Big ‘green’ dollars propel McAuliffe to victory

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Environmental activists poured millions of dollars into the Virginia gubernatorial campaign to help propel Democrat Terry McAuliffe to victory over Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli.

Environmental groups put up $3.8 million to help McAuliffe defeat Cuccinelli, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. That’s about four times as much as fossil fuel interests gave Cuccinelli.

Energy and environmental concerns became a major focus during the campaign, as McAuliffe planned to jump-start Virginia’s renewable energy production and bring green jobs into the state.

McAuliffe expressed support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas regulations that targeted the coal industry — a key policy issue for environmentalists

Coal, oil and natural gas interests only donated about $900,000 to the Cuccinelli campaign. Cuccinelli has openly opposed the EPA’s climate agenda and supports the use of coal and drilling for oil and natural gas.

“Virginia is a coal state,” Cuccinelli said at a coal rally last week. “We can’t have a governor that isn’t ready to step up” for coal miners.

The coal industry gave Cuccinelli more than $600,000, with a combined $172,000 coming from the coal companies Alpha Natural Resources and Murray Energy Corp. The energy industry as a whole only donated about $1.2 million to Cuccinelli.

Two of McAuliffe’s biggest funders were the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and NextGen Climate Action. They each spent about $1.7 million on the former Democratic National Committee chairman’s campaign. The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club gave nearly $500,000 to McAuliffe.

Green groups also spent millions on TV ad buys during the campaign. NextGen Climate Action, which was founded by San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, spent more than $2.4 million — the most spent on TV buys by any group.

Steyer, a major Obama fundraiser, has been a large backer of anti-Keystone XL campaigns and his political group, NextGen, also supported the election of Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts to the Senate.

Other environmental groups also spent time and money mailing and calling constituents to get out the vote. The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund spent nearly $70,000 on phone banking and direct mail opposing Cuccinelli and supporting McAuliffe.

The Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter spent more than $9,000 on media for McAuliffe. The League of Conservation Voters spent more than $2,800 sending out emails opposing Cuccinelli.

The League of Conservation Voters was able to mobilize volunteers to knock on 100,000 doors in the Richmond area and 300,000 across the state, reports the Hill.

Environmentalists were successful at making global warming a central issue in the campaign, having former University of Virginia climate scientist and global warming activist Michael Mann stump for McAuliffe.

“Voters are excited to cast their ballots for Terry McAuliffe and send a strong message to Ken Cuccinelli that his climate change denial makes him unelectable in Virginia,” said Navin Nayak with the League of Conservation Voters.

Bringing Mann onto the campaign trail was an attempt to label Cuccinelli as “anti-science” for being skeptical of the theory of manmade global warming. It also highlighted a personal grudge against the GOP attorney general who launched an investigation into Mann’s activities at UVA, in the wake of the Climategate email scandal.

Cuccinelli conceded defeat to McAuliffe on Tuesday night after a close election.

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