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WikiLeaks emails show how Clinton convinced a big green group to endorse her over Sanders

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In November 2015,  the League of Conservation Voters caused a bit of a stir in the environmental community.

In its earliest presidential endorsement ever, the prominent green group announced  its political action committee would support for Hillary Clinton -- much to the chagrin of Bernie Sanders supporters, who argued  the Vermont senator had a better environmental record.

Hacked emails now reveal that Clinton's environmental positions weren't initially strong enough to earn the group's support.

First draft wasn't good enough

According to the  emails  -- released Monday by WikiLeaks -- LCV sent the Clinton campaign a questionnaire in May 2015, asking her position on at least 20 key issues including climate change, Arctic drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline. The Clinton campaign replied to the questionnaire in mid-June.

But in July, the Clinton campaign received a response from LCV executive Tiernan Sittenfeld, who said many of the answers on the questionnaire were not good enough.

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"We very much hope that the attached questionnaire can be strengthened," Sittenfeld wrote, before launching into 12 detailed suggestions about how the Clinton campaign's answers should be changed.


No endorsement without opposing Keystone XL 

The most urgent suggestion in Sittenfeld's note was about Clinton's answer to the Keystone XL pipeline question.  At the time, Clinton had not taken a position on the controversial project, which if approved would have delivered oil sand bitumen from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"It's good to see her moving in the right direction," Sittenfeld wrote. "But it's hard to imagine we can move forward until she makes clear she now opposes KXL."

WATCH  | Clinton eventually came out against the Keystone XL pipeline in September 2015, two months before LCV announced its endorsement. 


Other policy recommendations 

Sittenfeld also made numerous other policy recommendations after receiving the Clinton campaign's first draft.

"We strongly recommend that you explicitly oppose Arctic Ocean and mid-Atlantic drilling," Sittenfeld wrote in the July email. In August, Clinton came out against Arctic Ocean drilling

Sittenfeld also recommended the Clinton campaign explicitly "support regulating existing sources of methane." 

Here are all the other recommendations Sittenfeld made to the Clinton campaign, according to the stolen email. 

Clinton a more viable candidate?

It appears Clinton did have to tweak some of her positions on environmental issues to secure LCV's support. In an August email  to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan referenced a "revised LCV questionnaire."

But policy isn't the only thing LCV takes into consideration when endorsing candidates.  Electability -- or "candidate viability," as LCV puts it -- factors into the group's decision as well.

Sanders had higher ranking from LCV


If policy were the only factor, it's unlikely Clinton would have secured LCV's endorsement. According to the LCV's own environmental scorecards, Sanders had a better lifetime ranking than Clinton.

During the primary race, the Sanders campaign pushed for a national ban on fracking, a nationwide carbon tax and a complete end to the use of fossil fuels in America. Clinton has made more modest proposals to phase out some fossil fuel development.

Clinton camp: No comment


The Clinton campaign did not return Circa's request for comment.

Generally, the campaign has not commented on the WikiLeaks emails, arguing Russia was involved in obtaining them.

 The campaign has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of any WikiLeaks emails.


LCV: 'More proud than ever' to endorse Clinton

In a statement to Circa, Sittenfeld was also reluctant to comment on the contents of the Wikileaks emails.

"We're not commenting on the specifics of any of the hacked documents, but we are more proud than ever to have endorsed Hillary last November and to be doing all we can to help ensure she becomes our next president," she said in an emailed statement.

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