StateImpactPA, funded by Pennsylvania’s gentry class fractivists, is shilling for a fractivist lobbying group that diverts attention by…attacking lobbying.
Nothing is more predictable in fractivist journalism than the regular reports from Common Cause, a fractivist lobbying group funded by other fractivist lobbying groups, attacking lobbying by the oil and gas industry. It’s the phoniest schtick around and StateImpactPA just as predictably spreads it around, essentially serving as the PR outlet for Common Cause. The latest example of this shilling is this report from StateImpactPA hyping an “analysis” claiming “Pennsylvania’s gas drillers…spent $55.9 million on lobbying since 2007.” while ignoring the lobbying of fractivist groups such as itself and not even bothering to get the opinion of anyone with a different perspective.
Lobbying, as we’ve explained here many times, is more than sending a representative into the halls of legislatures to collar public officials and ask for votes; it’s also propagandizing for and against legislation at the grass-roots level and it’s generally, though not completely, prohibited by non-profit 501(c)3 charitable tax-exempt organizations. A 501(c)4 political organization can engage in such lobbying but donations to it are taxable.
StateImpactPA is funded by two 501(c)3 corporations; the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation, which are, by all appearances, two of the biggest abusers of these rules, both being engaged in funding multiple attack dog groups such as theClean Air Council, the Delaware Povertykeeper (a/k/a Riverkeeper) and PennFuture. They engage in all sorts of grass roots lobbying and, seemingly, exist for few other purposes, but they get away with it by using lowball estimates of lobbying expenditures on their 990 IRS returns so they fall under prescribed thresholds.
The William Penn Foundation is also the funder of a group known as NEO Philanthropy, Inc., and that group funds the Common Cause Education Fund, which is the charity side of Common Cause. There is also the political side, which is the 501(c)4 organization known simply as Common Cause, its goal being to “ensure open, honest, accountable, and effective government at the Federal, state and local levels through sustained and focused lobbying campaigns…” Common Cause, in other words, is a lobby group and it’s indirectly funded by the same folks who pay for StateImpactPA.
What’s most interesting, though, is this; while Common Cause extols the virtues of transparency and puts out drivel condemning others for lobbying in plain view, it hides its own by using one of its twin organizations to collect tax-exempt donations and pay salaries while the other does the political dirty work using the same employees, guided by the same board of directors. Common Cause had expenses of $6.4 million for the year ending June 30, 2015 and the Common Cause Education Fund spent $7.1 million for the same period, but $6.1 million of those expenses were shared internal transactions, meaning the two entities are, for all practical purposes, one entity twisting the IRS rules into a pretzel. If there’s any “open, honest, accountable” aspect to Common Cause, it’s very well hidden.
Similar relationships exist with other fractivist groups, the Energy Foundation being a funder of the Public Citizen Foundation that, in turn, funds Common Cause. Public Citizen, Foundation, readers will recall, supplied radical fractivist Vera Scroggins (who gets slavish attention from StateImpactPA) with attorneys and is, too, funded by the Park Foundation, the king of fractivist funders. Public Citizen, of course, is a Ralph Nader organization set up to help develop business for trial lawyers and it hatched Food and Water Watch, another radical fractivist enterprise.
Public Citizen also worked with the Energy Foundation, the Sierra Club, the Rockefeller Family Fund and the NRDC gang to craft the fraudulent Environmental Integrity Project. The Energy Foundation is, of course, funded by the Sea Change Foundation, the dark money fractivist funder (more here) and, to top it off, Rob Weissman, the President of Public Citizen (which also does the IRS film flam using two organizations) was part of the La Jolla Junta behind the current effort to gin up a RICO case around global warming; a shot across the industry’s bow that has boomeranged back on the fractivists and, ironically, is the perfect illustration of what a RICO conspiracy really is.
On and on it goes, one conflicted relationship after another and Common Cause’s funders in the middle of it, pulling the same stunts everywhere and over and over again with the aid of their comrades at Public Citizen, the William Penn Foundation and StateImpactPA. It is all one huge labyrinth of hidden incestuous relationships, so precisely opposite of all they claim they’re about.
Given that background, one can hardly take the StateImpactPA report seriously, but, unfortunately, many do because there’s no one among conventional media types to report the other side. The “Marcellus Money” analysis is nothing but an assembly of fragmentary one-sided data (over almost a decade, no less) to make it appear the industry is getting what it wants through lobbying the accusers, by their own admission, do themselves.
The “analysis” consists of a spreadsheet tallying the lobbying expenditures of 42 industry organizations, which totaled slightly less than $2 million for the most recent quarter reported (4th Quarter, 2015). There is utterly no data to put this in perspective by comparing the expenditures to other industries and nothing reported regarding Common Cause’s own expenditures which, as noted above, were $6.1 million, all of which arguably qualifies as lobbying by virtue of its 501(c)4 designation, plus another $42,350 on the 501(c)3 side. Add in just the Delaware Riverkeeper, Clean Air Council and PennFuture expenditures, which may be fairly described as non-stop grassroots lobbying, despite whatever they report on their 990 returns, and you have a figure several times that of the industry.
That’s the real story here and it’s one of unending abuse of the tax-exempt rules. It’s made worse by the fact StateImpactPA is, effectively, a sister organization of these groups. It is a major scandal but one that will never see the light of day because those we trust to uncover the facts ignore them instead. It’s a travesty of immense proportions; a story waiting for some honest investigative journaist to expose, someone with more integrity than StateImpactPA.