But her record and proposals to date, while generally quite green, don’t go as far as those from Sanders, her stiffest competition for the nomination, or low-polling hopeful Martin O’Malley. (Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on her record compared to the competition’s.)
For instance, Sanders has pushed legislation to impose a carbon tax, a step Clinton has not taken (although the Senate Democrats’ leader-in-waiting Chuck Schumer predicts she could eventually back a tax as part of a fiscal deal). Sanders is also cosponsoring new legislation to halt any new drilling on federal lands and waters.
O’Malley has said he would “not be inclined to allow fossil-fuel extraction on public lands” and opposes all offshore drilling too, and he has also come out against exporting crude oil and in favor of legislation to require getting 100 percent of U.S. power from renewables by 2050.
Environmental movement veteran Dan Becker, a former Sierra Club official who now runs the Safe Climate Campaign, believes LCV is weighing factors beyond the candidates’ records.
“I can imagine that they recognize that the overwhelming likelihood [is] that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee,” said Becker, noting that “political reality” is driving the decision despite what he calls the stronger records of Sanders and O’Malley.
Still, while Clinton—whose campaign chairman, John Podesta, is a former LCV board member —has not made the environment her top priority during her political career, Becker said that Clinton has “generally” voted the right way.
Sanders’s campaign has scored an endorsement from Friends of the Earth’s political arm, but it’s a far smaller operation than LCV, which according to the group, spent nearly $15 million in the 2012 elections, including around $2 million on the White House race, and $30 million in the 2014 cycle.
Sanders has also received the support of activist Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and a key force behind the anti-Keystone movement.
LCV has closer ties to the Democratic establishment. It’s board chairwoman, Carol Browner, formerly served as a top climate-change official in President Obama’s White House and ran the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton.
Sanders’s campaign is not happy that LCV is throwing its weight behind Clinton, especially before any votes have been cast. Clinton, as a senator, garnered an 82 percent career score in the group’s vote rankings compared to Sanders’s 95 percent score (though Clinton’s missed votes while she was running for president as a senator eight years ago affected her average).
Mark Longabaugh, a former LCV official who currently advises Sanders, called the endorsement “disappointing” and said it’s “beyond question” that Sanders is the strongest environmentalist in the race. “LCV is out of step with the grassroots of environmental activism in this country,” he said.