PennFuture finally has a lobbying arm in Conservation Voters of Pa. - Generocity Philly

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Jan. 13, 2017 1:00 pm

PennFuture finally has a lobbying arm in Conservation Voters of Pa.

It's not a "merger" per se, but a new partnership between the two nonprofits will consolidate influence and allow PennFuture to work through election cycles.

PennFuture and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania are uniting.

(Photo by Flickr user Mark Dixon, used under a Creative Commons license)

The CEO of Exxon is President-Elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state and a climate change denier is his secretary of energy. You know, just in case you were wondering the next four years of environmental protections might look like.

These are troubling times for conversationalists and sustainability advocates across the country. Josh McNeil, executive director of advocacy organization Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, expects federal backstops — rules and regulations that prevent states from taking drastic measures on environmental policy — to disappear.

“We’re dealing with the legacy of two centuries of burning anything we can get our hands on,” said McNeil.

That’s why McNeil’s nonprofit, a 501(c)(4), is partnering with PennFuture, a 501(c)(3) that shares the same mission: to inform and engage voters on environmental policy.

“It’s not technically a merger because we’re a 501(c)(4) and they’re 501(c)(3). They can’t be merged,” said McNeil. “But they can reinforce one another and share resources and staff.”

Although the two nonprofits have been “allies for years,” said McNeil, this alliance allows Conservation Voters staffers to have “actual jobs within PennFuture” working on civic engagement and public education.

Importantly, the partnership allows PennFuture to lobby through election cycles, something their 501(c)(3) status prevented them from doing without a 501(c)(4).

“The world doesn’t stop for elections, neither should environmental advocacy,” said McNeil.

PennFuture CEO Larry Schweiger said McNeil proposed the partnership, but, for just those reasons, he had had a “long interest in having (c)(4) involvement.”

“A lot of times lawmakers are doing some of their worst deeds right before elections. We’ll be able to endorse through the (c)(4) and help our friends who have helped us during the years to get re-elected,” said Schweiger.

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Currently, he said the state is “inundated” with dark money.

“It makes it very difficult to help the good law makers get re-elected without having some mechanism for doing that,” he said.

As for funding, Schweiger hopes funders will recognize the significance of the partnership.

“We have an enormous challenge,” he said. “The American public needs to know we all have a role to play in protecting our climate’s future.”

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