory thresholds for new economic development regarding labor and environmental standards and prioritizes clean energy production and mass transit construction.