Officials of a dozen top Big Green environmental groups contributed more than $14.5 million to congressional and presidential candidates in 2008 and through the second quarter of 2010 with 96 percent of the total going to Democrats, according to an Examiner analysis of federal campaign data.
The data was compiled from the Federal Election Commission and included only donations by individuals who listed one of the 12 groups as their employer or listed themselves as an officer or director of one or more of the groups. This analysis does not include contributions by individuals who did not list an employer.
The groups included the Audubon Society, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, the Environmental Defense Action Fund, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, Ocean Champions, Sierra Club, the Trust for Public Land and the Wilderness Society.
The dozen included in the Examiner analysis either have political action committees or are otherwise highly visible players on the national political scene. There are more than 26,000 environmental groups across the country, including 8,078 nonprofit organizations with enough income to require them to file IRS Form 990 annual tax returns.
Six of the dozen collectively received more than $160 million in federal grants and contracts, according to their 2008 or 2007 IRS tax returns, with the Nature Conservancy's $110.6 million being the highest, followed by the Trust for Public Land ($28 million), Audubon Society ($17.5 million), the Environmental Defense Fund (parent of the EDF Action Fund) with $3.6 million, Natural Resources Defense Council ($358,072) and Defenders of Wildlife ($205,021).
Employees of these six receiving federal dollars gave nearly $6.6 million to Democratic candidates in the 2008-2010 period covered and $313,348 to Republicans. Two of the six have PACs.
Employees of the six groups with no recorded federal grants or contracts gave slightly more to Democrats at $6.7 million, slightly less to Republicans at $214,175 and $11,810 to candidates of other parties. Five of these six have PACs.
President Obama was the biggest recipient by far of contributions with a total of more than $2.4 million. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was Obama's main 2008 primary rival, got $86,500.
Other notable Democrats received large amounts, including Sen. Barbara Boxer of California ($130,766), Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota ($114,701), Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland ($109.302) and Rep. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico ($247,674).
Obama's biggest groups of environmental supporters came from the Sierra Club ($917,965) and Defenders of Wildlife ($905,375).
Big Green environmental groups are also among the most active sources of independent expenditures, either for Democrats or against Republicans. Defenders of Wildlife, for example, spent nearly $1.3 million in a successful 2008 effort to deny Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado a fourth term.
The group also spent more than $637,000 in 2008 against GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and $166,620 for Obama and $188,535 for Heinrich.
Independent expenditures by the Sierra Club in 2008 were mostly to oppose McCain ($454,948) and to elect Obama ($421,092).
Democratic campaign committees also received substantial contributions from employees, officers and directors of Big Green environmental groups. Natural Resources Defense Council individuals, for example, gave $352,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $249,750 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $237,665 to the Democratic National Committee's DNC Services Committee.
Employees of the environmental groups were especially focused on Alaska politics, with a total of $373,322 being contributed to Alaska Conservation Voters, which supported Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Stevens following the latter's indictment on corruption charges for which he was subsequently exonerated.
Employees of the League of Conservative Voters contributed $264,606 of the $373,322 total given to Begich.
UPDATE: Pajamas Media looks at how Big Green ended Rep. Marilyn Musgave's political career
Pajamas Media's Charlie Martin looks at how Big Green targeted conservative Colorado Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave for defeat, then poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into her opponent's campaign in a successful effort to remove her from Congress.