New Platform Outlines Prolific Environmental Spending in West
As green groups gear up to spend record setting amounts during the 2018 campaign season, new research is shedding light on the billions of dollars being distributed by 10 national organizations to fund non-profit environmental initiatives, including more than $100 million spent in the West over the past decade.
This week, the Institute for Energy Research debuted a new tool entitled, “Big Green, Inc.,” which tracks donations made by environmental organizations between the years of 2008-2016. The tool compiles information from publicly available 990 tax return records to create a searchable database.
Those records show that the 10 featured environmental organizations distributed a total of $3.7 billion to more than 1,500 environmental activist groups in all 50 states.
“The truth is the environmental left is a deep-pocketed and powerful force in American politics that is working to stop all natural gas, oil, and coal production in the United States,” IER President Thomas J. Pyle said in a statement.
Of the grants analyzed by Big Green, Inc., 346 were concentrated in Colorado totaling more than $90 million. Top donors include San Francisco-based billionaire Tom Steyer’s Tomkat Charitable Trust Foundation as well as the Sea Change Foundation and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Steyer has also been particularly active in funding political campaigns in Colorado. Steyer devoted $8.5 million to supporting Sen. Mark Udall’s unsuccessful reelection bid in 2014, out of a reported $74 million total during that midterm cycle. According to the Colorado Sun, a group funded by Steyer and billionaire George Soros donated $500,000 to Good Jobs Colorado, which is sponsoring TV ads in opposition to Republican gubernatorial candidate, Walker Stapleton. And as Western Wire recently reported, Steyer has again maxed out personal donations to several Colorado Democrats running in the 2018 cycle.
Campaign expenditures are additional to IER’s financial analysis, which only tracks money donated to non-profit groups.
As Western Wire previously reported, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation donated $300,000 to the Niskanen Center in support of the Center’s “climate policy and litigation program,” shortly before Boulder City and County and San Mateo County filed a lawsuit against energy companies based on damages related to climate change. Niskanen is listed as providing legal support to the plaintiffs in that effort.
While grants in the West were concentrated in Colorado, millions more were spent in New Mexico, which received $2.1 million, Montana, which received $10.4 million, Arizona, with $6.6 million and Utah, at $1.6 million.
Nationally, IER found that the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation distributed the most grants, with expenditures totaling $2 billion. The Energy Foundation distributed $444 million during that same timeframe while the Sea Change Foundation gave $373 million.
The non-profit ClimateWorks was the recipient of the most funds, taking in more than $1.7 billion over the eight-year time period.
ClimateWorks is featured in separate research conducted by Prof. Matthew C. Nisbet of Northeastern University which analyzed the climate-focused philanthropic spending trends in the aftermath of the failure to pass cap-and-trade legislation in 2010.
According to Nisbet, major foundations like the Hewlett Foundation, banded resources and know-how to develop a new strategy to be more “proactive in seeking solutions to complex social problems like climate change.” The final report, Design to Win: Philanthropy’s Role in the Fight Against Global Warming, called for increased grantmaking.
In accordance with this strategy, Hewlett along with other funders like the Energy Foundation, Oak Foundation and Sea Change Foundation established ClimateWorks as a “regranting organization intended to invest more than $1 billion worldwide.”
In total, Nisbet catalogue $557.7 million in “behind-the-scenes” grants that were distributed between 2011-2015. Nisbet’s analysis shows the grants were focused on promoting renewable energy communications about and limiting climate change and opposing fossil fuels. Nisbet also notes that over time the climate change debate has become increasingly polarized as environmental groups have partnered with other organizations more aligned with the liberal ideology, “serving as potent symbols for Republican donors and activists to rally around.”
IER’s funding analysis runs until 2016, but the organization says more data will come in as it becomes publicly available since there is typically a lag with 990 reporting.
As recent reports indicate, the levels of climate funding are set to increase further. On Friday, 29 foundations pledged $4 billion in additional funding over the next five years dedicated to climate change efforts at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.
According to a press release, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation first pledged $600 million at the end of last year, which was followed by more than $3 billion in new funding announced last week. Groups participating in the new funding effort include the Sea Change Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Grantham Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Oak Foundation.
“Philanthropists can and must work together as catalysts to engage governments, the business community and NGOs to accelerate progress on climate change,” Nat Simons, co-founder of the Sea Change Foundation said in a statement. “The multi-billion dollar commitment announced today is only a down payment. Together we’ll need to invest billions more. And soon.”
In reference to the widespread and strategic disbursement of climate funding nationwide, Pyle said, “The Environmental Left likes to portray itself as a modern day David battling the mighty fossil fuel giants in an epic struggle to save our dying planet. While it may be compelling, this narrative is simply false.”