Rockefeller Heiress: Exxon Crusade Hurts Family Legacy

REUTERS/Mike Stone

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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An heiress with the Rockefeller fortune said her family’s attacks against Exxon Mobil’s climate research are “deeply misguided” and only tarnishes her oil-rich family’s legacy.

Ariana Rockefeller, one of the wealthy scions of the billionaire Rockefeller family, told CBS Friday morning that she disapproves of the crusade against Exxon, as well as other anti-fossil fuel efforts.

“These family funds do not speak on behalf of all 200 family members,” Ariana said about the myriad Rockefeller funds targeting Exxon, a descendant of the John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. “I don’t think denouncing a family legacy is the best way to go about,” about protecting the environment.

The Rockefellers are the 23rd richest family in the U.S., with a fortune of $11 billion, according to Forbes. Most of the family’s wealth goes toward bankrolling groups like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) and the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), both of which are funding attacks against Exxon.


Ariana was responding to criticisms lobbed at the oil company by fellow family members, Valerie Rockefeller Wayne and David Kaiser, the president of the RFF.

“If I was talking to the board of ExxonMobil, I would say that right now, their company seems to be morally bankrupt,” Kaiser told CBS reporters.

Kaiser said that his family feels “an enormous moral responsibility for our children” because of Rockefellers’ history producing fossil fuels they think are contributing to man-made global warming.

The Rockefellers were initially cagey about whether they specifically targeted Exxon but later admitted to going after the company.

Kaiser and Lee Wasserman, the head of RFF, 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 Wasserman wrote in December.

The family used its wealth to fund media reports showing Exxon had hid nearly four decades’ worth of climate change records.

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 RBF, are independent from its research on climate change.

The riff comes as attorneys general-led investigations into Exxon have started to falter.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began investigating the oil giant in November 2015 because of the Rockefeller-funded reports. Massachusetts AG Maura Healey eventually joined the Democrat in his inquisition.

Texas federal judge Ed Kinkeade issued an amendment giving Exxon the legal authority to probe Schneiderman’s communications. Healey was roped into the amendment as well.

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