A big red flag is inclusion of Congressman Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) on the hit list. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Gibson has raised $1.4 million this cycle, but oil and gas interests account for a meager 1.2 percent. There are plenty of Democrats who have received more support from that sector. Why isn’t the Sierra Club singling them out?

Furthermore, Gibson’s record includes a number of votes and actions that run contrary to the wishes of the fossil fuel lobby. Gibson is the sole GOP co-sponsor of the FRAC Act, which would repeal hydraulic fracturing’s exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act and require disclosure of the chemicals used. Gibson also recently voted against his party leadership’s “Stop the War on Coal Act,” a grab-bag of ill-considered proposals to roll back important air and water quality protections.

ConservAmerica recently announced its endorsement of Gibson, pointing out his support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, his votes to protect the Endangered Species Act and to implement recommendations of the BP oil spill commission, and his strong support for clean energy.

The entire premise of the “Toxic Money, Toxic Votes” campaign falls apart under even the lightest of scrutiny. This campaign is nothing more than a blatant and ill-advised excursion into rank partisanship that further polarizes environmental issues and poisons opportunities for bi-partisan progress.
Actions like this lend credence to Republican complaints that the once venerable Sierra Club has become essentially an arm of the Democratic Party.

It is an understandable conclusion when a supposedly non-partisan organization targets Republicans with a misleading campaign, and one that is being readily used by Democrat candidates. Gibson’s opponent cited it in a recent debate.

Stewardship-minded Republicans like Chris Gibson are essential to finding and enacting thoughtful, bi-partisan solutions to today’s environmental problems. Attacking such Republicans is counterproductive. Dishonestly attacking them in a partisan quest to elect Democrats is both myopic and unconscionable.

Richard Nixon once said that safeguarding our environment is a “cause beyond party and faction.” It should be. In the 1970s Republicans and Democrats came together and passed (almost unanimously) landmark environmental laws to protect our air, water, wildlife, and public lands—effective, bi-partisan laws that have stood the test time and still protect us today.

For those of us who recognize the need for bi-partisanship to re-emerge in response to today’s environmental challenges, the Sierra Club’s campaign is, in a word, toxic.

Jenkins is vice president of government and political affairs for ConservAmerica.