There they go again. The Pew Charitable Trusts are notorious for leading a small group of donors in a successful crusade to fool the U.S. Congress into believing Americans were demanding campaign finance “reform.” Now it turns out the Trusts and their friends have spent the last decade pulling a similar scam on Canada’s government.
Specifically, Pew and their posse have underwritten a crusade by Canadian environmentalist nonprofits to obstruct the development of the Great White North’s oil sands resources. That obstruction in turn obstructs the possibility of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would connect Canada’s booming oil production with American refineries, and thereby boost both nations’ GDP, create thousands of new jobs, and reduce America’s dependence on oil from nations that are rather less friendly than Canada.
For details on the campaign finance scam and its transformation into the “net neutrality” scam, you can read my reports for Philanthropy Daily (here and here) and for the Capital Research Center (CRC). Today let’s look at the new study by Brian Seasholes that CRC has published, which lays out the Canada-Keystone pipeline scam.
You should read all of Brian’s thorough essay. Here are some highlights to pique your interest.
First, just as I found far-left critics attacking Pew and Co.’s net neutrality efforts, Seasholes reports that the first critics of U.S. donors’ involvement in Canada’s oil sands debates were left-wing journalists (for example, here).
Second, Pew’s extremely close and munificent relationship with the Tides Foundation looms as prominently in the Canadian story as it did in the net neutrality story, in part no doubt because Tides makes it possible to obscure who is funding whom, as well as to paint a misleading picture of the alleged “broad support” activist groups enjoy.
Third, Pew once again helped set up new nonprofits to wage the campaign of the moment and make it appear more broad-based than in fact it is.
Fourth, the mainstream media again accepted at face value, and parroted, “reports” issued by Pew’s nonprofit subsidiaries, without ever noticing that they were part of a campaign orchestrated by a few big donors pushing an agenda.
Fifth, in the net neutrality and related “media reform” campaigns, Pew and its allies deride “citizen journalists,” aka “bloggers in pajamas,” who tend to oppose left-of-center, top-down ideas. And you can understand this animus, because the massive foreign-donor subsidies, lack of transparency, and potential conflicts of interest in Canadian environmentalism received national criticism thanks largely to one woman, Vivian Krause, a single mom and independent blogger in British Colombia working from home on her “own nickel.”
Krause estimates that major U.S. donors like Pew and Tides have piped around $300 million into Canadian environmentalist groups over the last 12 years, with about $200 million of that going to the oil sands campaign. Only in late 2010 did Krause succeed in bringing national attention to the orchestrated campaign by U.S. donors. Her exposure of the donors led to, among other things, the Canadian government’s decision to withdraw $8.3 million in funding from Tides Canada. That funding would have gone to a western Canadian public-private planning group that has authority over British Colombia’s coastal region, but the government reconsidered when it discovered the group had become the handmaiden of U.S. donors.
And yet – surprise – even as Canadian government dollars were about to be withdrawn, U.S. donors were simultaneously stepping in (primarily the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) to fill that funding gap with $16.6 million in grants, which provided 96 percent of the supposedly independent planning group’s budget.
Krause’s work is “almost wholly responsible,” Seasholes writes, for Canadian government scrutiny of the U.S. donor-environmentalist complex. Krause has testified to Parliament in 2010 and 2012, and her work led eight Canadian Senators to launch the equivalent of a U.S. Congressional hearing into
the interference of foreign foundations in Canada’s domestic affairs and their abuse of Canada’s existing Revenue Canada Charitable status.
This past March, the government put its money where its mouth is by providing $8 million in additional funding for the Canada Revenue Agency “to increase oversight and audits of registered charities, in particular to insure they don’t engage in impermissible political advocacy.”
Amusingly, Krause has also shamed American donors into efforts to cover up their political advocacy. In 2009, for example, the Bullitt Foundation
made a grant to the Dogwood Initiative, a British Columbia pressure group, “to expand an outreach campaign to mobilize urban voters for a federal ban on coastal tankers.” Foreign groups are not supposed to engage in lobbying, which includes advocating specific legislative initiatives like tanker bans. After Krause exposed this grant, Bullitt rewrote the description of it.
The Wilburforce Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund took a simpler approach: “They simply erased from their websites embarrassing information uncovered by Krause.”
Seasholes documents other triumphs of transparency in funding. About $84 million – 42 percent of the roughly $200 million that large U.S. donors have given the Canadian pressure groups for oil sands work – has been cloaked by the use of pass-through funding. About $54 million was passed through Tides Canada Foundation, about $15 million through Tides Foundation (U.S.), and another roughly $15 million through Pew itself, which channeled $13.7 million from the William and Flora Hewlett and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations.
On top of that 84 million dollars’ worth of pass-through funding, Pew made an additional $42.6 million in grants to Ducks Unlimited, which itself passed money along to numerous other groups, including Pew itself:
In March 2009, Pew gave Ducks Unlimited $4.4 million, partly for “consulting contracts with the Boreal Songbird Initiative.”... It turns out the Boreal Songbird Initiative “is a project of the Pew Environment Group.”… In short, Pew gave money to Ducks Unlimited that Ducks Unlimited gave back to Pew.
Seasholes tried to get Pew and Ducks Unlimited to explain this circuitous funding. Ducks Unlimited completely stonewalled Seasholes’ numerous requests, while Pew provided only its usual obfuscation (compare the non-answer that Pew president Rebecca Rimel gave to the Wall Street Journal on net neutrality):
Steve Kallick, Pew’s point person for boreal forest conservation,…did not answer my question about the Pew-Ducks Unlimited relationship and obfuscated the issue further by implying Pew’s role in the International Boreal Conservation Campaign was as an equal member with the other partner organizations. He neglected to mention that Pew founded the Campaign in 2000, employs the Campaign’s Director, Manager, a public relations staffer, and an administrative assistant (himself, Matthew Jacobson, Elyssa Rosen, and Gretchen Tearle, respectively), hosts the Campaign’s website, and identifies the Campaign as “The Pew Environment Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign” on its website. Clearly, the International Boreal Conservation Campaign is Pew’s program.
Seasholes also uncovered what appears to be a blatant conflict of interest. Larry Innes is now a Special Advisor to the Canadian Boreal Initiative, and he served as its Executive Director from 2005 to 2012 (though his bio on the Initiative’s website carefully neglects to mention this fact). As Executive Director, he handed out around $2 million a year to environmental groups and native Canadian tribes (known in Canada as “First Nations”). He also had a job as a partner at the for-profit law firm Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend.
One First Nation that received funding during Innes’ tenure sued Shell Oil in 2011:
A press release announcing the lawsuit stated Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend will provide the Nation’s legal representation and gave as a contact “Larry Innes — Lawyer, Othius Kleer Townshend.” Unless Larry Innes and his firm handled the case pro bono, this raises the possibility of a conflict of interest.
When Seasholes asked Innes whether he was paid to represent the First Nation in this very convenient arrangement, Inner responded that attorney-client privilege prevented him from answering the question!
As Seasholes concludes:
Given the hundreds of millions of dollars U.S. donors have spread around to Canadian First Nations and pressure groups, it is likely other conflicts of interest exist.