Pro-Pricing PAC Puts Pols on Notice

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De Blasio, Jeffries, Gerson, Millman: Will they tarnish their environmental records by voting against pricing?

The New York League of Conservation Voters announced earlier this month that it is forming a new political action committee called Climate Action PAC. Sitting at the top of the PAC’s legislative agenda: getting congestion pricing passed.

When it comes to climate impact, said NYLCV spokesman Dan Hendrick, "congestion pricing is the most sweeping proposal on the table; it’s head and shoulders above the rest of what’s out there." The Climate Action PAC will spend about $300,000 on elections this fall (you can donate online), to be divvied up among six races for seats in the state Legislature, Hendrick projects. Pricing votes will also be the number one factor that NYLCV considers in
making its next round of endorsements for state legislators and City
Council members.

"We’ve signaled that this congestion pricing legislation could give us a quantum leap in
terms of improved mass transit and cleaner air," said Hendrick. "We’re not only going to weigh this
heavily when making endorsements, but how people vote on congestion pricing will weigh
very heavily in how we use the PAC money."

While funding challengers is riskier than supporting incumbents, threatening pricing foes and undecideds with the stick of a well-funded opponent could have a more immediate impact on the vote at hand. The PAC is still weighing its options on this point. Asked whether candidates who challenge anti-pricing incumbents would be targeted for PAC funds, Hendrick said, "We would definitely consider
that."

NYLCV also rates council members on an environmental scorecard. Council members’ pricing votes will go a long way towards determining whether they receive a positive score heading into 2009 city elections. "We’re gonna give a lot of extra weight to congestion pricing [in the next scorecard]," said Hendrick. "You’re going to have a significantly lower score if you vote against it."

A quick glance at NYLCV’s 2006 scorecard [PDF] indicates that several Council members who currently enjoy positive ratings may see their scores drop. The following Council members all had 2005-2006 scores of 63 percent or higher, but have indicated that they are undecided or opposed to pricing: Bill de Blasio, Alan Gerson, Jessica Lappin, James Gennaro, Eric Gioia, Peter Vallone, David Weprin, Thomas White, Charles Barron, Lew Fidler, Vincent Gentile, Dominic Recchia and Michael McMahon.

While all of the above, with the exception of Lappin and White, will be term-limited out of the council come 2009, de Blasio and Barron are running for Brooklyn Borough President, and Vallone is leaning towards running for Queens Borough President. Weprin is campaigning for Comptroller, and Gioia is running for Public Advocate having promised to manage a carbon-neutral campaign. Gennaro, meanwhile, chairs the Council’s committee on environmental protection.

NYLCV has operated a PAC for 15 years, but the newly unveiled Climate Action PAC has more resources at its disposal than its previous incarnation. Last year the NYLCV PAC spent $110,000, helping three candidates for municipal office (in Brookhaven, Schenectady, and Yonkers) attain victory.

After the vote on congestion pricing has been settled, urban issues will continue to be a focus of the PAC. "The whole thing about global warming is that it’s redefined what
pollution is," said Hendrick. "The connection between transit
and the environment is much more obvious to people now."

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