The EPW report titled The Chain of Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA meticulously details how the “Billionaires’ Club” funds nearly all of the major environmental non-government organizations (NGO), many media outlets, and supposed grassroots activists. The Billionaire Report continues by describing the cozy relationship many environmental groups have with the executive branch and the revolving door that makes this possible.
The most striking aspect of the Billionaire Report is the sheer amount of money that is in play. In 2011 alone, ten foundations donated upwards of half a billion dollars to environmental causes. Many of these foundations, whose assets are valued in the billions, meet and coordinate under the framework provided by the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA). Described as the “funding epicenter of the environmental movement,” EGA members doled out $1.13 billion to environmental causes in 2011. EGA’s membership is not public but its clout is self-evident given the amount of money its members direct to recognizable environmental NGOs.
Often times, EGA members will elect to indirectly fund organizations that are the face of the environmental movement. For example, instead of directly cutting a check to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) or the Sierra Club, the Hewlett Foundation or the Packard Foundation will contribute to the Energy Foundation. The Billionaire Report describes the Energy Foundation as “a pass through charity utilized by the most powerful EGA members to create the appearance of a more diversified base of support, to shield them from accountability, and to leverage limited resources by hiring dedicated energy/environment staff to handle strategic giving.”
The Energy Foundation’s funding paths are depicted in the Billionaire Report chart below.
Not all of this money is being used to write white papers about how wind is going to power our country or how the EPA should implement this or that regulation. In fact, millions of dollars from the Energy Foundation find their way into political spending. The Billionaire Report illuminates this process by showing how the Green Tech Action Fund is financed:
In addition to playing in national politics through the Energy Foundation, New York and California based foundations use a handful of other charities to prop-up local activist groups. The Billionaire Report looks at the efforts in New York and Colorado to prohibit and hamstring hydraulic fracturing:
While even passive political observers are aware of environmentalists’ political activities – who could forget American Lung Association’s coughing baby? – few people fully appreciate how interconnected the environmental movement is with the current White House and its regulatory agencies. For evidence of the environmental movement’s influence, look no further than the EPA’s recent GHG regulation for existing plants. This regulation, hailed by its supporters as the crowning achievement of the Obama Administration, drew heavily from a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) model regulation. The New York Times wrote that the EPA used NRDC’s regulation as its “blueprint.” NRDC’s clout within Democrat circles is well known and inspired the 2009 Greenwire article “NRDC Mafia Finding Homes on Hill, in EPA .”