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September 24, 2008

Defenders On Offense

Getting a big win can embolden anyone. Two years after environmental groups banded together to oust House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo, several groups are again targeting key GOP-held seats.

In 2006, four groups -- Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and Clean Water Action -- spent millions hitting Pombo, then a member of Congress from California. This year, along with Environment America, the groups announced in April they would expand their target list by aiming for Republican Senate seats in New Mexico, Colorado and New Mexico.

So far, it has been Defenders of Wildlife who have made their presence most felt. The group is targeting a total of seven states so far with advertisements and paid canvassers to help elect Democrats.

Paid Defenders staffers are on the ground in New Mexico's First Congressional District and Colorado's Fourth District, aiding Democratic candidates Martin Heinrich and Betsey Markey, respectively, as well as Senate candidates Tom and Mark Udall. The group has five staffers in New Mexico and six in Colorado, and they've run television ads in both states.

Now Defenders is up with a new spot in Alaska that targets Rep. Don Young, hitting the vulnerable Republican for investigations into his connections with VECO Corp., the oil services company at the heart of scandals that have ripped open Alaska politics. Soon, a radio spot will debut in Idaho's First District, where the group will target Republican freshman Bill Sali.

Perhaps most notably, the group is on the air with an ad in presidential swing states slamming GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin for her support of aerial wolf hunting. "Do we really want a vice president who champions such savagery?" asks the narrator. The ad is running in Florida, Ohio and Michigan.