Partisan Environmental Groups Senate Floor Statement by U.S. Sen. James M. Inhofe(R-Okla)

October 4, 2004

Mr./Madam President, I rise today to shed some light on a subject that is very important to me in my oversight duties as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Earlier this year, the Environment and Public Works Committee held an oversight hearing where the Committee heard testimony from the General Accounting Office and the EPA Inspector General regarding a ten year history of numerous problems with the management of grant dollars at the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of the problems included EPA not requiring grant recipients to demonstrate real environmental benefits from grants, EPA not requiring competition in its grant awards, and a general lack of oversight of EPA grant officers and recipients. In fact, the EPA Inspector General released an audit only two days before the hearing finding that a particular non-profit grantee had violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act with nearly $5 million of EPA grant funding.

Over the last few months my staff has done considerable research into EPA grants management and has confirmed many of these problems and also found that EPA has a long history of awarding grant dollars without competition to some well-known non-profit environmental groups that regularly engage in political activity. My staff has compiled some of these findings in this thirty page Report to the Chairman. I ask unanimous consent to have this report inserted into the record at the conclusion of my remarks.

In examining how the environmental groups receive and spend their federal funds, it quickly became apparent that these groups receive funding from numerous sources including large foundations. With these organizations' political and grass-roots efforts it quickly became difficult differentiating the sources of their funds and how they spend them. Therefore I instructed my staff to examine the funding and expenditures records of these organizations which has resulted in a second report, which is the focus of my remarks today. My staff has compiled this information into a fifteen page Report for the Chairman to provide some preliminary examples describing five of the most widely politically active environmental groups, adescription of their activity, the foundations that provide the financial support for those groups, and the interconnected web among all those organizations. At this time, I ask unanimous consent to have the report inserted to the record at the conclusion of my remarks.

Interestingly, these environmental groups are all tax-exempt IRS registered 501(c)(3) charitable organizations meaning that contributions to these groups are tax deductible. (CHART 1). These groups profess to be the greatest stewards of the environment and solicit contributions from a variety of sources by that claim. But they demonstrate more interest in hyping apocalyptic environmental scenarios to raise money for raw political purposes rather than working together to improve our environment for the benefit of all Americans. All these non-profit groups are also closely associated and fund their affiliated 501(c)(4) lobbying organizations and 527 political organizations. This report could not be more timely, as the Washington Post as recently as September 27, 2004 published an article demonstrating that IRS 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), and 527 organizations are all engaged in political activity this election cycle with expenditures designed to circumvent the prohibitions in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, otherwise known as McCain-Feingold. The article quoted a former Federal Election Commission official stating,

"In the wake of the ban on party-raised soft money, evidence is mounting that money is slithering through on other routes as organizations maintain various accounts, tripping over each other, shifting money between 501(c)(3)'s, (c)(4)'s, and 527's.... It's big money"

Why is this important? For one, because our environment is important to all of us. Despite what you may hear from these groups in their attack advertisements against President Bush and Republican candidates across the nation; our air is cleaner, water more drinkable, and our forests are becoming healthier. For instance, over the last thirty years, we've cut air pollution in half. Why then are some extremists spending millions upon millions of dollars to hijack the conservation movement? To me it seems that it is more important to the leadership of these groups to turn their once laudable movement into a political machine by sending out their partisan snake-oil salesmen and misleading the American public regarding their purely politically partisan agenda under the guise of environmental protection.

Our nation's father of conservation, President Teddy Roosevelt, said, "To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase it's usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed."

Those words ring true today but unfortunately it is clear to me that the environmentalist movement is deaf to them. What we find now is the fleecing of the American public's pocketbooks by the environmental movement for their political use. What we find now is exhausting litigation, instigation of false claims, misleading science, and scare tactics to fool Americans into believing disastrous environmental scenarios that are untrue.

Now place close attention to the webs and incestuous activity of these environmental groups and their financial benefactors. Environmental organizations have become experts at duplicitous activity, skirting laws up to the edge of illegality, and burying their political activities under the guise of non-profit environmental improvement. This chart demonstrates this interconnected "enviro family affair" of non-profits and their benefactors. (CHART 2). As you can see, the six organizations at the bottom of this chart are all either 527 groups or political 501(c)(4)'s.

Let me begin with the League of Conservation Voters. The LCV is an IRS registered 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions to the LCV's 501(c)(3) organization are tax deductible. However, contributors should understand that LCV is a political organization affiliated with a 501(c)(4) organization, a political action committee, and a 527 organization. LCV calls itself "the political voice of the national environmental movement," and much of its grants from even its 501(c)(3) organization go to fund voter mobilization and education drives. In each election cycle LCV endorses congressional candidates and since 1996 has published a "Dirty Dozen" list. The LCV brags that its Dirty Dozen list has been very effective, but the LCV mostly singles out only Republican candidates.

Mr./Madam President, let me provide some examples. So far this year, the LCV has released a Dirty Dozen list of eight Congressional candidates, seven Republican and one Democrat. For the first time ever, it includes the President and Vice President. And I cannot forget the LCV has, of course, endorsed the junior senator from Massachusetts for President - the earliest endorsement of a Presidential contender in its thirty-four year history.

The LCV's 527 organization last reported to have raised over $3.3 million in the 2004 election cycle. (CHART 3). It has also joined with Environment2004, another 527 political organization directed by former Clinton Administration EPA staffers purchasing air time to run ads against the President. Interestingly, Mr./Madam President, not all candidates appreciate LCV's help. I recently read where the senior senator from South Dakota requested that the LCV not air advertisements in the South Dakota Senate contest this year and even characterized outside organization advertisements as "often too negative, too personal, and lack any real substance."

However, LCV has a long history of political involvement. (CHART 4). In 1996, the LCV spent a total of $1.5 million dollars in ads trying to defeat its Dirty Dozen list targets of eleven Republicans and one Democrat. In 1998, the LCV spent $2.3 million targeting its Dirty Dozen list of twelve Republican candidates and one Democrat candidate. In 2000, the LCV spent a total of $4 million again targeting eleven Republicans and one Democrat on its Dirty Dozen list. And I can't forget, in 2000 the LCV also endorsed Al Gore for President.

In 2002, the LCV again targeted eleven Republican congressional candidates and one Democrat. Mr./Madam President, I think we see a partisan pattern developing. LCV spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in congressional contests against Republican candidates. However, the strongest effort seems to have been focused on my friend, Senator Allard. The LCV claims to have budgeted a total of $700,000 for that race and hired a campaign staff of twelve to coordinate phone banks and precinct walks in addition to running television and radio advertisements. Altogether, the LCV is reported to have spent $1,449,951 in independent expenditures during the 2002 election cycle. Of that total amount, LCV spent $1,313,041 benefitting Democrat candidates while only spending $136,910 for Republican candidates.

Another example, is the Sierra Club (CHART 5). It describes itself as "America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization." Sierra Club is also an IRS registered tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation. The Sierra Club Foundation is closely affiliated with its Sierra Club 501(c)(4) and section 527 political organization. In fact the Washington Post detailed the interconnected organizations of the Sierra Club in an article it featured last Monday. This is what the Post printed:

"Perhaps no one better illustrates the host of interlocking roles than Carl Pope, one of the most influential operatives on the Democratic side in the 2004 election. As executive director of the Sierra Club, a major 501c (4) environmental lobby, Pope also controls the Sierra Club Voter Education Fund, a 527. The Voter Education Fund 527 has raised $3.4 million this election cycle, with $2.4 million of that amount coming from the Sierra Club. A third group, the Sierra Club PAC, has since 1980 given $3.9 million to Democratic candidates and $173,602 to GOP candidates."

The Sierra Club is consistently critical of the Bush environmental record and sometimes others as well. The Sierra Club even accused me of trying to raise the levels of mercury pollution. The Sierra Club's 527 political organization reports to have raised over $6.8 million for the 2004 election cycle alone with a goal of over $8 million by the end of the month.

Like the LCV, the Sierra Club has a history of involvement in politics. In the 2000 Presidential contest, the Sierra Club spent several hundred thousand dollars in advertisements attacking President Bush, and in the 2002 election cycle, the Sierra Club Sierra Club endorsed 184 Democrat incumbents and challengers and endorsed 10 Republican candidates.

Mr./Madam President, not surprisingly, the Sierra Club is heavily involved in the 2004 political cycle. The Sierra Club began spending early in the 2004 Presidential contest and has made a series of endorsements this year. Of course, Sierra Club has endorsed the junior senator from Massachusetts for President, and it has endorsed sixteen Democrat Senate incumbents and challengers and no Republican candidates. In races for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Sierra Club has endorsed one hundred fourteen Democrat incumbents and challengers and has endorsed seven Republican candidates.

And let me use just one more example briefly, Mr./Madam President, - the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC also an IRS registered tax exempt non-profit 501(c)(3) receiving $55 million in tax deductible contributions in this last year running bogus ads like this one (CHART 6) claiming President Bush is rolling back a mercury regulation that NEVER EXISTED. The truth is that President Bush's Clear Skies legislative proposal which I support, is the biggest emission reduction plan ever proposed by an American President. Over 14 years, it would reduce emissions from power plants of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury emissions from power plants by 70 percent. Let's be sure and understand that the NRDC deliberately lied in this ad because you cannot roll-back standards that do not exist.

NRDC is affiliated with the NRDC Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization and the Environmental Accountability Fund, its section 527 political organization. The NRDC describes itself as "the nation's most effective environmental action organization," and has a long history of political activity. (CHART 7). NRDC has joined this year with LCV and the Sierra Club to air television and radio ads and hiring campaign staffs to work against President Bush in several states including New Mexico, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada. Overall, the Environmental Accountability Fund, NRDC's 527 organization last reported to have raised nearly $1 million in the 2004 election cycle.

Well that's three of the culprits. The report outlines two others in depth; Greenpeace and Environmental Defense and shows similar patterns of partisan fund-raising and spending. Like this Greenpeace ad that equates President Bush's conservation policies to the Texas chainsaw massacre. (CHART 8). A disgusting comparison, especially considering that historic healthy forest legislation was proposed and passed by this Administration. It's sad that many of these groups would rather watch our forests burn and our watersheds become destroyed rather than employ 21st Century forest management technology to improve forest health. But misleading and scaring the American public during a presidential election year I guess is more important to them than true forest health.

501(c)(3)'s, 504 (c)(4)'s, PAC's, 527 political organizations - its all in a tangled web. (USE CHART 2 AGAIN). Millions upon millions of dollars going for partisan political activity while these groups attempt to maintain a non-partisan cloak and justification that they are helping our environment. But these funds do not just come from scared mothers furiously writing checks because these groups have lied and told them that eating fish will kill their children. Our research has found that MUCH of the funding from these groups comes from independent "foundations" and "trusts" which also claim to be non-partisan.

Let's take a look now at some of these nonpartisan institutions and how their money finds its way into this intricately growing web.

The Heinz foundations are a few of the largest contributors to these non-profit environmental organizations, and, of course, Ms. Teresa Heinz Kerry is either chairperson of the board of trustees or member of the board of trustees on each foundation. In fact, Ms. Heinz Kerry is the head of the $1.2 billion Heinz Foundation endowment. Since 1998, these foundations have contributed nearly $3 million to the Sierra Club, the LCV, the NRDC, and Environmental Defense. Each foundation is also a large contributor to the Tides Center and Tides Foundation contributing over $6 million since 1998. The Tides organization has in turn also contributed over $1.4 million to the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the NRDC over the same period.

Another major supporter is the Turner Foundation founded in 1990 by Ted Turner who is Chairman of the Foundation Board of Trustees. The Turner Foundation sponsors the work of its special projects which includes the Partnership Project comprised of twenty national environmental groups. Since 1998, the Turner Foundation has contributed over $6.4 million to the Partnership Project. Individually, the Turner Foundation has contributed more than $20 million to the LCV since 1998, over $2.6 million to the NRDC, over $1 million to the Sierra Club, and nearly $2 million to Environmental Defense, Earthjustice, and Greenpeace.

Finally another large supporter is the Pew Charitable Trusts which claims it is "an independent non-profit serving to inform the public on key issues." Two of Pew's environmental priorities include global warming and wilderness protection.

Pew has contributed $17.4 million to Clear the Air Campaign since 1999 with which it publishes materials like this (CHART 9)claiming, the Bush plan means more pollution. Again, another impossible a lie because you cannot roll-back mercury standards that do not exist. Perhaps wilderness protection is where Pew shows its true colors (CHART 10) as it has joined with the Heritage Forests Campaign, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club, in a campaign characterizing the President's conservation policies as "Crazy George's National Forest Give-a-way." Once again -- silly scare ads like this. For them it's truly about politics – not better forest management. (USE CHART 2 AGAIN).

We should be more scared of this tangled web of political financing and the fact that there is no way to tell where tax payer funded grants and private dollars cross, where advocacy funding and political funding intermingle, and if environmental groups really spend ANY money on actually improving the environment.

Since 1998, Pew has contributed several million dollars to various environmental organizations. These contributions have included nearly $18 million to Earthjustice, over $3 million to NRDC, and over $3.7 million to Environmental Defense. Pew has also contributed $32.6 million to the Tides Center and Foundation over the same period. The Tides organization has contributed over $1.4 million to the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the NRDC, among others since 1998.

Mr./Madam President, this does not even represent all the political involvement of environmental extremists. These groups have established an unquestionable record of partisanship and demonstrate a slithering flow of money among themselves and from their financial benefactors.

Today's environmental groups are simply Democrat political machines with millions of dollars in contributions and expenditures each year for the purpose of raising more money to pursue their agenda. Especially in this election year, the American voter should see these groups and their many affiliate organizations as they are - the newest insidious conspiracy of political action committees and perhaps the newest multi-million dollar manipulation of federal election laws.

Mr./Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.