Bill Bradley has not been particularly competitive with Vice Pres. Gore in the world of endorsements and establishment support within the Democratic Party. In fact, he’s been roundly trounced. Gore boasts scores of supporters in Congress and among various and sundry party potentates scattered across the country. Gore also leads in endorsements from labor unions and other traditional Democratic interest groups. (Readers know that greenie groups but for one have officially remained neutral.)

But Bradley got a boost this week from three West Coast members of Congress who took to the podium at the National Press Club to endorse the former New Jersey senator as the true heir to liberal Democratic lions like FDR and Lyndon Johnson (in marked contrast to what they described as Gore’s Democratic Leadership Council-flavored muddy moderation).

California Reps. George Miller and Pete Stark and Washington Rep. Jim McDermott all came out for Bradley on Tuesday, raising the former Knick’s endorsement total to six in the House and three in the Senate.

Of these latest three, Miller leveled the heaviest artillery fire at Gore and the administration, ripping them in particular for failing to help reform California’s water laws. (Bradley, while in the Senate, teamed up with Miller to work on water reform legislation in the 1980s.)

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“We don’t see the enforcement of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act taking place,” Miller told the Press Club. “The project reforms are way behind schedule … and now the administration is leaving town, and it hasn’t been done.”

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Water reform is not the only enviro issue that swung Miller behind Bradley, according to Miller press secretary Danny Weiss, who credits Bradley with, among other things, helping to protect wildlife in Utah, fighting against dam building, working to ban offshore oil drilling in New Jersey, and supporting full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

All three endorsers are Democratic heavies with multiple terms under their belts, but the nod from Miller may be the most significant, particularly for environmentalists, as the Bay Area rep is the ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee and comes with a built-in enviro constituency.

Some enviro insiders, however, downplayed the significance of the Miller endorsement. “Miller and Bradley have long worked together on California irrigation reform,” said one knowledgeable observer who is neutral in the Democratic race. “It’s not a surprise. And Miller does not bring with him the ability to raise a lot of money. … This may help Bradley in George Miller’s district.”

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Energizer Batteries

Sticking with the theme of presidential politics a bit longer: The Sustainable Energy Coalition released a study this week of candidate views on fuel efficiency standards and other transportation issues.

The report came on the heels of the GOP debate in Phoenix on Monday that had Texas Gov. George W. Bush rocking back on his heels when asked what he would do to combat the possible rise of home heating oil prices in New England (i.e., New Hampshire) created by OPEC’s decision to choke off the supply coming out of the Middle East. It was a classic gotcha question posed by Steve Forbes, intended to trap the governor of a major oil producing state into supporting government intervention to suppress rises in oil prices in the Northeast.

Bush mainly sidestepped the potential landmine, saying he would encourage greater exploration for oil domestically and greater use of natural gas and other alternative energy sources to lessen American reliance on foreign oil, adding a dig at Forbes for possibly suggesting government regulation of oil prices.

The next day, Forbes lit into Bush, saying he had no ideas on energy policy. The millionaire mag publisher said that he would support tapping into the strategic petroleum reserve to keep prices down as well as opening up new areas for drilling in Alaska and eliminating the capital gains tax to encourage more exploration.

The Sustainable Energy report argues that Bush has also mainly “sidestepped” the question of increasing Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and applying those standards to light trucks and SUVs.

Among other Republican wannabes, the report says Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was not present for a vote to instruct House-Senate conferees on the Interior appropriations bill to reject a rider intended to put a moratorium on changes to CAFE standards for five years (a rider that was ultimately included in the Interior approps bill).

The report notes that McCain has shown support for alternative fuels, but has attacked the tax credit for ethanol producers as unconscionable corporate pork (note that the press-loves-him senator has chosen to skip the caucuses in ethanol-crazed Iowa).

Stands of other GOP hopefuls cited in the report are predictable, with all, in one form or another, opposing increased CAFE standards. Former U.N. official Alan Keyes was among the more florid opponents of raising standards arguing, according to the report, that “CAFE kills 2,000 to 4,000 people a year by making larger, safer cars less affordable; it’s an assault on the family car and should be abolished.”

Of the two Democrats, the reports says only Bill Bradley has “expressed his support for strengthening” CAFE over time. While crediting Gore with recommending that Pres. Clinton veto the Interior bill with the CAFE rider, the report says the vice president has “resisted calls by the environmental community to press for stricter CAFE standards.”

Greenpeace, Love, and Understanding?

Last week, the board of directors of Greenpeace USA resigned (again) citing irreconcilable differences with the organization’s current leadership.

The board’s decision to blow itself up has apparently stirred a good deal of angst among current and former Greenpeace USA staffers concerned about the state of the organization and the reign of Executive Director Kristen Engberg, who has been at the helm since coming over from the international office in Amsterdam in 1997.

One former staffer tells Muckraker that top-level people have been cycling in and out of the organization like crazy and that morale is low and any stories of Greenpeace USA’s revival have been greatly exaggerated: “It’s sad that they keep having these staff hemorrhages and they keep getting negative story after negative story. … The Greenpeace that [employees] loved doesn’t seem to exist in reality anymore. Where is Greenpeace? Where is the left flank? Each group has its role in the community. If anything, we need a Greenpeace now more than ever.”