Adam Searing and his slate of council candidates have trumpeted their campaigns’ endorsement by the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. We did some digging and it doesn’t seem like it was a particular competitive endorsement process.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit based in Arizona that has advocated for the removal of all the coal ash from the Chapel Hill police station site at 828 MLK Jr. Boulevard. We’ve written a lot about that site previously; as it currently stands, the town is waiting on an assessment to be completed by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ). This assessment will inform the next steps, and next steps cannot be taken until the assessment is completed.

The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund (“Action Fund”) is a 501(c)(4) organization. You may have read about 501(c)(4) groups from others who call them “dark money” because they don’t have to reveal their funders. And, in fact, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund pledges not to release its donors identities.

Anyhow, the Action Fund rarely issues endorsements. Since the midterm elections last November, the organization has endorsed seven Virginia state representatives, a candidate for mayor in Tucson, Arizona, a candidate for Congress in the California primary, and Searing and friends. In 2022, the only local official they endorsed was a candidate for mayor in Asheville. (There are four staffers for the Center for Biological Diversity in Asheville.) Put simply, the Action Fund does not regularly endorse candidates for local office.

Here’s something more surprising. The Action Fund sent questionnaires to Searing and his slate. The Action Fund did not send questionnaires to Jess Anderson, or any of the other candidates, including Melissa McCullough, a long-time environmentalist, former EPA employee, and Chair of the Orange-Chatham chapter of the Sierra Club.


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Geoff Green, AICP lives in Chapel Hill. In his day job he's a practicing urban planner; in his spare time he rides his electric bike around town and advocates for improved facilities so that everyone can...