Muckraker: Grist on Politics

The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund is endorsing six congressional candidates in the November election — a first for the group.

“We wanted to be able to, at election time, let voters know who are really going to be champions on [conservation and wildlife] issues in Congress, and do what we can to spread the word,” said Sue Brown, executive director of NWF Action Fund. “Conservation issues are important, and we’re lacking the leadership in Washington to really get the job done.”

Incumbent Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) were endorsed in their reelection bids. Democrat Betsy Markey was endorsed in Colorado’s 4th district, where she is challenging incumbent Republican Marilyn Musgrave. Democrat Martin Heinrich got the nod in New Mexico’s 1st district, where he is taking on Republican Darren White to fill the seat that Heather Wilson is vacating.

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On the Senate front, NWF Action Fund endorsed former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. John Sununu. And in Colorado’s Senate race, the group endorsed Rep. Mark Udall, who is competing with Republican Bob Schaffer for the seat that Republican Wayne Allard is vacating this year.

NWF has had an “action fund” wing for several years; its tax status permits it to engage in election-related activities. The arm made some independent expenditures in the 2006 congressional races, and has done lobbying on legislative issues, but this is the first time it has formally endorsed candidates.

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“During the election is really when voters are paying attention to the issues, and we wanted to be able to help voters understand the issues,” said Brown. “We wanted to make sure that in all that clutter that comes in during an election, people knew where NWF was on some of these candidates.”

In August, the group endorsed Mark Gordon in the race for Wyoming’s at-large House seat in the Republican primary, but he lost to former state treasurer Cynthia Lummis.

Brown said the group may roll out more endorsements before the election.

The League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, Environment America, and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund also endorse candidates in congressional races.