To California liberals, conservative Republican candidate for governor Meg Whitman, whose political travails I chronicled here, here, and here, might not actually be as frightening as she first appeared. Despite swinging extraordinarily far to the right to defeat Republican primary opponent Steve Poizner (including outspoken anti-environmental rhetoric), a quick look at Whitman’s charitable contributions reveals a very different attitude.
In its first year (2007), Whitman’s personal charitable foundation, the Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret C. Whitman Charitable Foundation, donated $100,000 to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). That was 80% of the foundation’s total donations. In 2008, Whitman did even more: the foundation doubled its contributions to the EDF and donated an additional 1.15 million dollars to Valley Floor Preservation Partners, an environmental protection organization in Telluride, CO.
All of this information is available on the nonprofit database Guidestar and comes directly from the organization’s 990 disclosure form.
Will these donations be a harbinger of things to come for Whitman’s environmental stance? Whitman seems to already be moving strongly toward the center on the environment, as the San Francisco Chronicle notes:
Whitman assailed AB32 as a job-killer during the Republican primary campaign. Asked at a debate May 2 whether humans cause climate change, she said, “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.”
She has toned down her criticism of the law since winning the primary. Campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said last week that Whitman, during her one-year moratorium, would “bring accountability and strong leadership to the AB32 process so the regulations effectively reduce our emissions while strengthening our economy.”
On top of this, there is no mention of AB32 anywhere on Whitman’s own web page about the environment, only fairly vague, centrist policies.
It looks like environmentalists may be able to breathe a little easier as Whitman’s campaign picks up steam (and burns through money): even if Whitman does defeat Democrat Jerry Brown, her charitable contributions might speak much more to her real positions regarding the environment than any charged rhetoric can.