Appalachian Basin

Secret Offshore Financing Behind Natural Gas Opposition

The Washington Free Beacon published a story today that caught our attention. The story was an investigative report about dark money coming through mysterious Bermuda off-shore accounts to finance the anti-gas Sierra Club.  The report also details how several major environmental organizations rake in the dough through these maze-like channels.  It’s no secret, of course, that wealthy foundations such as Tides routinely launder money from individuals and organizations who don’t want their names directly attached to what they fund.  The Free Beacon report, though, provided some clues that allowed for some additional investigation. We learned not only how the Sierra Club gets its funding, but also how several other natural gas opponents get their “green” too.

The report centers around the Sea Change Foundation, which distributed more than $100 million the last two fiscal years to various special interest groups.  It is headquartered in San Francisco, but gets major chunks of its funding from a Bermuda firm called Klein Ltd. that is connected to some hedge funds.  What is interesting is not only the sheer amount of money involved, but also the way it has been distributed.  A review of 990 returns for 2010 and 2011 (August 1, 2010 through July 31, 2012) reveals the following donations, among many others:

Secret Offshore Financing post (8.2.13)

Of note: The San Francisco-based Energy Foundation is a pass-through entity, as is obvious from its donations to many of the same environmental special interest groups:

Secret Offshore Financing post_2(8.2.13)

Combining the two related sources of financing yields the following breakdown of funding to some of the most vocal of opponents to natural gas development in the world:

Secret Offshore Financing post_3(8.2.13)

The bulk of this money comes through the Simons family and its connections.  They have run the largest and most successful hedge fund in the world and pioneered the secretive world of “black box trading.”  Their hedge funds are sources of earnings for these foundations, much of the money being funneled through Klein Ltd. – about which very little is known because it is one of those shadowy off-shore operations specifically designed to obscure who’s really behind things.

It’s not hard to see the connections here, however.  The Rockefeller Family Fund is actually a recipient of money from the Energy Foundation, and many of the special interests funded have also been special pets of the Rockefeller family, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the League of Conservation Voters, which together received over $22.5 million in just two years.

Other recipients of this dark money include the Sierra Club ($10 million), the Wilderness Society ($8 million) and the World Wildlife Fund (active in European opposition to natural gas – nearly $5 million).  There is also the Sustainable Market Foundation, a Rockefeller creation behind so many of the supposedly “grass roots” groups fighting natural gas in New York.  And, of course, there is the Clean Air Council.  This isn’t all, though, because money funneled to Tides and similar entities also finds its way back to these same groups.

Contrast this reality with those myriad stories about oil and gas industry lobbying expenditures.  The money thrown around by the natural gas opposition is nothing less than humongous.  Moreover, it doesn’t have to be labeled as “lobbying” because the funds are supposedly going to charity.  Combine this with the fact that much of it is dark money that comes from all sorts of special interests we can’t even specifically identify and you get the picture.

What all this illustrates is pretty straightforward: there is nothing “grass roots” about opponents of responsible shale development.  It’s driven by the same handful of the super-rich, operating under different names and facades, manipulating things (and all of us) in a vain attempt to create a perfect world…for themselves.

Meanwhile, upstate New Yorkers (and many others) who are hoping to achieve a bit of economic revival in their communities with proven-safe natural gas development try to fight back against this dark money juggernaut.

It’s past time for additional public scrutiny on these groups. The livelihoods of too many people are being jeopardized, and we all deserve to know why.


  • John Naylor
    Posted at 15:22h, 02 August Reply

    Fascinating story Tim. It would be really interesting to find out what the targeted ends of this “dark money” is. What kind of world domination do you think these multi-millionaires have in mind, in constraining land-owners in some of the poorest counties in Upstate New York? It’s got to be pretty bad stuff, if they are going to throw the kind of money around when gas and oil are so hampered by regulation and taxation.
    Thank God that the Supreme Court reached the decision they did in Citizens United, giving corporations the same protections and rights as individuals,;otherwise developers and the pro drilling and fracking citizenry and companies and corporations might not be able to withstand the efforts of the New York City and Hollywood elite.
    Keep up the good fight, your voice shows us whose side developers and gas companies are really on.
    Have a great weekend,

  • Robert Jason
    Posted at 10:43h, 03 August Reply

    Good article. Chairty used to mean giving to help others. Today, charity is not quite giving to help oneself. It is ‘not quite giving’ since the ‘gift’ is designed to allow the use of wealth without having to pay taxes on it. Accumulated wealth is power. Under present tax laws, wealth is ‘donated’ but the control of the power is not. Until donors are prohibited from using the power of thier wealth they should continue to pay taxes on the money. Then we’d really see how philanthropic they really are.

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