Campaign Season Activities

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Citizens’ Climate Lobby will always remain a nonpartisan organization, and given our unique position, we have the opportunity to connect with individual candidates from both sides of the aisle on the issue of climate change during this season of electoral primary campaigns. While being clear that we do not support or organize for individual candidates or political parties, our volunteer network still plays the essential role of providing insight to all candidates as to why our policy would be best for their constituents.

TOC and Guide Section
2020 Presidential Candidates Guidelines For Volunteers

Interested in connecting CCL's work and advocacy for the Energy Innovation Act with campaign events? Here's some recommendations:

  1. Focus on asking candidates to prioritize action on climate and to do it in a way that brings the country together. This should be the message in one-on-one situations with candidates, or in asking questions at town halls.
  2. Avoid, for now, asking Democrats to support H.R. 763, given that we are in such a polarized situation and we don’t want our bill to be considered a “Democrat Bill."
  3. You're encouraged to keep writing about H.R. 763 in letters to the editor and to work for editorial endorsements.
  4. Candidate events are opportunities to talk to lots of fellow Americans -- and talking to them about the bill and asking them to fill out postcards/constituent forms supporting the bill is a good use of time. Getting your current members of Congress (especially Republicans) to support the bill is more strategic right now than getting Democratic presidential candidates to support the bill. Republican Senators are especially valuable right now while we are working to get our bill reintroduced in the Senate. 

Note: Constituents/liaisons of currently-serving Senators running for President are encouraged to follow these same guidelines, and focus on pitching bipartisanship in their local work. 

CCL’s laser talk on bipartisanship provides useful talking points and research. For example:

  • The climate problem is too big to be partisan about it -- it affects everybody.
  • We need bipartisan action so we can act quickly (A partisan solution with Democrats only can’t be passed since we don’t expect to get a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate).
  • We need a bipartisan solution so that it lasts (and the other party isn’t trying to undo it).
  • Bring the country together to solve climate change!

Note: The phrase “make climate a bridge not a wedge issue” is not well understood by the general public. It works best with members of Congress and their staff, in lobby meetings, but not in public settings.

Here are some questions you could use in town halls: 

Staying Nonpartisan in Campaign Season
  1. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a nonpartisan organization. During electoral campaigns we have the opportunity to connect with individual candidates on the issue of climate change while being clear that we do not support or organize for individual candidates or political parties. We work to build political will for a livable world, and our preferred policy recommendation is a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend plan. We know that only by securing support from a significant number of elected officials from both of the major parties will our plan become law.
  2. In the context of an election, parties and candidates like to draw distinctions; they may seek to use the climate issue as a way to disadvantage their rivals. Our role is not to help them do this; it is only to provide insight, to all candidates, as to why our policy would be best for their constituents.
  3. As individuals, you are encouraged to do whatever you would like, though if you are widely seen as a CCL leader in the community you might want to consider how your individual activities will impact how you are seen. As CCL chapters we need to act in ways consistent with our goals. We need to act during campaign season in ways that leave us well positioned to work with whoever wins the election.
Attend a Campaign Event or Town Hall Meeting

See the training on Townhalls and Candidate Forums.

Organize a Forum

Hosting a Candidate Forum is not for everyone (both in terms of the amount of work it takes as well as local political considerations). It’s more important as CCL groups to get to know the candidates and attend events that are happening on both sides of the debate.

Before your group decides to host:

  • Consult with your regional/state coordinator to get feedback on the strategic priorities for your area and how/if a candidate forum can best serve them.
  • Look for local forums that are already being planned by other organizations (LWV, service clubs, local unions, etc.)
  • Consider reaching out to ask local affiliate organizations who have hosted one in the past to consider hosting.
  • Consider co-sponsoring another forum as long as it is fully non-partisan (see rules below). 

After following the list above if your chapter decides to host a candidate forum the following guidelines are essential to follow. As a non-profit organization several important expectations govern our activity when involved with sponsoring candidate events: 

  • Candidate forums can only be co/sponsored by CCL if all major-party candidates in that election are invited. We strongly recommend not hosting a forum unless you have confirmed there will be participation from both sides of the aisle.
  • FEC laws hold that we do not co/sponsor events where only one candidate is present (an “empty chair” debate) given how easily construed this can be as partisan activity, even if the intent is educational.
  • Bottom line: We need to provide fair and impartial treatment of all candidates, with nothing that promotes or advances one candidate over another. Your chapter needs to make a thorough and good faith effort to ensure the participation of at least two candidates for a specific office at the event and must make clear to forum attendees and in pre-publicity and post-publicity that other candidates/parties were invited to participate. This avoids the impression that we are taking a partisan stance by omission.
  • For more information on the best practices in hosting a candidate forum and how to invite all candidates, follow the League of Women Voters Guidelines and this Candidate Forum Guide from the American Association of University Women.

If done right, holding a forum on climate change is a wonderful tool to highlight the importance of our issue and allows candidates to shine through preparing for the forum and studying our material ahead of time. The eventual winner of the election may come into office already knowing CCL, our strengths, and our legislation, and supportive of our efforts before arriving in DC.

Meet with Candidates

Candidates are very generally very eager to meet the voters. It’s a good time to introduce them to CCL and our legislation and to start getting to know them. They also are often in the process of refining their positions and talking points, and may appreciate resources to help them do that. For example, if you have gathered information about local impacts of climate change, or health impacts, or local businesses that would benefit from the transition to clean energy, those would be appropriate to offer to the candidate if they express interest in them.

Use CCL’s Republican Candidate Guide & Democrat Candidate Guide. They are both intended to be shared as a resource directly with your candidates and include public opinion data, talking points, policy landscape discussion, provides why their support can be a winning proposition.

Assign a Liaison

Assign someone to be the face of CCL with that candidate, with an eye toward that role continuing if the candidate gets elected. The candidate liaison could ask to meet with them, invite them to a forum, research the candidate, watch for forums and/or provide useful resources, polling data and talking points. Be clear in that relationship that CCL is not making an endorsement, but is there to be a resource for any candidate that would like our help.

Party Platform Resolutions

Working on party platform resolutions connects us with people engaged in the political process and present an opportunity to educate more people about carbon fee and dividend. However, be aware that even if adopted the resolutions are unlikely to get much notice from the Members of Congress, who pretty much ignore the platform.

Start early in the year or the year before an election by contacting the county party office to get information on the process.

Keep in mind they may be as interested in recruiting us to join with them as we are in recruiting them to our cause.

Sample platform language is below, which you are encouraged to modify for your local situation.

Republican Party

  • Fossil fuels are imposing unmanageable costs on our society, and on the future we want to build for our children. We can correct this market failure without new regulation and without new bureaucracy by implementing a revenue-neutral carbon tax, with dividend to households. This will incentivize entrepreneurship, create jobs, build localized new and lasting prosperity, and support a middle class future for our families. We propose the passage and implementation of a revenue-neutral carbon fee plan, with 100% dividend to households.

Democratic Party

  • Human-caused climate change is already imposing unaffordable costs on our society and our communities, and on vulnerable people around the world. The impact from ongoing and worsening climate change will escalate out of control, if we do not act to reduce emissions and build a smart, sustainable clean-energy economy. To motivate this change, without punishing consumers or the Main Street economy, we propose a revenue neutral carbon fee program, with 100% dividend to households.

Green Party

  • Out-of-control fossil fuel consumption and environmentally unsound practices, driven by business and government policy, have created a dangerous and untenable situation, in which catastrophic climate change threatens nature’s vital life support systems. We cannot afford not to act. In order to eliminate climate-destabilizing emissions, transition to 100% clean energy, incentivize innovation and widespread job creation, we need to price carbon. We can do this without an economic slowdown, without punishing consumers, and without adding any new government spending or bureaucracy, by instituting a revenue-neutral carbon fee, with 100% dividend to households.

Libertarian Party

  • The many hidden costs associated with the use of fossil fuels have imposed a burdensome regime of regulations on the American people. Households and small businesses are bearing unmanageable secondary costs, and as taxpayers are footing the bill for an unaffordable industry that favors central control. A revenue-neutral carbon fee, with 100% dividend to households can eliminate the need for regulations, by phasing out harmful fossil fuel use, and liberate consumers and businesses, by relieving them of burdensome secondary costs, and sparking a new wave of entrepreneurial ingenuity and private-sector job creation.
Activities to Avoid
  • As a CCL chapter, it is not appropriate to endorse a specific candidate
  • As a CCL chapter, it is not appropriate to participate in partisan campaign activities or events
  • As a CCL chapter, it is not appropriate to attack candidates—they may become your future MOC (member of Congress)
What if one of our CCL chapter members is running for office?

CCL cannot endorse a specific candidate, but individuals are free to help however they wish.

If you have a CCL volunteer running for office locally, then:

  • Continue to act consistent with CCL’s policy of respect, gratitude and appreciation for public
    service towards all candidates
  • Work with them to cover their stepping back if in a leadership role within the CCL group
  • Supportive chapter members should be mindful of the impact of their visible support in our non-partisan lobbying
  • Consult CCL staff and your regional coordinator if you are uncertain about particular activities
  • Candidates are free to talk about CCL, but not claim they are endorsed by CCL
  • CCL welcomes all candidates as members and/or supporters
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Overview & Agenda
(from beginning)

Meeting & Connecting with Candidates

Organizing A Forum

Activities To Avoid

Examples From the Field

Final Reflections


Ben Pendergrass


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To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Overview & Agenda
(from beginning)

Meeting & Connecting with Candidates

Organizing A Forum

Activities To Avoid

Examples From the Field

Final Reflections

Ben Pendergrass
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