In Alabama’s fast-approaching Senate primary, Mo Brooks is pushing hard to stand out as a “proven conservative leader.”
But under the surface, nagging questions remain over Brooks’ self-described claim of a “record of proven conservative leadership … Unmatched by any other candidate in this race.”
Early in his congressional career, the Huntsville Republican — now serving his fourth term — made a completely different claim — membership in Sierra Club, both in print and on his 2010 and 2016 campaign websites.
Yet — in a bout of political expediency — he quickly threw the activist environmentalist group under the bus as soon as he made it to the Capitol.
In the Yellowhammer State, embracing staunch conservative values proves the most efficient strategy for electoral victory, particularly in a state that overwhelmingly supported President Donald Trump in 2016 and continues to hold his attorney general, former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, in sincere regard.
But Trump’s popularity in Alabama continues to serve as an obstacle for Brooks, especially after he criticized him as “a serial philanderer” during the 2016 Republican primary.
Despite that, on Brooks’ Senate campaign website, he wholeheartedly claims to stand for the president’s vision, asking voters to “help him take [the] fight to the Senate and pass President Trump’s agenda.”
While Trump has been a stumbling block for Brooks in the Senate primary, another is his “decades-long” connection to the Sierra Club, the radical progressive group that has publicly blasted Sessions and vows to fight the president at every turn.
Brooks may have made much of supporting Sessions — someone well-loved by Alabama voters — by decrying the “public waterboarding” at the hands of Trump’s Twitter account. Brooks has even offered to drop out of the Senate race (as long as all the other Republican candidates do it first) if Sessions were to reclaim his old seat, calling for a “Resolution Reinstating Jeff Sessions as United States Senator.”
But that backing of Sessions flies in the face of statements made by the Sierra Club, which Brooks defended in the past, attacking Sessions after his AG confirmation as “racist” with an “atrocious voting record on environmental and civil rights issues [that] shows that he can’t be trusted to defend and enforce the laws that protect our communities.”
According to Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune: “Appointing Jeff Sessions to lead the Justice Department is an oxymoron — the words ‘Justice’ and ‘Jeff Sessions’ don’t belong in the same sentence, let alone the same title. Senator Jeff Sessions is a proven opponent of environmental protection, civil rights, and civil liberties and he must be stopped.”
With comments like that, the Sierra Club continues to be the issue that has dogged Brooks throughout his congressional career.
As far back as 2010, Brooks touted his “decade-long membership” in the Sierra Club — even including it in his Congressional campaign website. He explained his affiliation to Decatur Daily as such: “Our rivers to a large degree were open sewers. In the absence of federal legislation, that’s exactly where we would return. I don’t want to go there.”
Since then, Brooks defended his connection to the Sierra Club — described by the Center for Responsive Politics as a “left-leaning organization” that generally supports Democrats.
“Paradoxically, in the Republican Party Primary I was attacked for being a Sierra Club member and for being too tough on polluters,” Brooks wrote in a September 2010 op-ed in the Huntsville Times. “But there is more to this issue than simply being pro-environment. America cannot afford to impose pollution control costs on American manufacturers that give foreign manufacturers a competitive advantage that, in turn, puts American employers out of business and cost Americans their jobs.”
Brooks also continued flaunting his “occasional” Sierra Club membership in his freshman term in Congress, telling Science magazine in 2011: “ I very much believe in controlling pollution, so we have better air to breathe and better water to drink and the proper disposal of hazardous waste. And I like going to our national parks. I’m very much the outdoorsman.”
But once Brooks made it to Washington D.C. — and no longer needed the Sierra Club tag to appeal to voters — his record on issues important to the group of which he was a member dropped to a solid zero in the fight for “better water to drink.”
With less than two weeks before Alabama’s U.S. Senate primary, the race is shaping up to be a three-candidate battle between Brooks, incumbent Sen. Luther Strange and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice (and well-regarded social conservative hero) Roy Moore.
While each of the three has made their support for Trump a key talking point, Brooks is only one in with a history of favorability toward the Sierra Club — and its clearly anti-Trump slant.
Making it even more troublesome for Brooks’ claims of “pro-Trump conservatism” is when the Sierra Club makes statements like this, coming from Coal Campaign director Mary Anne Hitt: “We can block the Trump agenda — make no mistake about it. Most of the big changes Trump wants have to go through the U.S. Congress, which is where all those Senate Democrats come in. If they stay strong and united, many of Trump’s bad ideas will be dead in the water. That’s why we have to keep turning out to rallies, going to events with our elected officials, meeting with them and their staff, calling and writing and posting on their social media pages, and making sure they hear the voice of the people.”
A lesson for Brooks: It is disingenuous to repeatedly advertise a decades-long connection to a radically left group like the Sierra Club, especially when it is politically expedient, and then seek to claim the title of “most conservative leader.”