Two billionaire-backed anti-fossil fuel groups pressured the Internal Revenue Service Thursday to punish Exxon Mobil for supposedly running an illegal scheme with a conservative think tank to push an anti-global warming agenda.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause provided the IRS whistleblower division a series of documents it says details intentional misuse of free market group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) by Exxon to advance policies helping the company.
The oil company has spent more than $1.7 million to finance ALEC on legislation while also claiming a tax deduction on those expenditures, according to CMD and Common Cause’s complaint to the IRS.
ALEC claimed the the complaints are a fishing expedition meant to drum up cash for CMD’s campaign against the fossil fuel industry.
“ALEC has not formally received a complaint or notice of investigation from the IRS. It is highly likely ALEC will not receive notice,” Bill Meierling, Vice President of Public Affairs for ALEC, said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
He added: “These routine, frivolous complaints delivered to the media–and later to the IRS–seek only headlines where no wrongdoing has taken place.”
CMD has used wealthy benefactors such as liberal billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the Rockefeller Family Foundation (RFF) to pillory the likes of Exxon and others in the fossil fuel industry.
RFF, for its part, is one of the groups pushing investigations into Exxon, essentially giving CMD skin in a game that’s main goal is to see the giant oil company brought down to size.
RFF’s effort was part of a multi-year campaign to bring federal charges against Exxon for allegedly withholding knowledge about global warming from shareholders and the general public.
The probes are the result of a series of reports in 2015 against Exxon conducted by Columbia University and InsideClimate News, both of which have received RFF funding. In fact, the trust fund donated $25,000 to InsideClimate News, under the explicit understanding that it would be used to target Exxon’s record on climate issues.
CMD also falsely claimed in a September report that Republican attorneys general from various states colluded with fossil fuel interests in July to hatch a plot to derail the mission to make Exxon a historical artifact.
The RFF-backed group’s new mission appears to sic the IRS on Exxon over its supposed ties to ALEC, a non-profit group that helps promote conservative policies.
“It has become painfully obvious over the past few years that ALEC is corporate lobby front group masquerading as a charity – at taxpayer expense,” Arn Pearson, general council at CMD, said Thursday in a joint-press statement with Common Cause.
Pearson added: “If laws governing nonprofits are to mean anything, the IRS needs to take action to enforce them in this case.”
Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn, meanwhile, claimed ALEC was in cahoots with Exxon to push an anti-global warming agenda. “It’s time for the IRS to act and curb these blatant abuses,” Flynn said.
Both groups sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen urging the agency fast-track the Whistleblower Office’s probe into potential civil and criminal liability for both ALEC and Exxon.
Their complaint also asks the IRS to revoke ALEC’s 501(c)(3) non-profit status, and to impose any necessary civil and criminal penalties on Exxon.
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