Formed in 2017, the California Sierra Club Political Action Committee (CSC-PAC) ended its first full two-year political cycle with this November’s midterm elections. Created by the boards of the Angeles Chapter and Sierra Club California to support local and state candidates endorsed by the Sierra Club, the PAC contributed a total of $64,030 in 2018 to local and state legislative campaigns.
According to Frank J. Gruber, co-chair of the Angeles Chapter Political Committee and Chair of the CSC-PAC Board of Directors, the PAC Board makes decisions about contributions based principally on input from two sources, namely from local chapter political committees, and from Kathryn Phillips, who leads lobbying and regulatory advocacy and overall administration of Sierra Club California.
In this first cycle a majority of the funds raised originated from the Angeles Chapter through fundraisers organized in Orange County in 2017 and Los Angeles in 2018. Proceeds from Channel Island tours organized by the Angeles Chapter also go to the PAC. (The three-day live-aboard cruises offer visitors an opportunity to hike through pristine landscapes, kayak and even swim with sea lions.)
Because this political cycle was the CSC PAC’s first, while most of the PAC’s contributions were to candidates running for the California Assembly and Senate throughout the state, contributions to candidates in local races, such as for city councils and water boards, primarily went to races within Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which comprise the Angeles Chapter. According to Gruber however, in the next two-year cycle the aim of the PAC’s board is to develop programs in local chapters across California. The infrastructure of the statewide CSC PAC can serve as a tool for smaller chapters that do not have their own PACs to raise money and contribute to endorsed candidates within their borders. In turn, the statewide PAC would benefit from the political insight of local chapters. Contributing to endorsed candidates on a local level, especially when combined with volunteer support, can strengthen relationships between local candidates and the Sierra Club.
The CSC PAC is managed by its board of directors, which has five members. The five members are the two Political Committee co-chairs from the Angeles chapter (one from Orange County and one from Los Angeles County), two co-chairs from the Sierra Club California Political Committee, and the Compliance Officer for Sierra Club California. Compliance with laws relating to political contributions and with the Sierra Club’s own rules and guidelines is complex, and the Board is assisted not only by the SCC Compliance Officer, but also by experienced accounting and legal assistance.
Given its trajectory, the California Sierra Club PAC promises to provide a centralized, sophisticated political facility with the means to augment the Club’s political efforts in California, at the state and local level, to improve the environment. And with its creative fund-raising activity – namely the Channel Island trips -- it also guarantees a great deal of outdoor fun along the way.