Billionaire Oil Family Admits Targeting Exxon Over Climate Change

REUTERS/Mike Stone

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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One of the wealthiest oil families in the U.S. admitted it used various media outlets to target ExxonMobil’s alleged role in pushing climate change skepticism.

The Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF)’s David Kaiser and Lee Wasserman admitted several months ago in The New York Review of Books that the family intended all along to bring down Exxon because of its supposed anti-global warming positions.

“[W]e paid for a team of independent reporters from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism to try to determine what Exxon and other US oil companies had really known about climate science, and when,” Kaiser and Wesserman wrote in December. “Such an investigation seemed promising because Exxon, in particular, has been a leader of the movement to deny the facts of climate change.”

Wasserman’s admission runs contrary to previous comments suggesting Exxon was never singled out when it donated $25,000 to InsideClimate News, an environmental news outfit that published similar reports in September.

Wasserman, who serves as RFF’s director, told Reuters in March that the fund “supported public interest journalism to better understand how the fossil fuel industry was dealing with the reality of climate science internally and publicly.”

The Columbia School of Journalism, which published reports alleging the oil company buried internal research showing rising sea levels were due to man-made global warming, continues to insist the contributions it received from the RFF, as well as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), are independent from its research on climate change.

“The fact is that this reporting was not subject to any influence or control by the funders,” Steve Coll, the dean of the Graduate School at Columbia School of Journalism, told the Columbia Journalism Review in December 2015.

The school’s report never explicitly disclosed where the money came from to conduct the research.

The Los Angeles Times investigation noted the reporters’ names, but did not disclose where the money came from to conduct the research – the paper eventually edited the report to reflect RFF and RBF’s contributions to the research.

The flurry of reports eventually led to various attorneys general and politicians calling for Exxon’s head.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began investigating allegations in November 2015 that the oil giant misled shareholders and the public about global warming. Massachusetts AG Maura Healey eventually joined the Democrat in his inquisition.

Schneiderman raked in nearly $264,000 in campaign donations from wealthy benefactors with ties to lawyers and environmentalists backing the Democratic prosecutor’s global warming investigation.

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