Report: Climate Activists Are Secretly Collaborating with State Governments

Published October 26, 2018

Using documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits when necessary to force their release, a new report details how a network of climate activists provides off-the-books staff members and consultants for governors and states’ attorneys general to pursue an anti-fossil-fuel agenda.

The report, published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and written by CEI Senior Research Fellow Christopher C. Horner, shows how nonprofit organizations, serving as middlemen, administer large amounts of funding while working for and promoting politicians who, in turn, support the donors’ climate agenda, including lawsuits against companies in the fossil fuel industry.

‘Enormous Climate Industry’

Among the examples given in the report, environmental activist groups and the government of California collaborated to organize the “Global Climate Action Summit” held September 12 through 14 in San Francisco. Sponsored and hosted by California Gov. Jerry Brown as an official state event, the summit promoted activists’ climate policies.

The gathering was budgeted at $10 million, with Brown touting the support it received from individuals, foundations, governments, and businesses.

“Open record productions reveal that this summit is part of an enormous climate industry that funnels donor money through nonprofit organizations to staff-up politicians’ offices,” the CEI report states. “This is done off the books, and the nonprofits take a handsome percentage for serving as middlemen.”

The report shows a major thrust of the vast network of donors, activists, and government officials at the Climate Action Summit is to undo the Trump administration’s climate and energy policies, including reversing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

To make this happen, the report says, “politicians use their offices to support the donors’ agenda, and the donors use their resources to provide staff members, report writers, public relations operations, and consultants—all at the disposal of the politicians. Donors also privately arrange, pay for and place in-house advisors—not actually staff—in governors’ and mayors’ offices.”

Prominent donors to these efforts include California billionaire Tom Steyer and the Hewlett Foundation, the report states.

More Money, Influence Sought

State officials are seeking even more money to keep pressure on the Trump administration and companies in the fossil fuel industry.

The study discloses an e-mail exchange between the offices of Brown, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee in which the governors discuss how much money they would like to raise for climate advocacy efforts, including the amounts to be passed through private climate advocacy organizations.

“[The governors’] staff budgeted ‘$15 million [which] ramps up work ($10 million passed through to consortium partners)’ in 2018, to ‘$30 million as we engage new governors, share deployment learnings, and drive a new national priorities debate ($25 million passed through to consortium partners)’ for 2019, then ‘$50 million to drive state leadership activity in a critical year and develop new federalism funding models to leverage investments in mid-term targets and carbon pricing moving forward,’ in 2020–2021,” Horner writes.

Brown’s Climate Action Summit was held in advance of the U.S. midterm elections in early November in the hopes of motivating people to vote and to consider climate issues when doing so.

“Records obtained through state freedom of information laws suggest that Brown’s summit is also intended to act as a privately underwritten complement to the two-week official Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” writes Horner.

Obama ‘Refugees’ in Place

The report shows officials from former President Barack Obama’s administration, referred to as “refugees” in the e-mail exchanges, are seeding local and state officials’ offices in order to “resume shaping the U.S. position on” energy and climate change, as one email stated.

A “refugee” identified in the report is Jonathan Pershing, former state department special envoy on climate change and lead U.S. negotiator to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Hewlett Foundation hired Pershing and gave him a budget to place climate and energy policy staff in governors’ offices, with money run through the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

Documents obtained by Horner reveal former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s America’s Pledge and the U.S. Climate Alliance are among other groups funding climate activists and former Obama officials as off-the-books staffers and consultants in state and municipal offices nationwide.

‘Abusive on Its Face’

State legislatures and states’ attorneys generals should be investigating this collusion, but they are not, says Horner.

“This is abusive on its face and cries out for legislative oversight,” Horner told Environment & Climate News. “Unfortunately, state attorneys general have their own [climate] scheme and are unlikely to protect the public’s interest here.”

Those pushing the anti-fossil-fuel climate change agenda ignore the high costs of the policies they advocate, says Paul Driessen, a senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

“The Climate-Industrial-Political-Environmental Complex is now a $2 trillion per year enterprise,” Driessen said. “It gets subsidies and mandates in return for campaign contributions.

“Now, with the latest IPCC climate report as a backdrop, it wants another $2.4 trillion per year for the next 17 years to pay for a compulsory transition to renewable energy while ignoring the high costs in terms of land and natural resources required for the all wind turbines, solar installations, ultra-long power lines, and batteries needed to back up weather-dependent renewable energy.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and a senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.


Christopher C. Horner, “Government for Rent: How Special Interests Finance Governors to Pursue Their Climate Policy Agenda,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, September 11, 2018: