#ExxonKnew Groups Revert to Botched IRS Targeting Scheme
In a sign of just how bad it has become for the #ExxonKnew campaign, anti-fossil fuel activists are reverting back to their old playbook of using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to silence organizations they disagree with. Remember how well that worked last time?
Today, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause announced that they are filing a case with the IRS because “ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are running an illegal scheme to promote the oil giant’s climate denial policies and legislative agenda in violation of U.S. tax law governing charitable organizations.”
It will come as no surprise that the same wealthy foundations that fund #ExxonKnew also fund CMD and Common Cause. Their website shows they received big checks from the Marisla Foundation, Open Society Institute (connected to George Soros), Park Foundation, V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, Rockefeller Family Foundation, Tides Foundation and the Wallace Global Fund – all of which bankrolled the #ExxonKnew campaign.
Nor is this CMD’s and Common Cause’s first rodeo targeting ALEC. CMD has an entire section of its website devoted to “ALEC Exposed,” and as National Review reported, “Common Cause has chosen as a prime target the American Legislative Exchange Council.”
It’s not their first attempt to stifle free speech, either. CMD openly supported the IRS going after “political non-profits” – read: conservative and free-market groups they disagree with – and jumped to the defense of the John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner who has been accused of continuing the agency’s illegal targeting of conservative organizations.
Back in 2013, CMD, which is based in Madison, Wisc., pushed hard for a “John Doe” investigation of the Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative groups, alleging improper coordination between those groups and Scott Walker during his recall campaign. That controversial investigation included raiding private homes and other speech-chilling activities. A state court later ruled the investigation unconstitutional in the summer of 2015, and the state investigative body was dissolved by the legislature due to its partisan activities. The investigator also had to settle a lawsuit from the Club for Growth, in which it was allowed to claim no wrongdoing.
Against that backdrop, let’s have a look at some of the outrageous claims made by CMD and Common Cause, followed by the facts.
Claim: “ALEC has been a key asset in Exxon’s multi-billion dollar campaign to push a dangerous climate-denial agenda.”
FACT: It is laughable that activists cry foul at the $1.7 million ExxonMobil gave to ALEC over a span of 15 years.
Meanwhile, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund alone has funded groups involved in the #ExxonKnew campaign to the tune of $9.3 million since 2008 — that’s five times more money in about half as much time. The Grantham Foundation, one of the funders of the infamous 2012 La Jolla conference that started the anti-Exxon campaign, just announced a $1.5 million grant to InsideClimate News, the organization that “broke” the #ExxonKnew story last year and which also has ties to the Rockefellers. That single grant is comparable to Exxon’s payments to ALEC over a decade and a half.
There is no comparison between the sum of ExxonMobil’s donations to specific groups and the millions of dollars being spent by environmental activists on the other side.
Claim: “Exxon has used ALEC as a key asset in its explicit campaign to sow uncertainty about climate science, undermine international climate treaties and block legislation to reduce emissions.”
FACT: This is simply a rehash of the debunked #ExxonKnew claims. The report suggests that Exxon’s money was why these treaties and legislation failed, but CMD and Common Cause leave out the fact that the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly rejected the Kyoto Protocol, voting 95-0 for a resolution against it. So strong and bipartisan was the opposition that President Clinton never even formally submitted it to the Senate to be ratified. James Hansen, one of the most prominent climate scientists, also said at the time that the Kyoto Protocol “will have little effect” on global temperatures in the 21st century.
Moreover, the report fails to note that President Obama enjoyed filibuster-proof majorities in the House and Senate in his first term, and yet the cap-and-trade bill still failed miserably. Even Greenpeace opposed the bill in 2009.
In opposing the Kyoto treaty and cap-and-trade, Exxon and ALEC were simply agreeing with a major climate scientist, the majority of Democrats in the Senate, and even President Clinton. Instead of adopting an unworkable policy (the EU’s is ineffective and Australia’s was scrapped shortly after it passed), Exxon advocated for a different policy: namely, a carbon tax.
Claim: “Exxon is America’s largest natural gas producer and an aggressive proponent of the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ to extract previously untapped natural gas reserves.”
FACT: This is deeply ironic, considering that without adopting the Kyoto treaty or cap-and-trade legislation, the United States is the only country in the world that has managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
That’s because companies like ExxonMobil have produced record amounts of natural gas, which has allowed the United States to convert power plants to this clean burning fuel. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) put it well when he explained, “We’ve been improving our emissions in this county without agreeing to the Kyoto accords, without Congressional action because of innovation form the natural gas area.”
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) further explained in its Fifth Assessment Report,
“[T]he rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal-drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply…is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.”
ExxonMobil is the top natural gas producer in the United States. If these groups’ goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, why are they demonizing the fuel that’s making that possible – unless this campaign is actually about something other than climate?
Claim: “ALEC…carried on activity designed to influence legislation concerning the [Keystone XL] pipeline.”
FACT: ALEC’s support for the Keystone XL pipeline is hardly surprising, especially given the overwhelming bipartisan backing for the project. In fact, a Pew poll revealed that support for Keystone XL is “almost universal.”
In 2014, the State Department released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the Keystone XL pipeline, which found that the project would have a negligible impact on the environment. President Obama ultimately chose to listen to wealthy anti-fossil fuel donor Tom Steyer over his own State Department. This decision has very little to do with ALEC and Exxon.
Claim: “Exxon has vigorously opposed federal efforts to regulate carbon pollution from power plants, including the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.”
FACT: Again, Exxon supports a carbon tax, and has publicly done so for years. It is willfully dishonest to suggest that an entity’s support for a different policy to address greenhouse gas emissions is the same thing as “vigorously opposing federal efforts.”
To bring this full circle, this latest push by activists to have the IRS prosecute groups with which they disagree comes as news that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a leader in the #ExxonKnew campaign, had previously called on the IRS and Department of Justice to bring criminal charges against Tea Party groups.
Columnist Kim Strassel said best in the Wall Street Journal,
“The first thing to know about the crusade against Exxon by state attorneys general is that it isn’t about the law. The second thing to know is that it isn’t even about Exxon. What these liberal prosecutors really want is to shut down a universe of their most-hated ideological opponents.” (emphasis added)