League of Conservation Voters

The League of Conservation Voters is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.

Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:

The League of Conservation Voters raised

$185 million

between January 2010 and December 2016.

Issue One identified


donors to this dark money group.

These donors collectively accounted for


of its funding.

Issue One found 17 donors that gave at least $100,000 since January 2010:

League of Conservation Voters Education Fund: $9.5 million

The Advocacy Fund: $8.9 million

Green Tech Action Fund: $8.4 million

NEO Philanthropy Action Fund (formerly Public Interest Projects Action Fund): $5.8 million

Sixteen Thirty Fund: $5.5 million

Environmental Defense Action Fund: $2.8 million

Partnership Project Action Fund: $2.5 million

Partnership Project: $2 million

Majority Forward: $1.5 million

Priorities USA: $650,000

Tides Foundation: $490,000

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund: $390,000

America Votes: $310,000

NextGen Climate Action: $260,000

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors: $210,000

NEO Philanthropy: $140,000

Rockefeller Family Fund: $130,000

Note: These numbers have been rounded to two significant figures. Click here to see more details about these contributions — and all identified donors to this group — in Issue One’s exclusive database of dark money donors, and click here to learn more about how these contributors were identified. 

Source: Issue One analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics and Federal Election Commission.

The League of Conservation Voters self-reported to the IRS that31 percentof its total spending was related to political campaign activities

It also told the FEC that


of its political spending was negative

About the League of Conservation Voters

Established in 1969 by environmentalist David Brower, the League of Conservation Voters is an advocacy organization that works to elect pro-environment candidates who are typically Democrats. Boasting more than 2 million members across the country, the League of Conservation Voters claims on its website that it has “helped elect or re-elect 73 U.S. senators and 330 members of the U.S. House of Representatives” since 1994.

Gene Karpinski, a former executive director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, has served as the president of the League of Conservation Voters since 2006. Since 1970, the League of Conservation Voters has published a scorecard that assesses politicians on environmental issues. According to documents the group filed with the Internal Revenue Service, its spending on “direct or indirect political campaign activities” typically spikes in election years — exceeding 41 percent, for instance, in 2012 when the group endorsed President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, among other candidates.

Organized as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, the League of Conservation Voters is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and also works with affiliates in 31 states. In addition to its main 501(c)(4) arm, the League of Conservation Voters also operates a traditional political action committee that makes donations to candidates, a super PAC that sponsors political advertisements and a 501(c)(3) charity arm that seeks to increase voter participate and educate the public and elected officials about key environmental issues.