On Environmental Scorecard, Bush Flunks; Bradley, Gore, McCain Pass Muster

By Cat Lazaroff

WASHINGTON, DC, January 13, 2000 (ENS) - Calling on the presidential candidates to talk more about their environmental plans and records, the League of Conservation Voters today released its "2000 Presidential Profiles" on the environment. The League did not endorse any candidate, but did say that Republican front runner George W. Bush's record on environmental issues is the weakest among competitive major party candidates.

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Texas Governor George W. Bush threatens to reverse decades of environmental progress if elected President (Photo courtesy Bush 2000)
"George W. Bush's tenure as governor of Texas is marked by weak state environmental regulations, neglect of Texas state parks, worsening air quality and a general governing philosophy that, if applied nationally, would jeopardize three decades of national environmental progress," said Deb Callahan, president of the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

"We believe that Bush represents the biggest threat to the environment of any leading major party presidential candidate," said Callahan, speaking at a press conference today in Washington.

In general, this Presidential race is marked by more attention to environmental issues than any in recent memory, the LCV noted. "I think that we’ve seen the candidates responding to our agenda more than we’ve ever seen a field of candidates respond to an environmental agenda," said Callahan.

One reason for the attention may be the absence of other major issues. The U.S. economy is soaring, unemployment is at a record low, and there are few international conflicts involving the U.S. Still, the 2000 Presidential field has a remarkable number of candidates with good environmental records - more than any year since 1988.

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Bill Bradley has a consistent record of voting pro-environment, LCV found (Photo courtesy Bradley 2000)
Based on each of their records, Callahan said Democratic candidates Vice President Al Gore and former Senator Bill Bradley have been friends of the environment and would promote environmental progress from the White House.

"Senator Bill Bradley has compiled an impressive 84 percent LCV environmental voting average during his 18 years in the Senate and consistently supported environmental legislation," said Callahan. "We believe, if elected President, Bradley would be a real supporter on environmental issues."

"Vice President Gore is the most knowledgeable candidate on issues pertaining to environmental protection," she continued. "He was instrumental in opposing the anti-environmental initiatives we saw come out of the 104th Congress, including efforts to weaken the Clean Water Act that were so bad, we dubbed it the ‘Dirty Water Act’."

Gore’s lifetime LCV voting score is only 64 percent, significantly lower than Bradley’s. Callahan pointed to two possible reasons for the disparity. During his career as a Representative and then as a Senator, Gore had more absences from environmental votes than Bradley. In addition, "Gore has magnitudes more record on environmental issues than any other candidate," Callahan noted. A lengthier voting record might lead to more variability in Gore’s score, she said.

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Vice President Al Gore would be a real leader on environmental issues if elected President, LCV says (Photo courtesy Gore 2000)
"Gore has been a real leader," Callahan said. "He’s been a public educator on environmental issues. We believe that counts too" toward his rating as an environmental candidate.

Callahan credited Arizona Senator John McCain for publicly encouraging the Republican Party to embrace conservation, and for his past support of conservation programs in his home state of Arizona.

"Senator McCain deserves credit for being the leading Republican on making conservation a primary component of his campaign," said Callahan. "Following the 1996 elections, he wrote an opinion piece in the ‘New York Times’ admonishing his own party’s leadership for alienating the electorate with their strongly anti-environmental congressional agenda and rhetoric."

However, Callahan noted that Senator McCain's 20 percent career environmental rating with the League calls into question his commitment to consistently support strong conservation policy.

The environmental positions of Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Alan Keyes were also included in the "2000 Presidential Profiles."

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Senator John McCain has a mixed environmental record, but is the most environmental of the Republican candidates, LCV says (Photo courtesy McCain 2000)
"The 2000 presidential candidates have all at one time or another referred to the importance of environmental issues, but most of them have yet to define a clear vision for how they would lead the nation and the world in respect to conservation and environmental policy," Callahan said. "Public opinion surveys consistently show that the American public cares about a candidate's stance on environmental issues. LCV's "2000 Presidential Profiles" provide substantive information so the public can assess the environmental credentials of each Republican and Democratic presidential contender."

Based on extensive research, interviews and presidential questionnaire responses, the "2000 Presidential Profiles" are the first effort by an organization to fully assess the environmental record of each of this year's major party presidential candidates.

The Profiles were created as an informative guide for voters, the media and the environmental community, offering insight into the environmental records and positions of the major Republican and Democratic presidential primary contenders. To produce the most thorough and objective analysis possible, the LCV spent months researching the environmental records and statements of candidates and interviewing dozens of policy leaders and state, local and national conservationists.

The "2000 Presidential Profiles" present the environmental vision of each candidate, made public by means of speeches, editorial commentaries, books and publications, and votes cast throughout his career. All of the candidates were researched using the same methodology, although those candidates with previous office experience have more extensive records.

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Republican candidate Gary Bauer opposes government environmental regulation, the LCV found (Photo courtesy Bauer 2000)
The League of Conservation Voters distributed an environmental questionnaire, composed by a team of environmental issue experts, to each presidential campaign in order to attain a first-hand account of each candidate's environmental beliefs. The profiles for former Senator Bill Bradley, Vice President Al Gore and Senator John McCain contain excerpts from their responses to these questionnaires. The other candidates did not respond.

Cities and states across the U.S. are facing mounting environmental challenges, the LCV says. Not only does air and water continue to be threatened by pollution, but suburban sprawl is encroaching upon open space and debates over global warming, nuclear waste disposal and public lands protections are expected to continue well into this new millennium. Finding a way to address these problems will require bold and visionary leadership by the next American president, the group warns.

Regardless of their political affiliation, American voters consistently support stronger, not weaker, environmental protections. A national survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Research, Inc. in September 1999 found that 86 percent of people likely to vote in the 2000 elections think environmental issues are important when deciding how to vote. Eighty-three percent of likely voters believe it is important for presidential candidates to make environmental protection a top priority. These numbers held strong among Republican, Democratic and Independent voters alike.

The environment is particularly important to younger voters, the LCV has found, particularly the 18-25 year old group. "These are the people that understand that they inherit what mistakes we make," said Betsy Loyless, the LCV’s political director.

The LCV has only endorsed two candidates in its 30 year history: Incumbent President Bill Clinton in the 1996 election, and Walter Mondale in the 1984 race against Ronald Reagan. The group’s board of directors has not yet decided whether to endorse a candidate in the 2000 election. But the group has no qualms about issuing an "anti-endorsement" of Bush.

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Republican candidate Steve Forbes, seen here campaigning with his wife in Iowa on Wednesday, has a primarily anti-environmental record, the LCV says (Photo courtesy Forbes 2000)
"To boil it down, if Bush applied his ‘Texas knows best’ philosophy to the rest of the nation, we could see 30 years of environmental progress rolled back," warned Callahan. "Bush’s record is clearly the most anti-environmental of all the candidates."

The "2000 Presidential Profiles" are available at: www.lcv.org, along with complete questionnaire responses. As part of an ongoing information effort, LCV will regularly update the site to include the latest environmental information from the presidential campaigns.

Founded in 1970, LCV is the only national organization dedicated full time to informing the public about the environmental records of federally elected officials and candidates.