A U.S. Senate staff report released on July 30 outlines environmentalist extremists blueprints to attack the American fossil fuel industry funded by billionaire elitists through environmental special-interest groups, charitable funds and propaganda broadcasting networks.

The report alleges super wealthy individuals, or a so-called Billionaire’s Club, finance environmental groups and pay scientists to manufacture studies that support anti-fossil fuel/anti-fracking data sets contradictory to peer reviewed, generally accepted scientific data. 

The report shines light on the anti-fracking movement and answers questions raised by Marty Richman and other concerned local citizens with respect to the funding and resources available to the so-called grassroots organization San Benito Rising, which the group steadfastly refuses to report to the public. 

The entire 92 page report can be viewed here.

The following excerpt  identifies how the Billionaire’s Club funds and supports so-called grassroots organizations.


ii. The Schmidt Family Foundation: Peddling Anti-Fracking Science

The Schmidt Family Foundation, through its 11th Hour Project, is another example of a big foundation funding an echo chamber that promotes its propaganda. Schmidt is based in California, has reported assets of $312,189,881, and gives mostly to organizations focusing on climate change, fracking and other environmental causes. Schmidt’s grant philosophy offers a strong example of prescriptive grantmaking previously discussed in this report. Its website advises: “Please note, all of the Foundation’s grantmaking is now done on a strictly invitational basis and we will not review proposals received either in the mail or to our email inbox. We proactively seek new partnerships based on our program area strategies.”

In 2011, Schmidt made a grant of $50,000 to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C. based environmental research organization, “[t]o support the creation of case study on hydro-fracking in CA.” EWG’s directors include Drummond Pike of Tides (Tides Foundation also funds EWG245) and Laura Turner Seydel of the Turner Foundation. In February 2012, EWG released a report on fracking entitled “California Regulator: See No Fracking, Speak no Fracking.”The study’s Acknowledgments recognized that funding, “was made possible thanks to the generosity of the 11th Hour Foundation, The Park Foundation, the Civil Society Institute and EWG’s community of online supporters” 

The report was mostly reported on by outlets backed by Park and Schmidt. In fact, Mother Jones covered it favorably in a February 29, 2012 story possibly as a direct result of Schmidt’s $225,000.00 donation to Mother Jones in 2012 “To support food & environmental reporting, public affairs outreach.” Schmidt has also donated $850,000 to Grist between 2010 and 2012.251 Its 2012 donation of $300,000 to Grist was “To provide general operating support, environmental news & commentary on the web.” Grist also reported on the EWG study. Accordingly, Schmidt, along with Park, are two examples of foundations using their grant powers to create news on their environmental interests and then spread the news to the public in a manner that supports their views.

b. Activist Groups Provide Billionaire’s Club with Artificial Grassroots Movements

The Committee’s review has uncovered evidence that another service provided to the Billionaire’s Club is the manufacturing of an artificial grassroots movement. “Grassroots” is a commonly used and exploited term by far-left organizations. Webster’s Dictionary defines grassroots as “the ordinary people in a society or organization: the people who do not have a lot of money and power.”254 General characteristics of a grassroots movement include natural, spontaneous and volunteer-based action that originates locally with citizens who unite around a common issue or cause within their community. Environmental groups have misleadingly used the grassroots label to gain credibility among the populace and to hide, among other things, their substantial funding, well-organized structures and powerful influence. In the case studies discussed herein, the movement sprung from the efforts of the Billionaire’s Club, and not from local concern as is the grassroots’ spirit.

Critically, it is not the citizens’ interests that drive the movement; rather it is part of a well-funded national strategy. In these instances, groups represent themselves as local efforts, but the real direction comes from agenda-driven far-left elites hundreds of miles away on the East and West coasts. This section describes ways of achieving the illusion of a grassroots movement, including through a mechanism called a “fiscal sponsor” and by using a secondary foundation to further spread money to activists groups.

i. Fiscal Sponsorships Facilitate Artificial Grassroots Movements to Attack Fracking

In New York and Colorado a pseudo-grassroots effort to attack hydraulic fracturing has germinated from massive amounts of funding by three foundations: Schmidt Family Foundation, Tides Foundation and Park Foundation. Since each of these foundations is believed to be part of the exclusive and nontransparent Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), it is no surprise they coordinated funding schemes to achieve a desired outcome. 

The environmental grassroots movement, sprung from the efforts of the Billionaire’s Club, rather than local concerns, in the grassroots spirit.

In the spirit of secretive billionaire donor fashion, the foundations’ funding was funneled through fiscal sponsors. Funding through these intermediary organizations, such as the Sustainable Markets Foundation (SMF) and Food & Water Watch, create distance between the wealthy foundations and alleged community-based outfits.

The Committee uncovered two parallel funding schemes with the shared goal of replicating environmentalists’ anti-fracking efforts from New York to hot-bed Colorado. In New York, environmentalists have experienced successes on the anti-fracking front as a temporary ban on the practice is currently in place,256 and just last month the New York Court of Appeals upheld two local fracking bans;257 concurrently, the above three private foundations have doled out millions to promote these efforts.

One scheme, led by the New York-based Park Foundation and California-based Schmidt Family Foundation, provides numerous grants to the New York-based SMF, which serves as the fiscal sponsor for multiple New York groups engaged in this effort, including Water Defense, Frack Action and Artists Against Fracking. During 2011, SMF gave $147,750 to Water Defense.The following year, SMF funneled a $150,000 grant “to support Water Defense” from Schmidt. Notably, Water Defense was founded in 2010 by actor Mark Ruffalo, who has an estimated net worth of $20 million and was listed on Time Magazines’ 2011 “People Who Mattered” for his anti-fracking efforts. In 2011, SMF gave Frack Action $324,198, with $150,000 stemming from Schmidt grants to SMF. Ironically, one of the Schmidt grants specified that $100,000 go “to support Frack Action’s grassroots campaign fighting for a ban on horizontal hydraulic fracturing” (emphasis added).

However, the mere funding from the California-based Schmidt demonstrates Frack Action’s campaign is anything but grassroots. In 2012, SMF received $185,000 for Frack Action through grants from Park and Schmidt. While the amount of money funneled to Yoko Ono’s Artists Against Fracking cannot be identified, as SMF’s 2012 IRS Form-990 is unavailable, Artists Against Fracking’s now-removed website directs donations to SMF.

Simultaneously, Park and Schmidt formed a parallel effort, along with the CA-based Tides Foundation, to funnel money to anti-fracking efforts in Colorado through Food & Water Watch.