A House Divided: Rockefellers in Family Feud Over #ExxonKnew
Rockefeller family members are beginning to speak out against the #ExxonKnew campaign, revealing a sharp divide within the family about the political targeting of oil and natural gas producer ExxonMobil. It’s also a devastating blow to the campaign, which has been flailing for some time.
On a segment that just aired this morning on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose, Ariana Rockefeller said she disapproves of the #ExxonKnew crusade and a number of other anti-fossil fuel efforts. She told CBS:
“These family funds do not speak on behalf of all 200 family members.”
“I don’t think denouncing a family legacy is the best way to go about doing this.”
Ariana Rockefeller’s appearance on CBS comes just days after the New York Times reported her strong criticism of the Rockefeller Family Fund’s anti-Exxon campaign. She called it “deeply misguided” and “counterproductive to our goal of protecting the environment by undermining Exxon’s ongoing good work in clean and renewable energy.”
Background on Rockefellers: $4 Billion vs. $1 Billion
The divide within the family is notable because two foundations that carry the Rockefeller name have almost entirely bankrolled the #ExxonKnew campaign. These foundations – the Rockefeller Family Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund – have paid for so-called investigative journalism, the development of the legal strategy used by a group of liberal state attorneys general, and political activism from anti-fossil groups.
Most news outlets to date, however, have incorrectly assumed the entire Rockefeller family unanimously supports the #ExxonKnew campaign. In reality, just two of the smaller, more left wing Rockefeller foundations are actually behind the campaign. These foundations, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund ($885 million in assets) and the Rockefeller Family Fund ($103 million in assets), are well known funders of anti-fossil fuel crusades against the Keystone XL pipeline and large funding of anti-fossil fuel organizations like 350.org.
Meanwhile, the Rockefeller Foundation, which was founded by John D. Rockefeller himself in 1913, totals over $4.1 billion in assets in 2015. It continues to be a major philanthropic organization. And Ariana Rockefeller’s father, David Rockefeller Jr., is a trustee of the foundation and until recently was its chairman, too.
Not the First Time the Rift Revealed
This is not the first time the divide in the family has been exposed between the Rockefeller Foundation and the separate anti-fossil fuel Rockefeller funds. RBF claimed it would divest from fossil fuels in 2014, while RFF said it would do the same in March, 2016. But as The Guardian reported, “the much wealthier Rockefeller Foundation, whose endowment tops $4bn, is understood to be opposed to divestment for now.”
RFF and RFB Stepping in the Spotlight as #ExxonKnew Campaign Folds
The public rift in the family over #ExxonKnew comes as RFF and RFB race to revive a failed campaign. After spending millions of dollars promoting it, RFF and RFB felt forced to step up their roll to garner more media coverage. Yet these efforts will ultimately prove as successful as every other #ExxonKnew endeavor.
With even members of the Rockefeller family now voicing the criticism of the campaign publically, now is the time for the campaign to finally end.
Remember: The Rockefellers who are funding the #ExxonKnew campaign are a minority within the Rockefeller family. They can’t even convince their own relatives – the people who know them best – that the #ExxonKnew crusade is justified.
The rest of the Rockefeller family has had enough of this debacle and now they are going public with their disapproval. It’s hard to imagine how much worse things can get for the #ExxonKnew campaign. Likewise, it’s hard to see how much longer it can continue after so many embarrassing failures.