Energy

Documents Reveal Deep Relationship Between LA Times And Anti-Exxon Campaigners

REUTERS/Mike Stone

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Chris White Tech Reporter

One of the wealthy groups bankrolling a year-long investigation targeting Exxon Mobil has a nearly 20-year history with the Los Angeles Times, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The working relationship between Nicolas Goldberg, who runs the LA Times’ editorial board, and the director of the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), Lee Wasserman, calls into question the newspaper’s failure to disclose in recent editorials the fund’s role in the ongoing probes.

Wasserman and Goldberg have been working colleagues since the mid-1990s, when the former joined the philanthropic group in 1998 after an ill-fated run for Congress. Goldberg became one of his subordinates in 1999 after getting hired as the director of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, a Democratic consulting firm employed by RFF, the documents show.

Goldberg went on to cover former New York Gov. George Pataki’s administration. They forged a relationship soon thereafter, with Goldberg citing Wasserman in several articles when the latter sat on Pataki’s transition team, and served as director for Environmental Advocates, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Goldberg has been instrumental in elevating the platform for RFF’s probe accusing Exxon of hiding from public and investors information regarding climate change. He published an editorial Saturday requesting California’s new attorney general take up the anti-Exxon banner, and granted permission for Wasserman to write an op-ed for the paper bashing the company a few days later.

Wasserman’s op-ed disclosed RFF’s financial contributions to the investigation, but falsely stated the group had nothing to do with the media reports conducted by environmental outlet InsideClimate News (ICN).

“The Fund has made grants to the Columbia Journalism School’s Energy and Environment Reporting Project and InsideClimate News, but has no involvement in articles they produce,” the LA Times’ disclosure reads, implying that RFF did not actively participate in the investigations.

Wasserman hummed and hawed about RFF’s involvement, but he eventually admitted in December that the family intended all along to bring down Exxon because of its supposed skeptical position on global warming.

Goldberg’s publication has dug into the investigations since the beginning. It captured national attention last year when it published a series of its own reports accusing Exxon of hiding internal knowledge about climate change. The research was done by the Columbia School of Journalism’s Energy and Environment Fellowship, a program paid for by RFF and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF).

Neither Goldberg nor Wasserman have responded to requests for comment from TheDCNF.

Goldberg is not the only LA Times’ employee with connections to the Exxon crusade. Simon K.C. Li, a former assistant managing editor at the paper during the early part of Goldberg’s era, is also a key board member of ICN and a benefactor of the Columbia School of Journalism, even providing the two groups with $2 million in the last 10 years.

The Rockefeller family shoveled more than $2 million for ICN’s coffers. The outlet as a total revenue of $1,522,754 — $200,500 of which was contributed by RBF in 2014.

Recent reports suggest the Rockefellers’ philanthropic efforts are part of an overarching campaign to direct public policy to help boost their financial portfolio.

The Energy and Environment Legal Institute, for instance, published a report in December suggesting the family has pumped millions of dollars into fringe movements meant to place climate policies at the forefront of nearly every aspect of American politics.

The report, titled The Rockefeller Way: The Family’s Covert “Climate Change” Plan, highlights years of the philanthropic efforts by the family to direct policy objectives meant to pad its already bloated wallet. It also includes a video running down the family’s history of dumping money on fledgling charity groups to rebuild his public image.

RFF has used the media and its resources to persuade politicians to join in the hit parade as well. Wasserman admitted directing various U.S. attorneys general to join in the anti-Exxon crusade, writing in an editorial for New York Books that the only way to target Exxon for hiding climate change research was to request New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to open an investigation into the company.

“It is up to government officials, not public interest advocates, to determine whether ExxonMobil’s conduct” violated state law, so the RFF “informed state attorneys general of our concern that ExxonMobil seemed to have failed” to make the public aware of the risks climate change poses to investors, the RFF director wrote at the time.

The New York Democrat began an investigation into the company several months later 2015, “demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents” from the oil producer dating all the way back to the 1970s. Schneiderman received nearly $250,000 in political donations after joining the investigation.

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