When former Clinton White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes convened six of the most powerful special interest leaders within the Democratic Party at a posh Washington restaurant in 2003 to plot strategy for the 2004 campaign, the Sierra Club’s Carl Pope was a prominent participant.
Besides Ickes and Pope, the diners included Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern, AFL-CIO political director Steven Rosenthal, EMILY’S List President Ellen Malcolm, and Gina Glantz, Stern’s senior political adviser.
They met at BeDuCi, a quiet spot with an expensive menu, a select clientele and just the right ambiance “for six left-wing Democrats to plot the little guy’s revolution in American politics,” according to Ron Arnold, who chronicled their gathering in his book “Freezing in the Dark: Money, Power, Politics and the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”
Pope was there because he’d been an environmental leader and heavyweight Democratic operative for three decades, his organization had a mailing list with three-quarters of a million names on it, and he represented a pillar of Big Green environmentalism with the power and influence to set the tone for the rest of the movement.
Democrats lost in 2004, just barely, but the Ickes group went on to be instrumental in forging the tactics, funding, organizational muscle, media smarts and sheer, dogged will that led to their party’s regaining Senate and House majorities in 2006 and the White House in 2008.
Today’s environmental movement includes hundreds of environmental nonprofits in Washington, D.C., that employ thousands of political activists, community organizers, media strategists, policy analysts, legislative tacticians, fundraisers, think tank managers, computer programmers, and experts with every other important skill imaginable.
The movement receives billions of dollars in annual funding from government grants and contracts, activist liberal foundations, individual billionaires like George Soros, and legions of smaller donors around the country responding to direct mail and Internet appeals for money.
They’ve been at it since Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” started the movement in 1962, and they’ve acquired positions of influence and decision-making power everywhere in Washington where national policy is determined and influenced.
They marshal thousands of volunteers during political campaigns and direct millions of dollars to favored candidates and incumbents at all levels of government.
They help train journalists in covering environmental issues, teach millions of elementary, secondary, and post-secondary public and private school students, and occupy posts throughout government wherever decisions are made on where people can live, what they drive, how they earn a living, and virtually every other aspect of daily American life.
They are, in short, Big Green, the green gorillas of American politics and public policy, allied within the Democratic Party with Big Labor, trial lawyers, college professors, government dependents and abortion-at-any-cost extremists.
But there is one key difference that makes Big Green more powerful than all of the other special interests that control the Democratic Party. Big Labor can’t tell you where you can and cannot live. The trial lawyers didn’t turn your daily commute to work into a nightmare of congestion and delay.
Similarly, college professors have no power to transform your once-fertile farm fields into a wasteland. Government dependants will never tell you when you can cut your grass. And abortion fanatics have no power to scare your kids in school with apocalyptic visions of environmental disaster.
Only Big Green can do those things to you. And so much more.
UPDATE: More, from Pajamas Media's Charlie Martin
Remember the Cuyahoga River that caught on fire in the 1960s? Charlie Martin does, and a whole lot more that happened on the way from the first Earth Day to the Big Green environmental movement that has become a special interest power within the Democratic Party.
Go here for more from Martin.