The Sea Change Foundation is the epitome of corporatism and corruption as it uses tax-exempt charity status to fund its rent-seeking and attack competitors.
Politico is anything but an unbiased observer; hence its hyperbolic headlines and ledes but it does put out a lot of facts and if you’re patient enough to read beyond the 10th paragraph you often find them. A story the other day about the Sea Change Foundation and the possible role of the Russians in funding fractivism is no exception. There is headline suggesting the whole thing is nothing more than an attempt to conjure up a scandal, followed by the facts indicating there is almost certainly is one requiring investigation.
You have to read the whole thing and when you do, it’s not just the Russians but the deeply ingrained corporatism and corruption that is our tax-exemption system today.
We’ve written about the Sea Change Foundation, the Simons family behind it, their hedge-fund renewables investment and their dark money connections many times (here and here, for example). Nat Simons (who is the Sea Change Foundation) and his father, Jim Simons, are total corporatists, rent-seekers who farm the government for subsidies, favors and restrictions on their competitors. Like Tom Steyer, they make a great pretense of being folks who just care about climate-change, while pursuing special advantages for their corporate renewables investments and schemes.
The recent Politico story tends to confirm this with a Sierra Club quote about how they somehow know it’s not Russian money they’re getting but, rather, money from a private U.S. donor:
“We have confirmed that the origin of these funds is a private U.S. donor who cares about climate change and has invested in the work the Sierra Club does to tackle the climate crisis and advance the clean energy economy — not from Russia,” she said.
Just exactly how they know where Bermudian company Klein, Ltd. (the suspected conduit for Russian money) got the money it gave to the Sea Change Foundation that it, in turn, gave to the Sierra Club is never explained. Assuming it’s true, though, reveals exactly why the entire arrangement is simply wrong. Nobody, not Russians or U.S. donors, should be able to use a foreign entity to hide who they are when they get tax-exemption courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
If this U.S. donor wanted to donate money to the Sea Change Foundation for supposedly charitable purposes, they should donate directly and not be able to pass the money through a foreign outfit that is not required to disclose its major donors to the IRS, which would be the case if the money went directly to the Sea Change Foundation. That the money was routed so circuitously doesn’t pass the smell test for legitimacy. It’s a tacit admission that something must be hidden; that there’s corporatism and corruption behind the curtain, not so much in the way of cares about climate change.
Moreover, we’re not told what the Sierra Club spokesperson meant by “these funds.” Was she referring to Klein, Ltd. donations to Sea Change Foundation, which took place during a previous fiscal year? Or, was she referring to donors during the most recent fiscal year, which consisted of four major contributors, all of whom were Nat Simons operating as different entities?
If the latter, as seems likely, was the case, then her statement is technically true for the latest year but avoids the real issue of who Klein, Ltd. really represented when they made their earlier donations. Politico, unsurprisingly, apparently didn’t bother to check the 990 returns itself, even though they’re available free to anyone with a computer and a Guidestar password. Instead, they predictably took the word of the Sierra Club.
There’s also another item in the Politico story that’s quite revealing:
…a Sea Change spokesperson said none of its donations to environmental groups were earmarked for opposition to fracking.
This falls into the “how stupid do you think we are?” category and the answer is that the Sea Change Foundation and/or Politico think its readers are dumber than proverbial boxes of rocks. The Sea Change Foundation may not tell us anything about itself on its website (talk about dark!) but it does have to file 990 returns with the IRS and those tell us several things.
They tell us, first, of all, that the Energy Foundation is essentially an appendage of the Sea Change Foundation having received 45% of the latter’s “charitable” contributions during their latest fiscal year filing for the year ended July 31, 2016. Groups such as the Sierra Club, in fact, pull down Sea Change money in two ways; once directly and a second time indirectly. Read our 2015 post for examples.
There’s also the fact the Sea Change Foundation is a private foundation, meaning it is legally not permitted to do any direct or grassroots lobbying. Earmarking donations for “opposition to fracking” would, therefore, be an admission the organization was almost certainly involved in trying to influence legislation, which is why the Sea Change Foundation, of course, lists the purpose of every single contribution it makes as follows:
“Mitigate Climate Change”
It would be hard to develop a more meaningless description, which, obviously, is the intention. But, what exactly do the NRDC and Sierra Club, two recipients of Sea Change Foundation largesse, do to mitigate climate change? How is that they lower temperatures or help people to adapt? That’s what mitigate means, after all, doesn’t it?
They do precisely nothing, of course, other than oppose such things as fracking, which has done more to reduce carbon emissions than any single other measure taken by anyone. “Mitigate climate change,” is pure obfuscation; language to obscure the political activity and corporatism of the Simons family (and perhaps some Russians as well).
That political activity takes the form of very direct advocacy in the case of the NRDC and Sierra Club and more indirect activity in the case of the Energy Foundation, for example.
The Energy Foundation, in its latest 990 return, uses the same sort of mush for words to hide its political work. It ells us much of it is simply intended “to support education and outreach to build a clean energy future.” That is what it says it was doing in funding the Clean Air Council run by trust-funder type Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., who serves as its Executive Director and Chief Counsel. The Council has employed serial protestors such as Sam Koplinka-Loehr to disrupt DRBC meetings and carry on with some very radical political doings and fractivism such as depicted here:
The Energy Foundation also funds Vote Solar, an overtly political group, the Clean Air Task Force, which is nothing but a propaganda machine and the Earth Island Institute, which serves to funnel money down to wholly radical fractivist groups such as Energy Justice Summer. Then, there are the standard fractivist outlets such as EarthJustice, Earthworks, Environment America and the Sustainable Markets Foundation, which got $925,000 to fund Fractivist Rasputin Jay Halfon and lend support to the extremist Beyond Extreme Energy.
This is how it all works as the Simons family, heavily invested in corrupt corporate solar tricks, throws money at one tax-exempt private foundation, which is no more than them and them alone, to give to another foundation that gives it to another, that gives to still another and so on. It is rampant abuse of the tax-exemption system for what are crony corporatist purposes. It continues and gets worse by the day because the IRS keeps letting them get away with it.
What starts out as “mitigate climate change” ends up funding fractivist disruptions of meetings, unruly fractivist protests and fractivist politics everywhere the eye can see. It’s all kill the competition and line the pockets of those hoping to swell and then catch a wave of government favors and subsidies for their own protected politically correct investments; all well hidden and disguised as noble environmental purposes.
This is the sort of thing that has been destroying America. It is deep-seated corruption at the hands of a plutocracy that manipulates and exploits everyone using tax-exemption as the grease to make the contraption work for them.
The Russians, who may or may not be part of this particular scam, once, when they operated as Soviets, claimed it was capitalism that would sell them the rope to hang us. That didn’t work out so well for them.
Still, they were correct to a point, as greed is certainly the underlying factor and overriding threat, but this is anything but true capitalism. Rather, it’s plain old cronyism, corporatism and corruption, the sort that brought the Soviet empire and most other empires down and will bring us down, too, if we don’t clean up this tax-exemption mess and end the abuse. It’s also the sort of thing Politico on which will never report, of course. They’re part of the propaganda machine, too.