‘Billionaire’s Club’ Financing Attacks On Exxon’s Global Warming Stance

REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
Font Size:

House Democrats are trying to build support for an investigation into oil companies’ allegedly “spreading disinformation about climate science”– an investigation based on reporting done by anti-fossil fuel activists, according to research by a pro-energy group.

“The financial ties to anti-fossil fuel advocacy raise significant questions about the objectivity of the reports from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times,” writes Steve Everley with Energy In Depth, an oil and gas industry-backed research and education project. “Yet the funding of these advocacy pieces may only be the beginning.”

Democrats are basing claims oil companies are trying to deceive the public on global warming, in part, on articles published in The Los Angeles Times alleging oil giant Exxon Mobil was conducting climate science while publicly opposing efforts to address global warming.

But those articles weren’t written by Times reporters, according to Everley, they were written by “a group of researchers affiliated with the Energy and Environment Reporting Fellowship at the Columbia School of Journalism.”

Columbia’s energy fellowship gets funding from several major foundations, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which is listed in a major report released by Senate Republicans last year on the “Billionaire’s Club” — a group of wealthy nonprofits that use their money and influence to oppose fossil fuels and push global-warming policies.

“The Columbia fellows did not disclose in their two-part report that the Rockefeller Brothers Fund were financial supporters of their work,” writes Everley.

For years, Republicans and pro-energy groups have been publishing research on the “green” behind the environmental movement. Environmentalists often portray themselves as small groups taking on well-funded fossil fuel interests in a David versus Goliath struggle. But the fact is hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year opposing fossil fuels, backing green energy and funding politicians in favor of policies to fight global warming.

“It’s no secret that big liberal money is funding the so-called grassroots environmental movement to block domestic energy production, and in turn, kill American jobs,” Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“They’ve funneled money into ‘local’ advocacy groups, and they’ve shared employees with the Obama EPA — in an underhanded effort to shut everyday Americans out of policy and politics,” said Vitter, who was chairman of the Senate committee that published the Billionaire’s Club report. “Now we’re seeing the same members of the Billionaire’s Club fund activists to pose as journalists to further control the anti-energy, anti-jobs rhetoric. Their actions are a pathetic attempt to move our nation away from energy independence and toward the Obama EPA’s far-left political agenda.”

“The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) actively backs campaigns to ban oil and natural gas development,” writes Everley, “including major financing for the activist group, which environmental activist Bill McKibben co-founded.”

“Several RBF-backed groups, including, have used the reports from InsideClimate News and Columbia fellows to call for government investigations,” Everley notes.

Democratic politicians have been clamoring for the Justice Department to investigate fossil fuel companies and other major energy companies for allegedly funding a massive campaign of misinformation to mislead the public on climate science.

Stories in The LA Times and InsideClimate News supposedly show that Exxon knowingly spread misinformation while their own scientists were studying how carbon dioxide impacted the atmosphere. Democrats say these stories are evidence of fossil fuel companies’ misinformation campaign.

“The American people deserve answers from the fossil fuel corporations about their actions to massively deceive the public in regards to climate science,” reads a letter being circulated by House Democrats, demanding oil companies turn over documents to lawmakers.

Democrats’ letter to oil companies comes after New York’s Democratic attorney general launched an investigation into whether or not Exxon was misleading shareholders about how government regulations on carbon dioxide emissions would affect the company’s assets.

Energy In Depth’s investigation into the anti-Exxon stories, however, revealed both Columbia reports and InsideClimate News are being funded by anti-fossil fuel organizations.

“RBF also provides funding for InsideClimate News, an activist organization that shares numerous funding sources with extreme anti-fossil fuel groups, such as Food & Water Watch and Earthworks,” Everley write. “David Sassoon, the publisher for InsideClimate News, is a former Rockefeller Brothers Fund consultant.”

“One of the board members at InsideClimate News, Michael Northrup, directs the Sustainable Development grantmaking program at RBF,” Everley notes. “Northrup ‘provided the seed grant that got InsideClimate News started in 2007.’”

Inside Philanthropy, a foundation watchdog, notes RBF was instrumental in funding anti-Keystone XL oil pipeline campaigns and other efforts to push global warming policies.

“RBF is not afraid of a fight, and it has been a supporter lately of efforts to block the Keystone XL pipeline,” according to Inside Philanthropy. “[I]t gave $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters in 2013 to educate voters on the issues around Keystone and has addressed the broader threat posed by tar sands oil through a half-million-dollar grant to the Sierra Club Foundation.”

“In the past few years, RBF also has been a major funder of — a group at the forefront of the Keystone fight and other activist efforts to raise awareness about climate change,” Inside Philanthropy reports.

The Columbia University’s environmental fellowship program did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Update: Susanne Rust, who is leading the team of Columbia journalists reporting on Exxon responded to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

“In response to your question, funders for Columbia Journalism School’s Energy & Environmental Reporting Fellowship Program are listed on our website. Many of our funders, including the Rockefeller Family Fund, have provided support for other initiatives and programs at the school,” she said. “All editorial content and decision making is independent and protected from funder influence. This is, of course, common at universities and nonprofit news organizations.”

Follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact