A Lesson in How NGOs Are Plotting to Steal Our Future

NGOs - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


The world of NGOs is one of desiring ever more control over government, the wealth of peoples and the land.  The William Penn Foundation provides a lesson. 

Lex Luthor, readers will recall, was the power-hungry business magnate of immense wealth who served as Superman’s foil in all those comics and movies. The power craving madman of wealth has been a staple for movies of all sorts, in fact. The fictional figures also have their counterparts in the writings of conspiracy theorists who like to suppose the Koch brothers or George Soros are sealed away in some castle frantically pulling the levers of some machine to take out enemies on the left or right until they finally have control of the whole world.

The truth is a much more nuanced, as trendy folks like to say. It’s not evil madmen who threaten civil society but non-governmental organization or NGOs. These NGOs have become the tool by which wealthy elitists and their progeny attempt to reshape the world. There is a great example in the William Penn Foundation.

NGOs consist of foundations and advocacy groups who, through the leverage of huge supplies of wealth, insert themselves into issues as “stakeholders.” The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a prime example.  Built on Rockefeller wealth, it is $250 million enterprise, tied to hundreds of other organizations and interests, that uses environmental protection as a weapon to pursue its NIMBY agenda for the Catskills and perfection everywhere else.  And, perfection is what NOGs are all about. Kenneth Minogue, in The Servile Mind, made this observation about these great pretenders:

NGOs have flourished, and they dispose of large cash resources, some of which is provided by governments themselves. They constitute a standing pressure group devoted to political-moral causes. Economies are suspect as being animated by profit and greed, and states by the interests of their people.  In the world of concerned voluntary bodies, however, perfectionism finds an agent much closer to its own ideals. These are bodies that generally respond to any governmental donative or proposal about (for example) environmental self-restraint with the cry: “Not enough! More! More!” They are just perfect, and perfectionists want to entrench them in world bodies as a recognized voice in world affairs.

Thus do these NGOs work their way into and eventually replace elected government. Their claim to stakeholder status is fraudulent, as revealed by their failure to recognize and real stakeholders who might have a different opinion (e.g., landowners and job-hunters).  They aren’t stakeholders but stake-seekers and they employ the term in the search for perfection as a mechanism for intervention in, and ultimately control over, decision-making by landowners and governments.  They plot to replace the voices of both in the public debate and substitute their own utopian vision without regard to the property or votes of any others.

NGOs - Example

The William Penn Foundation is a perfect illustration of this phenomena. We’ve already told the story of how the organization is simultaneously funding the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and the organization that sues and conducts public filibusters against it, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.  The fact the DRBC puts the Riverkeeper on five of its seven committees and turns its eyes from such obvious conflicts is attributable to its own sellout to the William Penn Foundation.  How any of the representatives of the five governments that make up the Commission could stand for such abuse of the system is a lesson in how NGOs corrupt governments and proceed to steal our rights. Worse, it’s all according to plan.

Before you say “there he goes again” you need to take a look at this document from 2011. It’s the Google archive copy of a web page that originally appeared on the William Penn Foundation website, but was taken down for what are obvious reasons given subsequent activities of the group. It is self-described as follows:

In October 2009, ConservationStrategy LLC was hired by the William Penn Foundation to advise us on the development of a cohesive water policy agenda and a strategy for change in our bi-state region of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This engagement included an analysis of water policy issues and stakeholders in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and a review of other funders’ approaches to water policy issues and resulted in the report “Recommendations for Developing a Focused Water Policy Agenda.

The archived copy notes the web page is excerpted from the referenced report. It also reveals exactly what the William Penn Foundation is up to and how its funding strategy is part of a much bigger effort to turn the DRBC into a legal powerhouse, under its direction, with the ability to confiscate the development rights of upper basin landowners.  Read the whole thing and then it read again, putting aside all the environmental protection buzzwords and you’ll see what I mean, starting with this  (emphasis added):

The special and nationally significant ecological attributes of the Delaware River basin are appreciated by a knowledgeable few [individuals interviewed by ConservationStrategy],¨ but there does not appear to be a significant regional identity associated with the River to underpin an effective constituency for national, regional, state and local policies to protect it. The experience in other regions suggests that such an identity can be cultivated among targeted constituencies in a way that mobilizes support for specific, desired policy outcomes. Moreover, despite this lack of identity¨ the watershed has a planning and governance infrastructure – with the Delaware River Basin Commission¨ Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area, portions designated as a National Wild & Scenic River, and the Delaware Bay National Estuary Program – that offer a regional-scale¨ cross-jurisdictional decisional framework within which to address key issues.

Who are “the knowledgeable few,” the elite, who seek to plan our future and establish “governance” over us through the DRBC and National Park Service Scenic River programs?  Well, that’s made clear a little earlier when it’s noted “the interviewees included former and current federal, state and local government officials national and state leaders of environmental groups and foundation staff from regionally oriented water resources-focused funders from around the US.” You’ll observe this includes no one representing economic interests, landowners or anyone else outside the tight-knit environmental funding community and we can sure the government officials were all from the Philadelphia region.  Nonetheless, they intend to manufacture a facade of public support for a DRBC that uses its full “potential as a legal authority” to be a “change agent” and, by that, they mean stopping change, of course.

The Foundation’s plan, as laid out in this document from 2011, is being followed to the letter.  Their recent conference, ”Accelerating Action: The Delaware River Watershed Forum,” was an attempt to kickstart a campaign recommended two years ago with this language  (emphasis added):

The development of a campaign strategy for an integrated Delaware River program should include a focus on the potential role of the Delaware River Basin Commission and ways in which to develop a more effective constituency that monitors its work, participates in its decision-making processes, encourages it to become more of a change agent, and works to assure the member states and federal agencies take DRBC seriously and provide adequate support.

The conference was followed up by a weasel-worded news release sent throughout the basin, including the upper reaches, and dutifully reported by naive local media as an innocent attempt to protect the river through cooperative action. That dishonest representation is belied by the plan the William Penn Foundation is implementing, however, particularly as it relates to something called the Common Waters Partnership.

Common Waters is a loosely organized group of local and regional environmental advocates put together by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation (Pike County), which is funded by the William Penn Foundation (their muddy footprints are everywhere). The Foundation report cites it “as an effective example of a way to build such a ‘bottoms-up constituency’ for DRBC that would allow it to more effectively use its ‘top-down regulatory authority.’” It doesn’t get much more blatant than this. Common Waters is a Potemkin Village program designed to create a hollow constituency of people supposedly desiring the DRBC take more control over their lives.  As Minogue said, the NGOs scream “More! More!” but, in this case, they’re trying to make the world believe the screams are coming from the mouths of those whose interests would be most hurt by more.

NGOs potemkin-village

A Potemkin Village – What “Common Waters” Is for the William Penn Foundation

The Foundation goes on to state “This constituency will be especially important in light of the challenges faced by DRBC in addressing flood management issues and water issues related to Marcellus shale development.” That it opposes Marcellus Shale development is hardly a surprise, given everything else it funds (NRDC, American Rivers, Delaware Riverkeeper, et al), but here are more candid revelations from their report that should raise some eyebrows (emphasis added):

Environmental threats constitute opportunities for constituency recruitment, organizing and mobilizing. Organizing and communications efforts on Marcellus shale development are needed to “bring it down river” in terms of the potential impacts on Philadelphia’s drinking water supply. Given the potential impacts on New York City’s drinking water, a campaign organized around New York and Philadelphia as “anchor cities” was suggested by a statewide environmental leader.

However, a focus on federal regulatory exemptions and statewide policies should not occur at the expense of a Delaware River-focused organizing effort. For example, the DRBC has significant regulatory authority with respect to designated “special protection” or “high value” waters. The way in which DRBC asserts this and other authorities with respect to Marcellus shale development could well be critical to its pace and environmental consequences…

Environmental leaders expressed concern about the degree to which industry promoters are well-funded, organized and are mounting an effective – albeit one-sided – communications campaign. For example, a pro-industry coalition with a full-time president based in Harrisburg has been formed that includes service industries and existing trade associations. An experienced former environmental official expressed concern about the “intense pressure” being exerted on the Pennsylvania DEP and the Delaware River and Susquehanna River basin commissions by industry proponents through their legislative allies. Unless there is a strategy “to empower people” to counteract these pressures, this official fears that “Pennsylvania’s water resources will be sacrificed in the salutary interest of producing natural gas.”

These statements reveal a staggering cynicism on the part of the William Penn Foundation and the disturbing political reality of how NGOs operate. They explicitly grab onto issues such as Marcellus Shale development for their value as hyperbole in activating true believers to support what are much broader power grabs.  Empowering people is a motivational slogan for the masses, but a strategy in quotes for an NGO only interested in perfecting them.

One can only laugh at the suggestion industry is dominating a one-sided communication campaign on natural gas development; this coming from a foundation with $4.37 billion of assets at the end of 2011 according to its 990 return and one that is busy funding both regulators and the fractivists who filibuster them. A perusal of Google search results for “fracking” also reveals three paid listings at the top; all from anti-fracking groups, including Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, a pseudo-science outfit funded by the William Penn Foundation’s partner in fighting fracking–the Heinz Endowments.

NGOs - Example Re: Fracking

Then, there is admission the Foundation wants the DRBC to use Special Protection Waters designations as weapons against natural gas development. That won’t work, gas companies having already proven that such designations have little or no impact on there ability to drill, but it would have devastating consequences on other development, which, of course, is the point.  The William Penn Foundation eagerly desires to halt all development north of Trenton using its patsies, the DRBC and the Delaware Riverkeeper, as fronts in the campaign.  Like its partner, the Open Space Institute (one of the many faces of the Rockefeller family), it wants to reserve the upper basin as a playground for wealthy New York and Philadelphia squires.

The plan to accomplish this, with the help of blind followers in the environmental movement and cooperators among the state agencies who theoretically govern the DRBC but are little more than puppets, includes not only manipulation of existing entities and abuse of existing laws and regulations, but also whole new ones.  The report includes these astounding paragraphs (emphasis added):

Current discussions about potential federal legislation to create a Delaware River program and the emergence of a new national “America’s Great Waters Coalition” offer a unique convergence of events and an important opportunity to position the Delaware River as equal in importance to ecosystems such as the Chesapeake Bay,¨ the Everglades,¨ Mississippi River,¨ Great Lakes,¨ Long Island Sound and Puget Sound. With support from William Penn Foundation, the Northeast-Midwest Institute and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have completed the research and initial feasibility assessment for federal legislation establishing a national Delaware River program. Based on a series of “listening sessions” held last summer in the region, these groups identified a set of priority issues¨ including protection of riparian areas, protection of forested areas that are critical to water quality, potential impacts of Marcellus shale natural gas production and toxic pollution in the River’s lower reaches and in Delaware Bay.

As a result of these sessions, Northeast-Midwest Institute and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have concluded there exists a distinct opportunity to rally the region around federal legislation creating a new “umbrella federal program” for a collaborative landscape-level approach to Delaware River basin protection. Working with the congressional co-chairs of the Delaware Task Force and with federal agency officials, Northeast-Midwest Institute has produced draft legislation. It would give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service primary responsibility for a new federal Delaware River program of “landscape-level cooperative conservation” modeled after the Service’s successful “waterfowl joint ventures.” Now that draft legislation has been prepared¨ outreach to critical stakeholder groups is about to begin.

This makes everything clear; the William Penn Foundation, with the acquiescence of individuals like Carol Collier at the DRBC is engaged in a campaign to take over land use regulation (euphemistically described as “landscape level cooperative conservation”) throughout the basin so it can restore the entire upper basin to forest. That’s what they mean when they say “Working Together to Restore the Delaware River Watershed.”  NGOs - MoreThey’re not talking about remedying downstream pollution problems; they’re referring to waters already recognized as high quality, where forest cover is already increasing, and they want to empty it of people, or commoners at least, so they have more playground to enjoy.  They want “More!, More!” just as Minogue described all NGOs.

They’re talking about our land, our opportunities and our futures and it’s all one gigantic land grab they’re trying to make under the guise of a faux environmentalism and ginned up battle over natural gas development.  This is how NGOs operate, not for the common good, but the special interests of their wealthy patrons. Their proposal for Federal legislation would empower them to further manipulate the system to their benefit by introducing new ways to halt development of any kind. Meanwhile, they plan to turn Scenic River, future Blueways (more on that another time) and Special Protections Waters designations into tools of opportunity destruction to slow things down in the interim.

The worst part is this; they plan to do it all in our names by calling themselves stakeholders and suggesting they speak for us.  They have no intentions, of course, as recognizing us as stakeholders, since we’re but the indigenous occupiers of the land they so desperately want, but they’ll represent to others that they represent us and for the only too willing government officials eager to please downstream voters that will be enough.  It’s the sad reality of fighting the pervasive and destructive influence of NGOs on our daily lives, and a pitiful commentary on the evolution of our republic, but there is good news.  Despite their billions of dollars, their powerful connections and their ways, NGOs are unable to stand the light of day and that’s what this story is about.  It doesn’t take Superman to defeat them, just us.

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3 thoughts on “A Lesson in How NGOs Are Plotting to Steal Our Future

  1. Pingback: Beneath the Surface, the DRBC Conspires to Deny Landowner Rights

  2. Tom: Superb article. I find it amusing that these groups propagandize fracking as being a threat to NYC and water in general while at the same time turn a blind eye to the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant just 38 miles up the Hudson from the city. If this plant went into meltdown, it would make the worst fracking disaster look like child’s play.

  3. Pingback: Why Is Pennsylvania Still in the DRBC? Time to Starve the Beast.

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