BOMBSHELL: Rockefeller Family Fund Behind The “Pay Up Climate Polluters” Campaign
- Jan 15, 2020 11:00 am GMT
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In 2017, the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) gave the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) over $1 million to launch an aggressive climate litigation campaign against America’s top energy producers, according to a new Energy In Depth analysis of New York state tax disclosures. IGSD’s Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) is the nexus for lobbying efforts, studies, amicus briefs, events, and social media campaigns aimed at pressuring states and municipalities to sue energy companies for the costs of climate change.
Over the years, RFF has made numerous attempts to conceal their grantees; they have no public grantee database and have failed to post a complete federal tax return, including all donations, since 2013. However, our analysis of New York state tax disclosures reveals RFF’s highly coordinated effort to fund an aggressive climate litigation campaign against energy producers.
The Center for Climate Integrity’s Million Dollar Launch
Before launching CCI in August of 2017, IGSD was receiving just under $4 million in grants annually. RFF’s $1,020,000 grant marked a huge influx of funding to the organization – all earmarked for CCI or the Climate Education & Litigation Project (CCI’s original name). This grant was also RFF’s largest donation to a single organization, excluding other charitable funds, that year.
Since the launch of CCI, IGSD’s grant revenue has more than doubled to nearly $10 million. The organization does not disclose its full list of funders, but a recent investigation by RealClear Investigations revealed that CCI received a $7 million grant from a foreign billionaire in 2018. CCI has dodged questions about its institutional funders when pressed by reporters.
While obscuring its funding, CCI has become the public face of the campaign to sue American energy producers for the costs of climate change. CCI’s aggressive public relations efforts have included billboards, a podcast, social media, events in cities like Boulder and Honolulu to promote climate litigation, and a “study” encouraging public officials to seek damages from energy companies. In addition, the organization hired a lobbyist to arrange meetings between city officials and plaintiffs’ attorneys on climate litigation and submitted an amicus brief in support of an ongoing climate case.
RFF is Directly Funding Litigation, Astroturfing, and Journalism Too
RFF’s grant to IGSD isn’t their only recent contribution to climate litigation. Since 2016, the organization has provided at least $525,0000 to three nonprofit organizations pursuing climate litigation against energy companies – the Conservation Law Foundation, EarthRights International, and the Niskanen Center. Since 2014, RFF has given at least $140,000 to Resource Media, an organization hired by plaintiffs’ firm Sher Edling to provide public affairs and media consulting services for their climate lawsuits against energy producers.
Other notable grants include:
- $430,000 to InsideClimate News and the Columbia School of Journalism between 2015-2016, coinciding with the pair’s “investigative” series into ExxonMobil and launch of the “Exxon Knew” campaign
- $30,000 in 2017 to 350.org, the architect of the #ExxonKnew social media campaign
- $50,000 in 2016 to the Nebraska Easement Action Team “to build a public education campaign to support a state investigation on Exxon’s deception about climate change”
- $10,000 in 2017 to the Sunrise Movement, an organization that distributed a forged press release maligning a Colorado energy company earlier this year.
RFF’s Obsession with Attacking American Energy Companies
RFF’s recent contributions to climate litigation provide additional evidence that the Rockefeller family manufactured and continues to wage a smear campaign against America’s energy producers. RFF and its sister organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, have been backing organizations pursuing climate litigation against energy companies for years. In 2016, the pair even hosted a strategy session at their joint New York headquarters in 2016 to “delegitimize” ExxonMobil and develop a coordinated social media and messaging campaign to damage the company’s reputation. Later that year, David Kaiser and Lee Wasserman, president and director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, released a series of articles to falsely malign the company.
Despite the Rockefellers’ best efforts, ExxonMobil and other energy companies continue to prevail in the courtroom.
In December, New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager highlighted ExxonMobil’s exemplary conduct in his verdict, ruling in favor of the company in their legal battle with the New York attorney general:
“The Office of the Attorney General offered no testimony from any investor who claims to have been misled… What the evidence at trial revealed is that ExxonMobil executives and employees were uniformly committed to rigorously discharging their duties in the most comprehensive and meticulous manner possible.”
In dismissing climate lawsuits brought by San Francisco and Oakland, Judge William Alsup explained that litigation is inappropriate for addressing climate change.
“The dangers raised in the complaints are very real. But those dangers are worldwide. Their causes are worldwide. The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case.”
For all their talk about solving climate change, perhaps the Rockefellers should invest their millions into climate solutions, rather than politically-motivated campaigns that do nothing to further climate progress.
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