The League Of Women Voters Takes Sides

Published May 6, 2011

Ever since U.S. Sen. Scott Brown excoriated the League of Women Voters for taking sides in the congressional battle over whether the Environmental Protection Agency should have the power to regulate greenhouse gases, I’ve been thinking he’s got a point.

I had this image of the League as that organization that organizes debates and takes sides in issues that have to do with how the electoral process is run. The League was one of the biggest backers of the citizen-passed Clean Elections Law, for instance, before the Legislature overturned that law.

In case you missed the tit-for-that between Brown and the League, here’s the Brown press release:

Today, U.S. Senator Scott Brown issued the following statement in response to the partisan attack advertisement being run by the League of Women Voters:

“This ad reeks of political demagoguery and exposes the League of Women Voters as nothing more than a pawn in the Massachusetts political machine. It is outrageous for an allegedly non-partisan group to use sick children to misrepresent a vote about jobs and government over-regulation. These type of over-the-top distortions have no place in our political discourse.”

And here’s the ad Brown is so upset about:

[youtube url=”7vTd9nmSpbI”]

But it turns out that the League of Women Voters often takes sides on issues it cares about.

“We have always been political about issues,” says Marcia Hirshberg, the president of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters. “We are involved in advocacy.”

Clean air is the No. 1 issue on the national agenda of the League of Women Voters, Hirshberg says. And it is attacking this issue in a nonpartisan way: the League is running ads in Missouri against that state’s Democratic U.S. senator, Claire McCaskill, for voting along with Brown to strip the EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Hirshberg says if the national League had more funds, it would run more ads against more senators.

Hirshberg says clean air and environmental issues in general are core issues for the League of Women Voters. She says the League was “extremely” involved in legislation to create the EPA and to pass the Clean Air Act.

“We thought this fight between large companies and people who suffer was fought in the 1970s,” Hirshberg says. “[At] our creation in 1920, when women got the right to vote, we were involved in issues of health.”

Hirshberg says some local chapters run a forum every Friday discussing environmental issues.

And she takes the media to task for not scrutinizing the votes of our elected representatives more.

“Without us coming out with an ad, his vote would not have received any scrutiny,” Hirshberg says. “Citizens should know what their elected representatives do.”