GreenWatch Keeps an Eye on Environmentalist Funding

Published March 1, 2003

Would you like to learn more about an environmental activist group? Who funds them, and for how much? What is their annual income? How transparent is their funding? For the answers to these questions and more, try GreenWatch, at

GreenWatch, a project of the Washington, DC-based Capital Research Center (CRC), bills itself as an environmental watchdog group. The site offers an extensive database and great tools that help it live up to that claim.

GreenWatch offers a Searchlight Database compiling current information on more than 2,000 groups. Did you know Enron provided funding for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)? Did you know the Natural Resources Defense Council is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy? Did you know the Sierra Club raised more than $63 million in 2000, spent only $28 million of it, and is sitting on more than $85 million in assets? Did you know your taxes fund the Sierra Club, which receives grants from EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?

In addition to providing comprehensive information on funding, grants, and financial status, GreenWatch evaluates each group’s ideological viewpoint and organizational transparency. GreenWatch tracks the national media on a daily basis and provides links to noteworthy news items. Additionally, GreenWatch does its own investigative research, exposing financial irregularities in various nonprofit groups.

For example, in September 2002 GreenWatch reported that PETA provided funding for the terrorist Earth Liberation Front (ELF). (See the GreenWatch press release reprinted on this page.) ELF has taken credit for dozens of terrorist acts, including torching buildings, vandalizing homes and automobiles, and threatening the lives of American citizens.

Another good GreenWatch story on PETA (“Political Radicalism and Animal Rights: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals”) can be found at

Searchlight Results

Environmental Defense provides a good example of the power of GreenWatch’s Searchlight Database.

Log on to GreenWatch at and enter the words Environmental Defense in the yellow Searchlight box at the top right of the screen. “Our most unique feature is the top right search engine,” according to GreenWatch content editor David Riggs.

The resulting screen provides Environmental Defense’s ideological rating as 4 on a scale of 1 to 8, with 1 being radical left and 8 being market right. For transparency in funding and operations, Environmental Defense is rated 3 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 indicating poor performance and 5 indicating high performance.

Below its ideological and transparency ratings, GreenWatch provides links to media articles about Environmental Defense. Below that is the group’s background information, including its membership numbers, stated objectives, board members, and most recent annual statement.

Meat and Potatoes

The next section–Environmental Defense’s financial numbers–is the “meat and potatoes of the site” according to Riggs. A quick look at the numbers shows why. According to GreenWatch, Environmental Defense raised more than $42 million in 2001 revenue and spent more than $38 million that year. The group’s fundraising has been increasing every year, and it currently holds more than $43 million in net assets.

The Corporate Grants section shows that J.P. Morgan & Company and Merrill Lynch, among others, have financed Environmental Defense.

The Foundation Grants section reveals that the David and Lucile Packard Foundation gives several million dollars each year to Environmental Defense. Pew Charitable Trusts has also given multimillion dollar grants.

The Government Grants section is perhaps the most revealing of all. Didn’t know the federal government funded non-governmental activist groups? GreenWatch has tracked several million dollars in grants from EPA to Environmental Defense in the past few years alone. Other sources of government grants include the Department of Energy; Department of the Interior/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Department of Commerce/National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration; and Department of Interior/Bureau of Reclamation. That’s right–the federal government taxes your daily wages to support an environmental activist group already sitting on more than $43 million in net assets!

But that’s not all. GreenWatch not only documents the numerous gifts EPA has given to Environmental Defense, but also allows you to click on an EPA link that reveals all of the grants the agency makes to various environmental activist groups. EPA gives money to the Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, and California Indian Basketweavers Association (!), among others. Millions of your tax dollars are given away every year to these groups and more.

GreenWatch is a great source of information for speeches, letters to the editor, opeds, and more. The next time you need to know more about the activist environmental groups that spend their time carping for money and complaining about being dispossessed, click on and get the real story!

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.