February 23rd, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
If you can’t beat a competitor on simple merits, logic, science, or economics, simply pump hundreds of millions of dollars into disinformation campaigns. Heck, if deceiving the public and corrupting legislators and government officials isn’t a good and honorable practice, what is?
What am I talking about? Today, I’m referring to Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on anti–climate action, anti-solar energy, and anti–wind energy campaigns.
“Promising anonymity to their conservative billionaire patrons, the trusts between them channelled nearly $120m to contrarian thinktanks and activists, wrecking the chances of getting Congress to act on climate change,” Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian writes.
“Now the Guardian can reveal the latest project of the secretive funding network: a campaign to stop state governments moving towards renewable energy.”
With congressional climate action essentially stalled for the next couple years at least (due to highly ideological and anti-science Republicans in the House and Senate), the billionaires (some of which most definitely are in the coal and oil industries) have turned to what seems to be their next biggest threat — wind and solar power growth through other means (e.g. Renewable Energy Standards, feed-in tariffs, solar and wind tax incentives, etc.).
Wind and solar are highly supported by the general public (and, thus, by many of their local, state, and federal representatives), so attacking them outright is a bit difficult. But, as they say, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Complete misinformation regarding wind and solar is pushed over and over and over again by thinktanks, media agencies, and politicians linked to (or even bought by) rich coal and oil industry executives. And it’s rather effective.
Now, we are simply getting a better glimpse of who’s funding much of this (well, the secret agency that is doing so… not the individuals).
Here’s a bit more from Ms. Goldenberg about the recent anti-wind and anti-solar push:
The campaign against wind and solar power was led by a relatively new entity, the Franklin Centre for Government and Public Integrity. The Franklin Centre did not exist before 2009, but it has quickly become a protege of Donors Trust.
The Franklin Centre, headquarters barely one-tenth of a mile away from the nondescript Alexandria, Virginia town home of its funders, received $6.3m from the two funds in 2011. It was the second largest disbursement to any entity by the Donors that year, according to tax records.
The largesse to the Franklin Centre signals a shift in priorities for the conservative billionaires who are funding the anti-climate cause towards local and state-level organising.
The backers of the anti-climate cause have eased off in their support of DC-centric thinktanks, said Whitney Ball, the chief executive and president of Donors Trust. “They are not as prominent any more.”
Instead, it appears the donors are banking on an aggressive anti-climate media strategy, led by the Franklin Centre, to push back against climate action.
In 2011, Donors Trust helped the Franklin Centre expand its media operations to Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, the Centre for Public Integrity reported in an investigation on conservative funding networks.
For more on the Donors Trust and the Franklin Centre, check out the full Guardian article: “Media campaign against windfarms funded by anonymous conservatives.”
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