The Sustainable Markets Foundation Wheel of Fortune
The Sustainable Markets Foundation is behind much of the supposedly organic opposition to natural gas development in upstate New York and is using money from the Park Foundation and the Rockefellers to fund the effort with management and coordinative help from Walter Hang.
Why would a non-profit organization spending $4 million per year to “promote environmental protection, energy efficiency, consumer protection, health and safety and good government” not have a website? How can an institution with such a broad mission reach people in our high-tech world where social media is king not have an internet presence? It’s strange, indeed, but that is the stated purpose of a group called the Sustainable Markets Foundation and, yet, it has no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter account or much of anything else in the way of a media presence. How can this be? Could it have another purpose? And, what about that strange name?
The only time one really hears much about the Sustainable Markets Foundation, is when it’s name shows up on the donation pages of various causes and enterprises in these sorts of statements:
Makes checks payable to: Sustainable Markets Foundation (write GAS FREE SENECA on check memo line)
Please direct that checks be made out to Sustainable Markets Foundation, with “Flowback Project” in the note field, mailed c/o The Flowback, 3364 State Route 12, Clinton, New York 13323.
Make checks Payable to: Sustainable Markets Foundation, 45 W. 36th st. 6th floor, suit 1600 New York N.Y. 10018, *In Memo Write: Frack Free Genesee
To donate by check, please make the check payable to our 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor “Sustainable Markets Foundation,” with Frack Action Fund in the memo. Mail checks to: Sustainable Markets Foundation at 45 West 36th Street, 6th Floor, New York, New York 10018-7635.
To make a tax-deductible donation, please make your check or money order out to “Sustainable Markets Foundation”, with “CPNY” in the memo field, and send by postal mail to: Coalition to Protect New York, PO Box 302, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
The Sustainable Markets Foundation, as one can see from this list, is a 501(c)3 charity for rent, otherwise known as a “fiscal sponsor.” Entities such as this typically charges a fee of 3-8% for acting as a pass-through funding mechanism to allow other unincorporated groups to get the benefits of tax-exemption for donations without the costs of being tax-exempt themselves (incorporating, registering with the IRS, filing annual 990 returns, etc.) or the burden of telling the world how their money is spent, as is the case with a 501(c)3 itself.
Theoretically, the fiscal sponsor assumes all the responsibilities of reporting activities for the groups it serves as a pass-through but there are several loopholes. Grants of $5,000 or less don’t have to be reported, for example, and, therefore, an unincorporated group that passes along money third-hand doesn’t have to tell anyone what it did with the money or even much about itself. The tax-exempt money flows in and out with little way to know who’s involved, their agendas or their special interests. A large donor can, using this technique, funnel money to very amorphous groups with virtually no accountability. The Tides Foundation, for example, which is closely connected with NRDC and the Heinz Endowments, is a master at doing this.
We can’t be sure how much of this the Sustainable Markets Foundation is doing because their 990 return for 2010 indicates no program service revenue, which is where one would expect to find their fiscal sponsor charge revenue. We do know they are collecting and funneling money to a wide variety of supposedly grass roots organizations attacking economic development and the livelihoods of ordinary New Yorkers from across the upstate region. The list tells us that much.
The Sustainable Markets Foundation itself is funded by the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Park Foundation and the Energy Foundation, for example. The Park Foundation gave it $200,000 in 2012, in four separate grants. One was for the benefit of Frack Action ($60,000), and another funded Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (that’s Tony Ingraffea’s group) for $40,000. Still another $100,000 was spent on two grants to “help coordinate the broad movement of opposition to shale gas drilling in New York” and “continued Marcellus Shale-related activities in New York, including research, advocacy, media outreach, internet mapping, and a grassroots organizing campaign.”
Particularly interesting, is the fact all these groups are intertwined. The NRDC receives money from the Rockefellers. The Rockefeller Family Fund gets money from the Energy Foundation, which also gives to the NRDC. The Park Foundation funds the NRDC and everyone on the planet fighting natural gas development. And, so it goes, like a big spinning Wheel of Fortune; where it lands no one knows but it’s the same relatively few elitist institutions all the time, just landing different places with every spin.
The Sustainable Markets Foundation wheel of fortune also stopped spinning at the name of Walter Hang. We discussed this in earlier posts when we noted Walter’s business, Toxic Targeting, had been the recipient of some large fees from the foundation. We also explained his connection to Ralph Nader and the whole world of Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), which are rainmakers for trial lawyers and where Jay Halfon of the Sustainable Markets Foundation reigns as king of the hill. We did not realize the extent to which Walter Hang has been funded by this group until we did a review of further records of the foundation. Take a look at these excerpts from their 990 returns:
The 2011 return has yet to be filed, but the 2008-2010 returns indicated Walter Hang’s firm received $781,250 from the Sustainable Markets Foundation. This is apparently what he meant when we appeared together last year on a Baruch College panel discussing hydraulic fracturing and he casually announced he had been funded by the Rockefellers when he started his business. Yes, he was very well funded indeed and you don’t get three quarters of a million dollars from the Rockefellers for nothing. Walter’s work in producing easily debunked studies of supposed DEC failures, his petition drives, his interviews with Amy Goodman, his public speaking, his rallies, his databases, his New York Times contributions and his appearances on television as an expert have all apparently been financed by the Rockefellers, the Parks and their ilk with a little help from his trial lawyers friends in the PIRG world.
This follows the pattern, of course. Sandra Steingraber has been financed by the Heinz Endowments and the combination of that entity, the Park Foundation, the Rockefellers and a few other very wealthy elites (not to mention Yoko Ono) who have financed every bit of the campaign against natural gas development in New York State. They are the crème de la crème of NIMBYs, a special class all onto themselves who portray one another as crusaders for holy causes with the support of a collection of trust funders who view the residents of the areas they want to protect as poor rubes.
The Sustainable Markets Foundation is one of their tools in this campaign. It takes money from the Park Foundation and the Rockefellers and effectively launders it, passing it out to unincorporated groups with little to no accountability to the public that exempts it from taxation. It then hires Walter Hang to provide project management and coordination. Simultaneously, affiliated groups such as the NRDC, also a Rockefeller stepchild, coordinate their activities with it and insert themselves into the heart of policymaking at the highest levels. They don’t need a website or any social media because their mission is to manipulate others into acting on their behalf.
One only needs to follow the money. The Park and Rockefeller families are trying to keep natural gas development out of certain parts of New York State, the parts where they are busy doing their own thing; the Finger Lakes and the Catskills. The NRDC and its own stepchildren, the Open Space Institute and the Catskill Mountainkeeper, are essentially Rockefeller entities. They are controlled by the same folks who have created a private preserve of tens of thousands of acres for themselves in the Lew Beach area of Delaware, Sullivan and Ulster Counties, where there are virtually no permanent residents but they do have a country store where you can buy a Patagonia rain jacket for $269.
These folks would love to keep expanding this private preserve for their own private enjoyment (and with government money where they can) without the interference of natural gas development and the higher land prices and reluctance to sell that it would bring. They’re not interested in the sustainability of anything but their own way of life at the top, and the less rabble around the better, from their perspective. The wheel of fortune stopped at their names long ago and they are determined to stop it from spinning for anyone but themselves. That’s what they mean by a “sustainable market.”