Environmental group to focus campaign efforts on swing states


WASHINGTON - A group of Clinton administration officials, including former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Carol M. Browner, one-time EPA administrator, have joined with environmental advocates to raise money for an election-year campaign critical of the Bush administration's environmental record in swing states.

The four states that the group has decided to study first, for insight into the leading environmental issues of each, are Florida, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Oregon.

In the 2000 election, the outcome in all four was extremely close - Florida and New Hampshire tipped to George Bush, New Mexico and Oregon to Al Gore - with Ralph Nader of the Green Party getting more votes in each than the margin of victory there.

But the campaign, called Environment 2004, is also looking at Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Iowa.

"We're a small, nimble organization," Browner said in an interview. "We want to focus our resources in the places where we can make a difference in the outcome of the election." Environment 2004 will buy commercial advertising, conduct voter education campaigns and schedule speakers in local communities.

While it is trying to raise $5 million from membership donations - and seeks $1 million by the end of the year - it has only $500,000 in pledges or actual contributions.

A memorandum that Republican pollster Frank Luntz issued to his party before last year's elections warned, "The environment is probably the single issue on which Republicans in general - and the president in particular - are most vulnerable."

Browner, who is now a principal at the Albright Group, a Washington-based global consulting firm, would not disagree.

"This is simply the worst environmental administration ever," she said, "and the American public needs to know this so they can make a choice in the upcoming election."

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