Cory Gardner

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, introduces secretary of the Interior nominee David Bernhardt at a committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, March 28, 2019.

Environmental groups on the left have been taking shots at Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner's record for some time, and Wednesday Conservation Colorado released a report titled “How Senator Cory Gardner’s Green Bonafides are in the Red.”

But the junior senator's re-election campaign objected, saying the report was more fiction than fact. 

The state's largest environmental organization looked at the senator's record on issues as he faces a re-election in 2020, for a seat Democrats are anxious to capture. Among the charges against Gardner, Conservation Colorado points out he votes with Trump nearly all the time and against the environment 85% of the time.

The full report can be read by clicking here.

As Colorado Politics has noted before, what groups on the left consider good for the environment often depends on who is setting the bar.

“Sen. Gardner’s voting record is unacceptable," Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado, said in a statement. "He ran on promises to protect our land, air, water and communities and he has failed to deliver on nearly all of those promises. Even worse, when faced with climate change — the defining issue of our time — he refused to step up and lead. Sen. Gardner is running out of time to reflect Colorado values and should change direction before it’s too late.”

Gardner is considered one of the most endangered Republicans in the U.S. Senate, because he's running in a state where President Trump isn't popular with a majority of voters. The eight-page report also ties Gardner to President Trump, noting that the Colorado College “State of the Rockies” poll indicated that most Coloradans "strongly disapprove" of the way Trump and Congress tends to natural resources and the environment.

Gardner's re-election campaign pushed back on the report Wednesday, characterizing it more as spin to the left than facts about Gardner's work on conservation issues in Washington.

"It seems like this organization is more interested in political cheap shots and electing Democrats than conservation," Casey Contres, Gardner's campaign manager, told Colorado Politics.

"This political attack leaves out all of Gardner's work on these issues," Contres said. "While the far left is advocating for pie-in-the-sky proposals that their own leadership has called a 'dream,' Sen. Gardner has successfully passed bipartisan legislation over the past decade that achieves real results to deal with climate change. From passing renewable energy legislation to increasing our federal science agencies’ budgets, Sen. Gardner has been a leader in this space."

Contres listed off items in the report he said are false or exaggerated, but said the organization did give Gardner credit for his work on clean energy issues and for helping to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. "But then [they found] some obscure vote to say he is bad on these issues." he said.

The Conservation Colorado report states, "Since he first became Colorado’s junior U.S. senator, Sen. Gardner has voted against policies to protect clean air and water, supported the interests of fossil fuel companies above Colorado’s taxpayers, fought against common-sense laws to limit carbon and air pollution, and helped swing open the doors to America’s public lands for mining and drilling operations. In fact, our analysis shows that during the four years he has been in the Senate, he has voted against the environment four out of every five times.

"Nevertheless, Sen. Gardner consistently touts his purported record on the environment."

The Conservation Colorado report relies on data from the League of Conservation Voters, which has opposed Gardner foe awhile, with strong ties to Colorado.

Alyssa Roberts, the state Democratic Party's operative working against Gardner, is the former spokesperson for the League of Conservation Voters and Pete Maysmith, the senior vice president of campaigns for the league, is the former executive director of Conservation Colorado.

“Coloradans deserve a leader who truly fights for our clean air and water, public lands, and diverse communities," Maysmith said in a statement  accompanying the release of Conservation Colorado's study Wednesday. 

Contres said the league and Conservation Colorado is a special interest political group. He said every Republican gets terrible scores on the league's annual scorecards. Gardner, at 10%, has one of the higher scores for a GOP member.

The campaign noted that just a month ago Gardner chaired a subcommittee hearing on climate change science and advancements.

"I believe in climate change," said Gardner, according to his prepared remarks. "I believe in the consensus within the scientific community. I believe humans are contributing to climate change, and I believe we have work to do together to solve it.

"Unfortunately climate change has become a partisan weapon used for more fighting than as a topic of serious discussion. In reality, there is unreasonableness on both far ends of the spectrum but much in the middle where we can agree."

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