Green groups align for $5M election-year push

Two national green groups are joining forces this campaign season to throw their political capital behind pro-environment candidates who take a stand on climate change.

The League of Conservation Voters and Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund are aligning themselves to form the LeadingGreen coalition, which is aimed at bringing donors together to give specifically to candidates.

The groups announced the joint venture on Monday.

"This is about bringing more environmental money into politics when polluters are spending the most," David Willett, the League's vice president of communications, told The Hill.

Despite a growing divide in Congress over climate change, the two groups want the alliance to be part of an effort to change the politics of the issue.

LeadingGreen will primarily focus on generating power brokers in advocacy and election in order to influence national policymakers.

Both groups plan to raise and contribute $5 million in new donations directly to candidates. That is separate from what each will spend on its own outside of the newly formed coalition.

Conservative groups and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer have vowed to spend a significantly more than the $5 million from the new alliance during the 2014 midterms elections.

But those are independent expenditures, Willett said of Steyer's money. The $5 million coming from LeadingGreen is going directly to candidates. Groups like Steyer's NextGen Climate Action PAC spend money to support or defeat a candidate without coordinating with a specific campaign.

"It will have a big effect," Willett said. "It's money that goes directly to candidates that appreciate and need that money. It will go to environmental champions, who folks on the other side are trying to make big targets."

Willett added that the protecting the Democratic majority in the Senate this year is a "huge priority."

The move by the two green groups underscores the shift in campaign politics for environmentalists, which say they have the ability to make climate change a wedge issue for candidates in years to come.

It won't be easy, however, as the rift on Capitol Hill among climate policy advocates and skeptics seems to be expanding.