By Michael Beckel
During Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s race last year against incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown, the League of Conservation Voters spent more than $1 million on “independent expenditures” that either advocated for Warren’s election or Brown’s defeat, including mass mailings and paid canvassers.
The 501(c)(4) nonprofit’s treasury, as well as its related political action committee and super PAC, accounted for the spending, which helped push Warren to victory in a race that ranked among the League’s top electoral priorities. The League also bundled more than $100,000 in earmarked campaign contributions for Warren, federal records show.
Now tonight in Washington, D.C., supporters of the League — one of the nation’s most politically active environmental nonprofits — will gather for a fundraising gala during which Warren is scheduled to address the crowd.
The event is the latest illustration of how politicians and special interest groups, which by law can’t coordinate election spending, nevertheless forge mutually beneficial ties.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., will also speak at the League’s fundraiser — notable since the nonprofit could play a role in helping propel him to a second term next year.
League spokesman Jeff Gohringer said the two senators should be commended for being “two voices in Congress who are working hard on environmental priorities.”
Lacey Rose, Warren’s press secretary, told the Center for Public Integrity not to “read into” the senator’s appearance “too much.”
“Sen. Warren is a strong advocate for clean energy and environmental protection,” Rose said. “She supports the LCV’s mission to educate the public on global warming, energy and conservation, and was honored to be asked to speak at their event to share her passion for these important issues.”
Warren ultimately raised an eye-popping $42.5 million from all donors ahead of her 7.5 percentage point-victory over Brown.
Next year, Franken, who was narrowly elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, will again face voters.
The former comedian, who serves as the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s energy subcommittee chairman, is currently one among a handful of candidates promoted on the “Give Green” website of the League of Conservation Voters.
The site steers prospective donors toward pro-environmental candidates.
“Franken is a fierce advocate for combating climate change,” said spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff, adding that the senator “shares many of the same values and viewpoints on energy and the environment as members of the League of Conservation Voters.”
At the end of the first-quarter of 2013, Franken’s campaign had $2 million in the bank, federal records show.
The League has conducted its annual “Capital Dinner” fundraiser for more than 20 years, said Gohringer, who added the event is about both “celebrating our successes” and rallying for “the fights that lie ahead” in Congress.
The Center for Public Integrity is a non-profit, independent investigative news outlet. For more of its stories on this topic go to publicintegrity.org.