Big Green’s complaints about Donors Trust and climate skeptic money are hollow and pathetic
Pathetic and desperate. There’s no other way to describe the new “we hate-industry” movie, Greedy Lying Bastards. Producers spent nearly $2 million to complain about climate skeptic money, in yet another Big Green attack on anyone who disagrees with the climate fanatic industry, which is itself a multi-billion-dollar global enterprise that seeks to impose anti-energy policies in the name of preventing climate change.
As to content, the Bastards movie is pretty much the same tired parade of the Left’s favorite whipping boys: the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil and other “black hats” are to blame for global warming, think tanks of similar views are mere stooges, out for the money – and other intolerant, insulting, odious characterizations. The movie’s tagline, “They are destroying our world. Now is the time to stop them,” is so easy to turn around on the accusers that you wonder why they used it.
The cost of jet fuel that Bastards burned zooming to American filming locations – and to four countries in Europe, two in Africa, one in South America and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu – didn’t faze the producers or the funders. Neither did their enormous CO2 footprint. Nor did the fact that Big Green is fed with vastly larger sums from foundations, governments and ideological individuals than the entire gamut of “dangerous manmade global warming” skeptics.
Its context, though, makes this film altogether different from most industry-bashing movies. Bastards writer and director Craig Rosebraugh was formerly the mouthpiece for the eco-terrorist network Earth Liberation Front. He gave the media “communiqués” from nameless criminals, including a cell of now-convicted felons who firebombed a university horticulture center. The zealots incinerated a priceless collection of endangered-plant species, because they erroneously believed scientists there were breeding genetically modified trees.
An appropriate tagline for that exploit – and Rosebraugh’s Bastards – should be “Green radicals are destroying our civilization. Now is the time to stop them.”
Just before Bastards premiered, Greenpeace published a hit piece headlined, “Donors Trust laundering climate denial funding: The shadow operation has laundered $146 million in climate-denial funding.” A few days after that, New York-based media producer Democracy Now! broadcast a story called “The ATM for climate denial: Secretive Donors Trust funds vast network of global warming skeptics.”
This flank of the attack surge began with a PBS Frontline broadcast last October, followed by inquires by The Nation (November), the Center for Public Integrity (December), and Mother Jones (January), all resulting in February articles. The appearance of pre-arrangement, of course, is merely the old journalism fact of life, that the liberal media feed each other, and not necessarily collusion.
What did Donors Trust do to deserve this four-pronged (so far) attack? Nothing. That is, nothing beyond disagreeing with climate jihadists (or whatever the appropriate counterpart to “climate deniers” may be). I spoke with Donors president and CEO Whitney Ball, who told me that all the “shadow” and “secrecy” and “black box” and “dark money” accusations in these attacks could apply to every 501(c)(3) public charity, not just Donors Trust.
By Internal Revenue Code rules, the identity of these donors is not available for public inspection, no matter which group is involved. But the general reader doesn’t know that – so it sounds nefarious. If you’re dubious, contact Greenpeace or any of those other groups, and ask for their individual donor list. You won’t get it.
Donors Trust, is a “donor-advised fund,” established to promote liberty and help like-minded donors preserve their charitable intent. When donors make a gift to a donor-advised fund, they surrender all legal control over the gift to a steward 501(c)(3), but they may recommend recipients. Thus, “donor advised.”
In return, donors receive an immediate tax deduction and guaranteed anonymity. The anonymity protects donors from recipients eager for more grants. Being a secret donor is a good way to stay off junk mail lists and not have to worry about fundraiser phone calls during dinner time. And when it comes to donors who give to any 501(c)(3)s, all of them are secret, liberal and conservative alike.
Donors Trust also has its own rules. If a donor requests a liberty-oriented recipient with no more than 25% of its revenue from government sources, Donors Trust generally approves, though it is not legally obliged to do so.
Greenpeace engages in the same practices it labels as “laundering” when its critics are involved: receiving grant money from donors such as the Packard Foundation ($1.5 million in 2011; total from all foundations, $18.1 million), and then granting it to other non-profits. In 2011, for example, Greenpeace gave $4 million to US groups and $5.6 million to European groups, according to their IRS Form 990.
The attacks against Donors Trust try to make donor-advised funds sound alien, unusual, and dangerous. However, they are so common that Fidelity, Vanguard and Schwab all run one. IRS Form 990 even devotes a page to reporting on DAFs and asks every non-profit if it maintains DAFs. (It’s in Schedule D, Part 1, for the curious.) Tides Foundation, for example, houses hundreds of them.
Tides has also given over $1 billion to leftist causes, says its website (versus $2 million to “climate deniers,” aka groups that challenge claims that humans are causing catastrophic climate change.)
One of the most egregious insults to seep out of this insult-laden barrage came from UK Guardian correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg, during a recent Democracy Now! broadcast.
Ms. Ball asked, “How is it that the Tides Foundation, which funds environmental causes and does not publish donor lists, is never characterized in the same way by reporters?” Goldenberg replied: “There’s something really different here.” Donors Trust grantees “spread information that is factually incorrect, that is untrue…. You can’t draw this equivalence here.” In contrast, DT’s organizations, Goldenberg insisted, “were funded for the express purpose of spreading disinformation.”
Based on the Tides output I’ve seen, it’s the other way around: the climate alarmists are spreading deceit, disinformation, climate horror stories and junk science that have no basis in fact and made Climategate 1 and 2 such fascinating reading.
Anyone who sees the Bastards movie credits might think the film was “funded for the express purpose of spreading disinformation.” Consider the sources.
The Bastards movie boasts a “Thanks to” list of 117 contributors, including Denis Hayes of the Bullitt Foundation, EarthJustice (formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund), Greenpeace USA, Natural Resources Defense Council, Noam Chomsky, Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Marine Laboratory, Vladimir Romanovsky, of the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, and Russell Train, who was the second administrator of the increasingly alarmist Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
All have career or financial vested interests in the climate change scare and would be harmed by any public doubt about their theories and political agendas. Well-funded climate skeptics are a direct threat to their incomes, career prospects, political success and reputations.
Anyway, just for your information, a massive database of IRS Form 990s shows that total US foundation support for environmental causes over the past decade or so is 331,256 grants totaling $19.3 billion, with a “b.” The portion specifically devoted to global warming or climate change is $797 million.
And the Greedy Lying Bastards producers are complaining about a couple million to manmade climate cataclysm skeptics. The film’s pathetic efforts underscore how desperate climate alarmists have become. There goes 30,000 feet of good (hydrocarbon-based) film stock, all shot to hell.
Ron Arnold is executive director of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. Portions of this report originally appeared in the Washington Examiner, which is investigating environmentalist funding.