Climate Crisis Motivates Vermont’s Largest Environmental and Consumer Advocacy Organization to Launch Political Campaign Arm
Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) today announced the formation of VPIRG Votes – a nonpartisan political action committee focused on electing public interest champions to Vermont state offices. In a video message shared with VPIRG’s 50,000 supporters and posted at www.vpirgvotes.org, Board President Ashley Orgain explained the reason for the organization’s entry into the electoral arena. “We face an unprecedented climate crisis,” she said. “To protect our economy, our environment and future generations we have to make changes.”
“Recently, we’ve been asking Vermonters what they’re willing to do in 2020 to address the climate crisis that they’ve never done before,” said VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns. “We believe that every person, corporation, organization and government has a role to play. At VPIRG, we decided that the most important thing we could do that we’ve never done before is to help put climate champions in office. So, our answer to the question is VPIRG Votes.”
VPIRG stated that with its broad membership base, decades of issue-based campaign experience, and strong presence at the State House, VPIRG will immediately become a significant player in state electoral politics. But what really sets VPIRG apart from other groups involved in elections, they said, may be its door-to-door canvassing operation.
Canvassing has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of persuading and mobilizing voters. VPIRG’s canvass is by far the largest such operation in the state. Its canvassers knock on as many as 100,000 doors each summer – and that expertise will now be used on behalf of pro-climate and public interest candidates in the November election.
Orgain and Burns outlined a three-step strategy for the new political action committee: First, VPIRG Votes will recruit and train public interest champions to run for office. Then, canvassers will go door-to-door talking to Vermonters about the importance of climate action. Finally, VPIRG Votes will turn out thousands of new voters who will make Vermont a leader on climate and other public interest issues.
Vermonters are ready for strong leadership on climate. Recent polling by VPIRG and Vermont Conservation Voters found that more than three quarters of Vermonters are worried about global warming, with 61% very worried.
Unfortunately, among its neighbors, Vermont is the only state where greenhouse gas pollution has gone up since 1990, and the state has the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gasses in the region. The situation is so bad that last year The Boston Globe called Vermont’s efforts to reduce climate pollution an “embarrassment.”
“The stakes are now just too high for us to sit on the sidelines in November, hoping for the best,” said Burns. “There’s no doubt that we have the resources to make a difference. Moving forward, we’ll keep doing all of the important work we’ve been doing, but we’ll also lend our support to those who have the courage to lead and call out those who stand in the way of necessary progress.”
VPIRG Votes anticipates making its first rounds of candidate endorsements this summer.
VPIRG is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization run by an independent Board of Trustees. The VPIRG Board deliberated over the question of whether to create a political arm of the organization for over a year. In the end, the decision to launch a political action committee was VPIRG’s alone. The decision has no bearing on the way any other PIRG conducts its operations.
Source: Montpelier, VT – The Vermont Public Interest Research Group 1.20.2020