Environmental organizations are often portrayed as homegrown groups fighting back against the tide of corporate boogeymen like Big Business or Big Oil. But this is not the case, according to a new congressional report.
A report by Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says environmentalists are being backed by “an elite group of left-wing millionaires and billionaires.”
This “Billionaire’s Club” funnels money to environmental groups who then lobby on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency to help promote its agenda, in return, getting access to generous tax write-offs and federal funding.
“This report proves that the Obama EPA has been deliberately staffed at the highest levels with far-left environmental activists who have worked hand-in-glove with their former colleagues,” reads the committee’s report. “The green-revolving door at EPA has become a valuable asset for the far-left and their wealthy donors. In addition to providing insider access to important policy decisions, it appears activists now at EPA also funnel government money through grants to their former employers and colleagues.”
“The evidence provided in this report highlights the lengths the far-left environmental movement goes to hide sources of funding and to disguise their actions – bought and paid for by millionaires and billionaires – as charitable acts in service of their fellow man,” the report adds.
But the U.S. environmental movement is not just getting money from domestic wealthy interests — the Senate report found that a major source of “green” funding is coming from a foreign company with “undisclosed donors.”
“Even more unsettling, a dominant organization in this movement is Sea Change Foundation, a private California foundation, which relies on funding from a foreign company with undisclosed donors,” according to the report. “In turn, Sea Change funnels tens of millions of dollars to other large but discreet foundations and prominent environmental activists who strive to control both policy and politics.”
According to the report, the Sea Change Foundation gets funding from a Bermuda-based company called Klein Ltd, which appears to only exist on paper, according to the Senate report. In 2010, $13 million in donations from Klein Ltd. made up nearly half of the Sea Change Foundation’s funding that year. In 2011, $10 million in Klein Ltd. donations made up 33 percent of Sea Change’s funding. Klein Ltd. is one of only two sources of funding for Sea Change.
“As a practical matter, an overseas company contributing tens of millions to organizations dedicated to abolishing the use of affordable fossil fuels is highly
problematic. This is only compounded by the fact it is deliberately and completely lacking in transparency,” reads the Senate report.
According to the report, liberal organizations like the “Environmental Grantmakers Association, the Democracy Alliance, and the Divest/Invest movement” act as facilitators between wealthy elites and environmentalists.These groups funnel money to liberal activists who then go out and lobby, often on behalf of the EPA itself, to push the agenda of their wealthy donors.
“The ultimate recipients of donations from the Billionaire’s Club work in tandem with wealthy donors to maximize the value of their tax deductible donations and leverage their combined resources to influence elections and policy outcomes,” the Senate report says. “Often, they lobby on behalf of the EPA and advance policy positions important to the agency, which is statutorily prohibited from lobbying on its own behalf.”
“But most importantly, they serve as the face of the environmental movement and present themselves as non-partisan benevolent charities to a public not aware of the secret, backroom deals and transfers,” the report says.
Republicans have been criticizing the seemingly increasing level of collusion between the EPA and environmentalists for years now, after dozens of “sue and settle” lawsuits have been filed and emails have been uncovered showing EPA officials using private email accounts to correspond with activists.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that a report written by long-time environmental lobbyists with the Natural Resources Defense Council was used as a “blueprint” by EPA officials when writing controversial regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
The Times reported that by “late 2012… [NRDC lobbyists] had finished their proposal and began to travel across the country to present it to state regulators, electric utilities, executives and anyone else they expected to have a hand in shaping the rules.” The lobbyists also “briefed Mr.Goffman [the EPA’s top clean air lawyer] and Mr. Obama’s senior climate adviser at the time, Heather Zichal” on their plan to cut power plant emissions.
EPA chief Administrator Gina McCarthy scoffed at the Times article, saying it was given”surprising credibility” by Republicans and other EPA critics.
“Indisputable, however, is that the Natural Resources Defense Council was far ahead of the E.P.A. in drafting the architecture of the proposed regulation,” NYT reported. “E.P.A. officials did not start working in earnest on the rule until fall 2013, when they held sessions around the country to hear from regulators, utilities and many others the Natural Resources Defense Council had by then been briefing for months.”
“Many told the E.P.A. that they wanted to see an innovative plan like the one they had heard about from the council, even if they did not specifically name it as the group’s plan,” the Times added.
Republican interest in the role wealthy donors play in the environmental movement gained steam after San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer announced he planned to spend $100 million in the upcoming election to make global warming a top-tier issue.
Steyer is a former hedge fund manager and is also a major Democratic donor. He became known as a “sugar daddy” for the environmental movement after he spent millions in state and federal elections supporting candidates who backed policies aimed at tackling global warming. Steyer also gained notice from Republicans while he was funding efforts to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.
More recently, Steyer and his group NextGen Climate Action have been backing efforts by the Obama administration to cut carbon dioxide emissions. The group helped push a report by another organization Steyer co-founded, called Risky Business, which sounded the alarm on the potential damages of global warming.
The Risky Business report came out just as the White House announced a week of events planned to help Democrats build public support for global warming policies ahead of the elections in November.
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