The PennFuture Insurgency; The Empire at Work

PennFuture - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW


PennFuture has wormed its way into the heart of Pennsylvania government. It’s the voice of Pennsylvania’s aristocracy – the biggest of special interests.

No further proof is needed of the undue influence of big money on fracking politics than the PennFuture insurgency. PennFuture is the trade name for Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, an off-shoot of the National Wildlife Federation these days. It is a phony grass roots organization financed by Pennsylvania’s super wealthy and other aristocrats. It’s one of the many faces of the Heinz Endowments, the William Penn Foundation, and the Energy Foundation; major fractivist funders all, and it has assumed significant control of Pennsylvania government.

PennFuture has placed three of its executives at the top of Pennsylvania government under Tom Wolf. Cindy Dunn, its most recent Executive Director is designated to become Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). John Quigley, its legislative/lobbying guy is slated for Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). John Hanger, its former Executive Director (and a form DEP Secretary under the Rendell administration) is the Governor’s Secretary of Planning and Policy, whatever that is in the world of Orwellian government newspeak. PennFuture has, for all practical purposes, actually been put in charge of the Pennsylvania’s future, but who is the organization, really?


The Empire’s Environmental Triumvirate from Penn Future (l-r Hanger, Dunn, Quigley)

The Commonwealth Foundation has examined that question a couple of times and discovered, to no surprise on our end, that PennFuture is simply the public face of Pennsylvania’s aristocracy. These wealthy special interests have it in mind to write off the future of many Pennsylvanians as they pursue their own “strategic parkification” objectives. That term comes from Vivian Krause, the great Canadian journalist who has used it to describe how America’s wealthiest aristocrats are exercising undue influence over the levers of government everywhere to wrestle land away from others and create their own utopian kingdom. PennFuture is the embodiment of that strategy.

Who is PennFuture? Well, it is another example of wealthy special interests masquerading as charities. It is a 501(c)3 corporation created, in popular mythology, by John Hanger. It was actually incorporated on January 9, 1998 by Carol Soltes, a paralegal at the Pittsburgh law firm of Reed Smith who was, obviously, a stand-in. It was originally known as the Pennsylvania Conservation Center with an address at Huntingdon Farm, in Alexandria, Pennsylvania.

Huntingdon Farm is located in Central Pennsylvania and is owned by R. John Dawes, who was one of the original directors of the non-profit, continuing in that role for many years as Chairman, in fact. He is currently the Executive Director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania’s Watersheds and President of the FracTracker Alliance (funded by the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation). He is also on the board of the Environmental Integrity Project where he serves with Rockefeller and NY-PIRG lackey Larry Shapiro (it’s always the same people in different guises, isn’t it?) and is closely aligned, in particular, with the Heinz Endowments. He consulted with that entity for many years on environmental grant-making and took a great deal of money from it for his various pet causes.

That gives us a pretty good idea who was behind PennFuture from the outset. It, in fact, acknowledges creation by Heinz on its website and is a proxy for the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation to this day.

The latter, of course, is the Rockefeller partner in a Delaware River basin land grab and the simultaneous funder of the Delaware Riverkeeper and the Delaware River Basin Commission being sued, disrupted and co-opted by that same Riverkeeper. The William Penn Foundation is one of the more duplicitous fractivist funders and some people are starting to notice as rats leaves the ship.  A recent assessment of the foundation makes for eye-opening reading. First, though, you need get past the superfluous platitudes and euphemisms used to soften information regarding the organization’s lack of transparency, its fraudulent funding of “grass-roots” fractivism and its  diversion from its own poverty fighting mission into very “white” environmental causes.

PennFuture is simply another arm of the William Penn Foundation. It plays the same role with the Heinz Endowments. An analysis of its funding streams over the years (from IRS 990 returns) reveals the following:

PennFuturePennFuture and its funders tend to operate on different fiscal years, so it’s difficult to isolate funding by year, but it’s clear who PennFuture really is: the Heinz Endowments, with a big assist from the William Penn Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trust and the nefarious Energy Foundation. These four have contributed a combined 63% of the Penn Future budget for the years covered by the table, with dues (the only “grass roots” funding) amounting to a mere 1%. The remainder came from other foundations, program service revenue and, worst of all, government grants, as the Commonwealth Foundation has documented. The organization uses government money to influence government policy and get more government money.

The Heinz Endowments has, from the very beginning in 1998 through fiscal year 2014, given a total of $12,745,000 or more to PennFuture, including a $300,000 grant at the outset, which was matched an equal grant from the Pew Charitable Trust and a smaller one from something called the PA Environmental Resource Center. Heinz and Pew threw another $2 million at it 1999 and the rest is history. Pew seems out of the picture now, but just Heinz, William Penn and the Energy Foundation fund over half the PennFuture budget and Heinz just gave PennFuture another $1,135,000 in 2014.  Here are some of the fractivist organizations funded by each:

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.18 PMBear in mind who these groups are. EarthJustice was one of John Quigley’s direct or indirect clients in fighting the Marc-1 Pipeline, not to mention being in the forefront of multiple legal attacks on natural gas development.

The Clean Air Council is likewise engaged in various legal and procedure challenges to virtually every natural gas compressor station proposed in Pennsylvania and some outside the Commonwealth.

Dawes’ Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds is a funding pass-through for the Heinz Endowments to financially support the bogus Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (which speaks to what it’s all about and it’s not human health).

The Civil Society Institute is Pam Solo’s vehicle for fleecing the rich, making herself rich and financing her son’s shoe venture.

The Open Space Institute is the Rockefeller front group for their’s and the William Penn Foundation’s land grab.

These are the entities now proposing to run Pennsylvania’s entire environmental program. They are an aristocratic empire – the top 1% of the ruling class – and they’re on the verge of completely co-opting our government in Pennsylvania. Let’s hope some of our elected representatives are paying attention and cut the legs out from under this coup.

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7 thoughts on “The PennFuture Insurgency; The Empire at Work

  1. This is a very inaccurate description of Penn Future and is very offensive to some of us who have been able to work very effectively with several executives and staff of Penn Future. This type of commentary only misleads your followers and distorts future efforts to work with all grass roots type organizations.

    • Sorry you see it that way, Phil. The record is clear is far as I can see (including their comments at a recent pipeline hearing I attended and their participation in certain absolutely baseless lawsuits, not to mention their atrocious funding sources) but I’m open to being convinced otherwise. If you’d like to write a rebuttal, I’m open to it. They are not anything close to grass-roots by the way, which was the point.

  2. I am finding the behavior of environmental groups quite problematic when it comes to this issue and this has been profoundly disappointing to me. I know that I am not alone in that either. I think people don’t like that you are exposing one of the problems which is that there is too much overlapping between groups. And you know that I fundamentally disagree with many people on this site when it comes to the science of climate change and other issues.

    To quote the person commenting here in a letter on the Port Ambrose project I also “resent this dishonesty in the name of environmentalism.”:!documentDetail;D=USCG-2013-0363-1410

    My personal take is that these groups want to play everything from every angle. They seem to think they are above criticism because they believe their intentions are good. They are misleading the public. Somehow Queens NYPIRG showed Susan Van Dolsen and Betta Broad’s profoundly misleading video about the rockaway pipeline project and port ambrose to college students and no one in the environmental world has a problem with that? It is absurd.

  3. Pingback: A Major Defeat for PennFuture and the EmpireNatural Gas Now

  4. Tom: It would be a travesty if you don’t get this to a lawmaker somewhere in PA that can delve into this. Attorney general perhaps or are they too on the take or a plant from these super – rich vultures?

  5. Pingback: Cindy Dunn Was for Natural Gas Before She Was Against ItNatural Gas Now

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