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Environmental Groups Get Boost From GOP Attacks

Republican attempts to put the brakes on environmental regulations are translating into big bucks for their opponents.

Environmental organizations say they have seen record growth in their members and donations this year, partly because of the galvanizing effect of being under attack.

"When you can fight something, I think that definitely makes people more energized," Rebecca Connors, Friends of the Earth's online director, said in an interview.

The group's membership has increased 14 percent this year, according to Connors, and it has raised twice as much money since June as it did in the first half of the year.

House Republicans passed a measure last week that would delay regulations on cement manufacturing plants that environmentalists say are a major source of pollution. The activists accused Republicans of trying to undermine the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency tasked with enforcing it.

Republicans aren't the only ones opposing environmental rules. Conservation groups have also criticized the Obama administration for backing a pipeline that would import oil extracted from Canadian oil sands, an issue that has prompted widespread protests.

Being the underdog in those fights has benefited the League of Conservation Voters, which publishes an annual environmental scorecard rating lawmakers on their votes.

"We're definitely seeing a dollar boost," Vice President of Communications Mike Palamuso said. "Our members are very clearly responding to the unprecedented number of attacks from House Republicans."

The league's email list, which it uses to solicit donations and drive grass-roots advocacy, grew by 33 percent this year. A recent fundraising email to that list said: "Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and the rest of the Republican Leadership have put a target on the EPA and bedrock public health protection. ... Enough is enough. Help L.C.V. hold lawmakers responsible for their votes."

The best chance for the House-approved cement measure and a similar measure for industrial boilers to get through the Senate appears to be if it is attached to a vital appropriations bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she will consider doing that for the boiler legislation. Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and other Democrats have promised to block any such attempt.

Other environmental groups, including Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have also highlighted Republican actions as a way of prompting action and expanding membership. Both groups declined to discuss their fundraising efforts for this story.

"Organizations that prove to be nimble and respond to political attacks can use that to further their mission," said Karin Cox, co-founder of Hartsook Cos., which provides fundraising assistance to nonprofits.

Online fundraising has made it a lot easier to be nimble, Cox pointed out. Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters said much of their growth came from social media and online campaigns.

"It's easier to give. I see the news and I can make a gift on my cellphone while watching it, while the issue is on my mind and my heart," she said.

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