What happens when protesters learn they’re being used by billionaires? They dig in their ideological heels and shout insults.
As hydraulic fracturing and Canadian oil sands development sent North American petroleum production soaring, new pipelines were approved and constructed, including the Keystone system’s first three phases. They augmented 2.5 million miles of liquid petroleum, gas transmission and gas distribution pipelines that already crisscross the U.S.
But when the Keystone XL segment was proposed, intense opposition suddenly materialized. Protesters railed that habitat disturbance, potential leaks, climate change and ending fossil-fuel use necessitated “no more pipelines.”
Now the Sandpiper Pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region across Minnesota to Superior, Wis., is meeting similar resistance. As with Keystone, the protesters say they’re concerned student, hiker and Native American grass-roots activists. The facts do not support their narrative.
Putin-allied Russian billionaires laundered $23 million through the Bermuda-based Wakefield Quin law firm to the Sea Change Foundation and thence to anti-fracking and anti-Keystone groups, the Environmental Policy Alliance found. Sandpiper opponents are likewise funded and coordinated by wealthy financiers and shadowy foundations, researcher Ron Arnold discovered.
Several small groups are involved in Sandpiper. But the campaign is coordinated by Honor the Earth, a Native American group that is actually a Tides Foundation “project,” with the Tides Center as its “fiscal sponsor,” contributing $700,000 and extensive in-kind aid. Out-of-state donors provide 99% of Honor’s funding.
The Indigenous Environmental Network also funds Honor the Earth. Minnesota corporate records show no incorporation entry for IEN, and that 95% of its money comes from outside Minnesota. Tides gave IEN $670,000 to oppose pipelines. Indeed, $25 billion in foundation investment portfolios support the anti-Sandpiper effort. Vastly more backing makes the $13-billion-per-year U.S. environmentalist movement a power to be reckoned with, Arnold and I document in our book, “Cracking Big Green.”
These tax-exempt foundations do not simply give money to pressure groups. They tell them what campaigns to conduct, what tactics to use. Meanwhile, donors enjoy deductions for “charitable giving” to “education, conservation and other social change” programs.
Tides Foundation combined cash flows exceed $200 million a year, Canadian investigative journalist Cory Morningstar reports. She and fellow sleuth Vivian Krause have delved deeply into troubling arrangements among Big Green, Big Government and Big Finance.
Morningstar calls the San Francisco-based Tides operation “a priceless, magical, money funneling machine of epic proportions.” It enables uber-rich donors to distribute funds to specific organizations and campaigns of their choice, without disclosing their identities.
Even more interesting, among Tides’ biggest donors is Obama friend and advisor Warren Buffett. Beginning in 2004, Buffett funneled $30.5 million through his family’s NoVo Foundation to Tides, and ultimately to selected pressure groups that led campaigns against Keystone and other projects, Morningstar and Arnold discovered.
By donating the market value of greatly appreciated Berkshire Hathaway shares to NoVo, the Omaha billionaire avoided income taxes on his gains. Even more important, while public, media and political attention was riveted on Keystone, Berkshire Hathaway quietly bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and Union Tank Car manufacturing company — with no notice, dissent or interference, Morningstar observed.
When Keystone XL et al. were blocked, more oil was shipped by rail — much of it via Buffett companies. In fact, oil-by-rail skyrocketed from 9,500 carloads in 2009 to 450,000 carloads in 2014. Buffett’s “investment” in anti-pipeline activism garnered billions in rail revenues.
The anti-pipeline campaigns thwarted thousands of jobs and increased risks of tank car derailments, like the Lac Megantic, Quebec, spill that destroyed much of the town and immolated 47 people. That may be one reason why Buffett recently criticized President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL legislation. He now says the pipeline would be good for both Canada and America, and it is a mistake to jeopardize trade relationships with Canada.
But the campaigns rage on. They are not grassroots, or even AstroTurf. Their “green” tint is the color of unfathomable behind-the-scenes wealth.
The clandestine Buffett-Berkshire-NoVo-Tides-activist-railroad arrangement reflects “a devious strategy on the part of both benefactor and recipient,” Morningstar concludes. “At minimum, it demonstrates an almost criminal conflict of interest.” Perhaps legislators and regulators should investigate.
Meanwhile, pro-Sandpiper students from the Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow presented these inconvenient financial truths to anti-pipeline protesters at an April 30 University of Minnesota rally.
One red-faced protester walked away. Others intensified their chants or shouted racially tinged epithets at the multi-ethnic CFACT students. None wanted to discuss funding issues, America’s need for oil or how best to transport fuels safely. Such is the state of “environmental studies,” “robust debate” and “higher education” on campuses today.