By Moira Egan
They lurk in the shadows of government, pay others to do their dirty 'clean environment' work, meet secretly with others of their precautionary and sustainable ilk, create and coordinate 'grassroots' activities sometimes on a multinational scale, and indirectly control environmental policy - and you.
Who are they?
The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA, is a recent report of a United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The report "examines in detail the mechanism and methods of a far-left environmental machine that has been erected around a small group of powerful and active millionaires and billionaires who exert tremendous sway over a colossal effort."
Sorting out factions and fractions of factions and their actions in the Middle East would seem easier than sorting the complicated relationships and transfers of money, sometimes secret, between and among the parts of the environmental machine. But this report helps a lot. And the writers of the report say that they have only scratched the surface in their research. We have a similar foundation complexities in Canada.
Vivian Krause in British Columbia has done a stalwart job of connecting some of the money links from foundations (especially the Tides Foundation) to environmental activist groups. Vivian no longer blogs at Rethink Campaigns but her articles are still there, still eye-opening, still relevant and useful to us as we figure out the local nests of activists and their activities in Ontario.
Parker Gallant's amazing Bruce Lourie, Follow the Money Chart shows connections between and among green foundations of different shapes and sizes, government, individuals and associations. The chart is an illustration of some of the Wow! work Mr. Gallant does for us Ontario. He is a thorn in the side of the Ontario Minister of Energy and knows more about our energy situation than anyone in the government. Thanks to his relaying information (often in the National Post) about his research discoveries, even I know more about our energy mess than, apparently, do most in the government.
While a small percentage of a charitable organization's revenue can for some reason be spent on things political, the purpose of the tax codes is to benefit genuine philanthropy. In Canada, as in the U.S., organizations have (to put it mildly) taken advantage of tax considerations given to charitable organizations. Currently, the Government of Canada is doing a special investigation of charitable organizations.
There is a U.S.- Canada Tax Treaty, in effect since 1984. Once qualified for charitable tax exemption in one country, an organization is also exempt in the other. That certainly simplifies things for foundations - not that the environmental left want things to be straightforward. It also means that much of what is in the U.S. Senate report mirrors activities in Canada.
If foundations are giving money away for philanthropic reasons, why are members of the Billionaire's Club (and corresponding organizations here) so secretive? The U.S. Senate report answers: "While it is uncertain why they operate in the shadows and what they are hiding, what is clear is that these individuals and foundations go to tremendous lengths to avoid public association with the far-left environmental movement they so generously fund".
Shapes in the Shadows
Have you watched a PBS program with a message like, "Brought to you by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and byThe Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by The Park Foundation and by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation? Those foundations are in the top ten Billionaire's Club Private Foundations. Foundations pay no tax at all. The very wealthy donate a huge amount of money to their family foundation for a huge tax break on their gross income and at the same time get to spend their donations on projects they favour and frequently create. Examples of family foundations in Ontario that have a special interest in the environment are W. Garfield Weston Foundation and Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation. I'm not saying that they are part of the Billionaires Club, but they could be.
The U.S. Senate report recounts how a grant from the family Park Foundation (assets of over $366 million in 2012) funded an anti-fracking study which, although discredited by scientists - and by environmentalists - was reproduced by Park-funded news organizations through a Park-funded media collaboration, where it was further disseminated by the maker of Park-funded anti-fracking movies. Why? Because the heiress to the Park fortune doesn't like fracking or "any rape and pillage of the earth by mankind".
This is one example of how policy-makers in Ontario and all over the world have been influenced by the deliberately false results of flawed science-by-demand, wherever it is ordered up and paid for. Even if others point out the flaws, news wires report the study results and environmental activists use it to stifle industrial and economic growth. Thus the opinions of a mostly non-scientific public are emotionally formed. In Ontario, the 'science' has probably fuelled the fires of the Council of Canadians, Stop Fracking Ontario and other ill-informed but loud groups. And it is to the loudest public opinion voices that policy-makers usually listen.
Public Charities/Foundations/Non-Profit Organizations
Unlike Private Foundations, these organizations do not have to disclose names of donors. That's a big advantage to donors who want to pay anonymously for charitable activities, especially those of the not really charitable kind. What can be confusing is that some organizations with charitable tax status describe themselves as foundations, others as non-profit organizations and still others as non-governmental charitable organizations. In Ontario, there is a quite a community of Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations or ENGOs.
Tides Foundation and David Suzuki Foundation are very active charities yet they (obviously) identify themselves as foundations. Sierra Club (Elizabeth May's stomping grounds), Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund are self-described activists. One activist charity well known to members of Ontario Landowners is Nature Conservancy. In the U.S., it is has over $6 billion in total assets, the largest assets of 16 Top Public Charity Activist Organizations listed in the report. Ontario Conservation Authority, staid though the name may be, would qualify as an activist organization. It has charitable tax status.
Donations to charitable organizations can be accepted from government, small and large donors and other public charities. ENGOs usually get substantial government funding but, as far as I can tell, none are funded exclusively by direct government grants. Because public charities/foundations/non-profits/ENGOs do not have to disclose their donors, their doors are open to foreign (i.e. non-U.S.) donations. The report refers to million dollar donations, each made by the same organization (Sea Change) whose head office is in Bermuda and that's about all the Committee has learned about it. Recipients of funds from Sea Change include Sierra Club in the amount of $6,950,000 and WWF in the amount of $4,500,000 but other Sea Change grants are millions more. Elsewhere, there are reports of signs of Middle East donations to activists for anti-fracking films and programs and for other anti-fossil fuel drilling and transportation campaigns including organized protests.
Because one public charity/foundation can legally donate to another, environmental charities appear to be being generous to one another as they pass money from one to another and sometimes back again. So generous are they that it is difficult to trace what is going on. And why.
Also from the report: "A novel innovation unique to the left is the proliferation of a fiscal sponsor relationship, whereby the charity actually sells its nonprofit status to a group for a fee. Through this arrangement, the fiscal sponsor serves as the official recipient of charitable donations for an organization unrecognized by the IRS." (or in Canada by CRA.) …."This allows donors to make tax deductible contributions to support a narrowly defined project, with the full tax benefit enjoyed by a public charity, and no donor disclosure…..The fiscal sponsor relationship is built on very shaky legal grounds". No doubt Revenue Canada is exploring those sorts of arrangements.
Connecting the Shapes in the Shadows
"Members of the Billionaire's Club put a premium on access to the complex environmental infrastructure that has evolved to leverage substantial assets towards achieving defined policy outcomes….One of the central planners of environmental strategy is the Environmental Grantmakers Association. ...EGA is a very secretive organization, withholding its membership list from the public. …even refused to disclose their membership list to Congress".
There is a Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network. Take a look at all the arrows pointing to it on the Follow the Money Chart.
Shady Artificial Grassroots
"General characteristics of a grassroots movement include natural, spontaneous and volunteer-based action that originates locally with citizens who unite around a common issue or cause within their community". (p. 38 of the report)
That definition sounds like the Ontario Landowners Association.
This does not: "Environmental groups have misleadingly used the grassroots label to gain credibility among the populace and to hide, among other things, their substantial funding, well-organized structure and powerful influence. ….Critically, it is not the citizens' interests that drive the movement; rather it is part of a well-funded national strategy. In these instances, groups represent themselves as local efforts, but the real direction comes from agenda-driven far-left elites hundreds of miles away".
Having read the details of three campaigns in the report, I can only say that whatever environmental, seemingly grassroots group crops up, be wary. If I were living in a Marcellus Shale area and, like most people in the area would welcome an economic boost such as the one people in Pennsylvania are experiencing, I would not and probably most of my neighbours would not want to be part of Frackdown. That's a day (October 11) that radical environmentalists are calling on people to hold public events globally to protest fracking. Even EPA has said that fracking is not environmentally damaging or any kind of a health threat. Where gas appears in people's taps it always has.
If somebody is organizing a local Frackdown, it is probably an outsider and somebody trained in one of the many foundation-funded, community organizer training courses. A quick look on the internet shows connections to 350.org, Stop Fracking Ontario, The Council of Canadians and Greenpeace among others. Each of them receives funding from Billionaire Club foundations like Park Foundation and Tides Foundation. Ezra Levant at Sun TV did a wonderful documentary on fracking. If it were my economic wellbeing that Frackdown was challenging, I'd organize a community screening of it on October 11.
The ice caps are growing. The global temperatures are steady or falling. The sun is quiet. Yet today, September 15, the International New York Times is running a full page ad that features 160 eco-laureates urging philanthropists to put their fortunes into the fight against global warming - rather than into other green causes. Could The Shady Green$ be panicking in advance of the UN climate summit in New York later this month?