Rhode Island Chapter Sierra Club
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Endorsement Process

Sierra Club’s Endorsement Process

The Sierra Club is among the few local environmental groups with the ability and desire to endorse candidates. The National Sierra Club Political Committee (SCPC) has produced 128 pages of guidelines for chapters, groups, and the national Board of Directors to follow when considering political endorsements.

The mission of the Sierra Club political program is to preserve the environment through nonpartisan grassroots political action. The principal goals of the program are:

 1) To elect candidates who will support and promote environmental protection;

 2) To raise public awareness about environmental issues and elevate the priority of these issues for decision-makers;

 3) To encourage Club members and other environmentalists to participate in the political process;

 4) To advance the Club’s conservation agenda by building relationships with legislators and other elected officials; and

 5) To strengthen the Sierra Club’s capacity to elect pro-environment candidates at every level of government. (Page 4, 2005 SCPC Guidelines)

In order to keep the environment in the forefront, the Sierra Club uses the endorsement process. According to SCPC guidelines, Sierra Club endorsement decisions should be based primarily on three major criteria:

1)  The candidate’s overall environmental record and platform, as measured by his or her history of public service, public statements, responses in Club interviews and questionnaires, and other factors;

2)  The candidate’s performance on environmental issues as an incumbent, if the candidate is an incumbent running for reelection; and

3)  The candidate’s prospect of winning the election, or at least mounting a credible campaign.

Politics is an art, not a science, and the application of these criteria depends on the specific circumstances of the particular case. (Page 13, 2005 SCPC Guidelines)

The RI Chapter asks each member to take personal responsibility to ask candidates about their commitment to the environment. Find out what they will do to protect our natural resources. Find out what, if anything, they’ve done in the past. The RI Chapter Political Committee is doing this right now, and we will report our results back to you soon. (If you want more information about the activities of the local political committee, want to join the committee to help us make these decisions, or want to read the full SCPC Guidelines, contact the chapter office at 521-4734. The guidelines are available on the member website, Clubhouse, and when you call, staff will give you the link to the webpage).

In the past, the RI Chapter has exercised its right to make, and in some cases to not make, endorsements. We have endorsed Republicans, Democrats, and Independent party candidates. We may endorse federal, state, and local candidates, right down to City or Town Council candidates. We have supported environmental and good government ballot measures, such as the 2000 Open Space bond and the Separation of Powers issue. The amount of political activity taken on by the chapter is directly related to the amount of non-charitable money we have to spend. The more unrestricted money we have, the more time we can spend lobbying at the state house, proposing legislation, and communicating with local municipal leaders to win real, tangible conservation victories.

After all, winning environmental victories is the goal. The Sierra Club endorses candidates because it gives us leverage with decision-makers. Environmental protection is too often made solely at the discretion of our elected officials. We can not stand idly by while politicians and special interests, like Big Coal and Big Oil, decimate our precious resources for their personal gain. The time to make our voices heard is now, and we choose to be heard by endorsing strong, viable candidates, who will make environmental protection a priority.

  • Politics and Elections


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