The hidden "persuaders" of the environmentalist elite
By Ron Arnold
America's Big Green environmental agenda is set by elite foundations that decide which activists get the money. They form "affinity groups" to collude with President Obama's bureaucracy, which funnels tax dollars to Democratic advocates to enforce that agenda.
And they don't just attempt to develop public policy and persuade Americans to adopt them. They find numerous ways to impose those policies on us – without our advice or consent, and despite the harm they inflict on our economy, national security, jobs, living standards or well-being.
Meet the conservation cash cartel of the uber-rich: the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a veteran organization (founded in 1985) of more than 200 ultra-wealthy foundations now caught in the spotlight of a new 92-page US Senate report exposing Big Green wealth eating away America's industrial strength.
This is the same EGA that emerged as an issue during Senate confirmation hearings for Rhea Sun Suh, the Interior Department's new head of national parks and the Fish and Wildlife Service – and a veteran EGA member who invited colleagues to come visit her at Interior any time.
Suh once worked for the Packard Foundation on programs to block oil and gas production in the western United States. Ironically, Packard's investment portfolio – the profits from which the foundation pays its anti-oil and gas grants – holds more than $350,000 in ExxonMobil shares, and millions in dozens of other lesser-known fossil fuel securities.
Most of the EGA's foundation members have similar million-dollar dirty little secrets. But of course their tax-exempt activist recipients are not morally conflicted by taking fossil fuel cash and keeping it a secret – as long as the loot furthers their corrosive goals of reducing America's hydrocarbon use and economic power, and regardless of the impacts their policies inflict on the jobs, living standards, health and welfare of poor, elderly, blue-collar and minority families.
The classic unintentional self-parody displayed by Greenpeace, for example, is fascinating to watch, as it concocts convoluted "ethical" explanations for why its oil-soaked funding is purified by the "lofty" save-the-planet intent of its donors, whenever the funding is exposed.
The new report is titled "The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama's EPA." It was produced by the Republican staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, under the direction of Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, the committee's ranking minority member.
Its executive summary states, "an elite group of left-wing millionaires and billionaires, which this report refers to as the ‘Billionaire's Club,' directs and controls the far-left environmental movement, which in turn controls major policy decisions and lobbies on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."
Having researched over $80 billion in green grants during the past few decades, I was impressed by the scope and detail of the oversight team's work, and asked Vitter how he felt about it.
"This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion," Vitter told me. "The complicated, layered system is intended to create a lack of transparency. There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement, and far too much collusion between far-left environmental groups and the Obama EPA."
The collusion is like something out of a bad spy movie. For example, Vitter's oversight team uncovered a June 2009 deal in which the Rockefeller Family Fund offered then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson money to pay for a plant inside the President's Council on Environmental Quality, to "stake the EPA's claim there," and then slip the shill into a pre-arranged EPA job, giving the agency a White House insider on staff –while not coincidentally tightening the Rockefeller Fund's power grip over the EPA.
Jackson wrote to her chief of staff Diane Thompson, "I think it's a fine idea and can only help EPA in the long run."Jackson then used her fake Richard Windsor email account to send the note, in an attempt to prevent exposure of her unethical shenanigans. Thompson replied, "My thoughts exactly. The more inside connections, the better."
The Rockefeller shill was Shalini Vajjhala, who agreed to leave her minor position at the Washington think tank Resources for the Future for a two-month stint at the CEQ, holding the pretentious title of "deputy associate director for energy and climate." The EPA then slipped her in as deputy assistant administrator of its Office of International & Tribal Affairs. Vajjhala remained there until her 2011 appointment as EPA's special representative leading a presidential US-Brazil initiative.
After Vajjhala cycled through the White House and EPA, she got her personal reward in 2012: approval to found and manage a new investment portfolio supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. (This is the original 1913 John D. Rockefeller philanthropy, not the fourth generation's Family Fund. There are many Rockefeller tentacles, which makes all of this even more confusing.) Vajjhala now contributes to the Huffington Post, funded in part by the wealthy Park Foundation.
EGA foundations are metastasizing into hundreds of far-left funds. The report drills into one of them, the Sea Change Foundation, "a private California foundation, which relies on funding from undisclosed donors and funnels tens of millions of dollars to other foundations and prominent environmental activists who strive to control both policy and politics."
There is an incredible seedbed of Sea Change front groups. Bill Gates' foundation gave Sea Change Capital Partners $2.5 million. eBay's Omidyar Network Fund gave the same partners $2 million. David Rockefeller's personal foundation gave loads of cash to the Center for Sea Change. Wal-Mart's foundation gave $500,000 to Strategies for the Global Foundation Sea Change, an international tentacle into the White House.
But it's not just the environment. The Crime Prevention Research Center, a nonprofit that tracks gun control activists, reported: "On January 8, 2013, the Obama Administration met with 23 large foundations to organize a push for national gun control. They included such organizations as the Open Society Institute, the McCormick Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation" and the MacArthur Foundation.
Foundations appear to be colluding with almost every Executive Branch department in the Obama administration. And it's not just the Big Green donors. It's all kinds of left-wing activists and bureaucrats who want to control our lives, liberties and living standards – with no accountability for mistakes they make, intentional harm and emotional distress they intentionally inflict, or damage they cause to millions of American businesses, families and communities.
It's time for Congress to hear testimony from some of the manipulative foundation program directors and investment managers, as they try to explain their actions to those whose lives they have wrecked and destroyed.
Ron Arnold, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. A version of this article originally appeared in the Examiner. More of his articles can be found at http://WashingtonExaminer.com/author/Ron-Arnold