The Deep Pockets of the ‘Green’ Left
The "green" left is well-funded, but it still paints itself as the plucky grassroots underdog.
New IRS disclosures expose just how well-funded green activism really is.
In 2020 alone, nearly 200 environmentalist nonprofits collectively raked in $3.2 billion from wealthy donors and foundations to push radical climate legislation, fund ideological lawsuits against the oil and gas industry, shut down coal-burning power plants, and train new activists. That figure represents an almost half-a-billion-dollar increase from 2019, when environmentalist groups reported close to $2.7 billion in total revenue.
The massive support for climate activism means that these 200 organizations represent a fraction of the groups pushing for Green New Deal-type policies. For clarity’s sake, my list only includes climate- or environment-focused nonprofits, but virtually every group on the left, from the Center for American Progress to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Planned Parenthood, supports the same “green” ideological platform.
The same goes for eco-activism’s biggest funders—just seven of whom brought in a staggering $1.8 billion in 2020 alone, largely for “green” causes. The ClimateWorks Foundation, for instance, paid out $68 million in 2020 to universities funding anti-oil research and lobbying groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council.
ProPublica reports that another major pass-through to environmental causes, the Energy Foundation, brought in $76 million in 2020. How much did it spend? When this writer attempted to find out, the group’s communications director, Omer Farooque, dragged his feet: “Please rest assured you will receive the 990s within the 30-day window outlined in section 6104(d)(1)(B)” of the Internal Revenue Code, he told me via email.
What is known is that the Energy Foundation bundles grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Rockefeller Foundation, and other left-wing donors to fund “climate-crisis” action. The foundation has close ties to China via its Beijing arm, where it brags about its role in making the communist country the world leader in “carbon neutrality”—even as China rushes to build coal-fired plants at a faster clip than the rest of the world combined.
Many, if not most, of these groups spend heavily to elect Democrats each election cycle. The League of Conservation Voters gave $15 million to its super political-action committee (PAC) arm in the 2019-20 cycle, which spent a whopping $42 million hammering Republicans and boosting Democrats. At least $7 million of that sum came from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, part of a $1.7 billion progressive-funding network run by the consultancy Arabella Advisors.
The Sierra Club, which raised $255 million in 2020 through its various nonprofit and PAC arms, boasts that it helped “defeat nearly $30 billion in dirty fuel infrastructure projects, such as pipelines and export terminals, in just the first half of 2020.” The group’s Beyond Coal campaign has shut down at least 335 power plants, castigating America’s most common energy resource as an “outdated, backward, and dirty 19th-century technology.” It also aims to ban fracking nationwide and permanently block all development on at least 30 percent of the country’s land.
Then there’s the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a $200+ million advocacy machine whose former vice president, Michael Regan, currently heads President Joseph Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency. Since Biden took office, EDF has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Democrats to support 100-percent-renewable-energy mandates, the Build Back Better agenda, and a Republican-introduced carbon tax (the deceptively named MARKET CHOICE Act).
Yet many on the left still cultivate the image that they’re plucky, grassroots activists committed to saving the planet from gas-guzzling polluters and their Big Oil-funded allies. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In 2018, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle published a misleading study that purportedly revealed a 10-to-1 disparity between funding for climate-conscious groups and the skeptics opposing them—producing the claim that skeptics spend $1 billion per year blocking action on global warming. Yet he manufactured that impressive figure by measuring the incomes of broadly right-leaning groups focused on everything from telecom regulation to agriculture and reporting it all as climate-skeptic spending.
A more honest study would demonstrate that global warming activists are some of the best-funded special interests in America.
Virtually every major left-wing foundation—including the Ford, Rockefeller, Hewlett, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations—bankrolls climate activism. They also receive significant support from “clean-energy” champions like ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP, all of which tout their strong support for rapidly transitioning away from so-called fossil fuels and into a “lower-carbon future.”
Countless companies green-wash themselves with vague commitments to “sustainability,” “resilience,” and solving the “climate crisis” by taxing carbon dioxide into oblivion, a cheap public-relations ploy to avoid the wrath of professional climatistas and activist shareholders.
But do Big Oil & Gas companies really support policies that would phase their industry out of existence? ExxonMobil’s chief lobbyist doesn’t think so, revealing late last year to an undercover Greenpeace activist that a carbon tax is “an easy talking point” that “is not going to happen.”
Maybe, or maybe not. What is clear is that the climate machine in Washington, D.C., couldn’t be better-funded, and is dead set on destroying the American economy.
Hayden Ludwig is a senior investigative researcher at the Capital Research Center.