A group of liberal billionaires and large foundations they support exert undue influence on the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency and the nation’s environmental regulations, a U.S. Senate report explains. The report, The Chain of Environmental Command, was published by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ minority staff.
Insidious Tampering with EPA
Chain shows how the Obama administration allows an elite group of left wing millionaires and billionaires, which the report calls the “Billionaire’s Club,” to encourage or develop environmental policy in collusion with EPA staff and management.
“Wealthy donors, referred to . . . as the ‘Billionaire’s Club,’ funnel money to far-left environmental activists through public charities,” the staff write in an accompanying press statement. “It also shows that current leadership at the EPA is very much an active partner in the far-left environmental movement, and even sponsors their efforts through grants to environmental activists.”
Through their funding and contacts, the Billionaire’s Club directs and controls the environmental movement, the report states. Environmental lobbyists, in turn, influence or control major policy decisions and lobby on behalf of EPA. One of these controversial activist organizations is Sea Change Foundation, which relies on funding from foreign company donors.
Hiding the Money
The Senate report found wealthy foundations and individuals often donate large sums to intermediaries—sometimes a pass-through and sometimes a fiscal sponsor which then funnels the money to other 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations—which makes the interrelationships among donors, recipients, and governmental agencies difficult to track.
Making the influence of these nonprofits even less transparent, the Senate report found many instances in which 501(c)(3) educational organizations, which can receive tax-deductible donations but face strict lobbying limits, often make grants to or exchange funds with 501(c)(4) lobbying groups whose donations aren’t tax-deductible and are allowed to lobby directly. The funds go both ways, with 501(c)(4)s often transferring funds to 501(c)(3)s.
Inserting Activists in EPA
In addition to indirect influence through their grant-making power, the Billionaire’s Club also exploits ties to key employees at EPA. According to the report, the Obama EPA has been deliberately staffed with “far-left environmental activists” who work with their former activist group colleagues to shape policy. The report states this “green-revolving door at EPA” is a valuable asset for activist groups and their wealthy allies.
Paying Back Old Friends
In addition to providing critical insider access in shaping important policies, activists now at EPA funnel taxpayer money through grants to their former employers and colleagues. The report tracked millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars doled out to activist groups often in violation of agency ethics rules.
For example, Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck is under investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) for what appears to be inappropriate personal involvement in allocating EPA grants. The Committee found Enck required a subordinate to find grants that could benefit a particular activists group known as El Puente. Though El Puente seems to have violated the terms of an EPA award, Enck intervened to delay termination of the grant by 10 months.
The report also cites evidence Enck improperly funneled federal grants to environmental activist groups with whom she had a personal connection. Before Enck joined EPA, she was the president of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Since Enck assumed her position as Region 2 Administrator in 2009, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater received four EPA grants totaling $159,342.
Leftist Foundations Pulling the Strings
Ron Arnold, executive vice-president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, has been researching the Green revolving door for a number of years. Arnold said, “The real culprits in the foundations’ influence are. . . those who manage grants. The real problem is foundation program managers.”
The revolving door between environmental activist groups, grant-making foundations, and government agencies means the agenda is driven by the most radical environmental interests, Arnold explained.
“The program managers’ personal preferences guide grant making, and their preferences are formed in the environmental nonprofits and government agencies from which they emerged,” said Arnold.
Arnold cites examples such as Donald Ross, who joined the Rockefeller Family Fund after serving a chapter of the liberal Public Interest Research Group; Peter Teague, program manager of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, who was previously an environmental policy advisor to Leon Panetta, Sen. Diane Feinstein, and Sen. Barbara Boxer and later the environmental funder for the Tides Foundation; and Joshua Reichert, who left the United Farm Workers to join the congressionally founded Inter-American Foundation and eventually joined the Pew Charitable Trust, a well-funded donor to environmental activist causes.
Funding Faux Grassroots Groups
Chain cites another approach the Billionaire’s Club takes to direct environmental policy, “assembling and funding fake grassroots movements to assist in ballot measures and other state initiatives. The efforts in New York and Colorado to ban fracking are prime examples…. These faux grassroots efforts are actually funded by foundations outside the states they seek to influence. All these groups are similarly utilizing their platform to attack jobs, economic development, and infrastructure projects across the country.”
“There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement and far too much collusion between national environmental groups and the Obama EPA. This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion,” Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) told Environment & Climate News.
H. Sterling Burnett ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.