Inhofe Assails Activists as 'Democratic Machines'

Friday, 26 Sep 2008 04:14 PM

By Phil Brennan

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“Campaigns to ‘save the cuddly animals’ or ‘protect the ancient forests’ are really disguised efforts to raise money for Democratic political campaigns,” Sen. James Inhofe alleged during a speech on the Senate floor Thursday.

The Oklahoma Republican quoted a new investigative report saying, “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 nonprofit environmental improvement.”

The report, “Political Activity of Environmental Groups and their Supporting Foundations,” updates a similar probe of environmental group funding Inhofe released in 2004.

Inhofe cited an ad displayed on the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Web site, noting, “This is LCV’s standard text used to raise money for the nonprofit organization. In turn, LCV takes these donations, given to ‘save the environment,’ and uses them to fund ads for Democratic candidates such as Ben Lujan from New Mexico.”

The LCV “disguises itself as an environmental group dedicated to saving the environment, yet, as shown by this political ad, it is simply an extension of the Democratic political party,” he said.

“What we find now is the fleecing of the American public's pocketbooks by the environmental movement for their political gain. We also find exhausting litigation, instigation of false claims, misleading science, and scare tactics to fool Americans into believing disastrous environmental scenarios that are untrue.”

Especially during an election year, voters should see such groups and their affiliates as “the newest insidious conspiracy of political action committees and perhaps the newest multi-million dollar manipulation of federal election laws,” Inhofe said.

“As an American citizen concerned about our environment and our country, I’m dismayed and saddened by this deception. If these groups actually used the hundreds of millions of dollars they raise for actual environmental improvement, just think how many whales and forests we could save. These wolves should be seen for what they really are: massive democratic political machines, disguised as environmental causes.”

The situation “reminds me of an old saying: Beware of wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing,” he said.

The League of Conservation Voters “ has a long history of direct involvement in political campaigns,” he said, noting that:

  • In 1996, it spent $1.5 million on ads focused on defeating its Dirty Dozen targets of 11 Republican candidates and one Democrat.

  • In 1998, it spent $2.3 million targeting its Dirty Dozen, this time including 12 Republicans and one Democrat.

  • In 2000, it spent a total of $4 million, again targeting 11 Republicans and one Democrat on its Dirty Dozen list. And also endorsed Al Gore for president.

    The “LCV is certainly not the only wolf out there,” he said, citing other environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, which he contended “has a similar record of trickery,” such as:

  • Sierra Club 501(c) organizations brought in more than $110 million and spent nearly $104 million in 2006. The Sierra Club 527, the Sierra Club Voter Education Fund, brought in only $60,000 but managed to spend nearly $1 million.

    “Similar to LCV, the Sierra Club has a history of endorsing candidates for political office,” Inhofe said, adding that it recently announced its support of Sen. Obama’s presidential bid.

    When the study was completed, Sierra Club had announced support for 13 candidates for U.S. Senate seats, the report said. None of the 13 was Republicans. The organization had announced endorsements of 156 House candidates, only four of whom are Republicans, the report said.

    “Essentially, 98 percent of Sierra Club’s endorsements favor Democrat candidates,” the report said.

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council, a 501(c)(3) organization that also is affiliated with a 501(c)(4) organization, the NRDC Action Fund, and a 527 organization, the Environmental Accountability Fund, “claims to be the ‘nation's most effective environmental action group’,” at protecting the Earth, people, and plants, the report said. The council claims to use grass-roots efforts, and legal and scientific expertise to achieve its goals, which it contends are independent.

    “By having at least one of each category of tax-exempt organizations, these groups can transfer wealth throughout their family of organizations and remain virtually undetected,” Inhofe explained, adding that, in its 2006 tax filing, the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. transferred $98,801 to the NRDC Action Fund, and NRDC Action Fund transferred $124,500 to undisclosed other organizations.

    From 2001 through 2005, the NRDC reported on the Bush administration by creating the Bush Record, Inhofe said.

    “The record categorized President Bush’s time in office as an administration that ‘will cater to industries that put America's health and natural heritage at risk.’ The NRDC predicted that Bush would continue ‘ “to undermine environmental enforcement and weaken key programs.’ The organization gave up the effort and stopped tracking the administration’s moves after President Bush defeated Sen. Kerry in the 2004 election.

  • Greenpeace also has strong ties to other politically oriented groups, Inhofe says. Chairman Donald Ross is involved in multiple organizations, including the LCV and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he said.

    “Greenpeace is also a client of Earthjustice, the legal entity that represents the Sierra Club, NRDC, and Environmental Defense Fund,” the report said. “Additionally, Greenpeace remains officially affiliated with the Partnership Project, whose members also include Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, NRDC and LCV. While Greenpeace may not make a Dirty Dozen list, or endorse hundreds of Democratic candidates, it is affiliated with and supports the organizations that do. Furthermore, it represents those affiliations to the rest of the world.

  • The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which describes itself as being “dedicated to protecting the environmental rights of all people” by using a scientific approach that is “nonpartisan, [and is] cost-effective, and fair,” is represented by its family of organizations, Environmental Defense, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, and Environmental Defense Action Fund Inc., a 501(c)(4) organization.

    ‘EDF is also intimately connected with other environmental and political organizations,” Inhofe explained, noting that trustee Frank Loy is one of Obama’s top environmental advisers for the presidential campaign. This past year, another trustee, Douglas Shorenstein, donated $272,100 to Democratic political objectives, including the Hillary Clinton and Al Franken campaigns, he said.

    Trustee Joanne Woodward, wife of Hollywood star Paul Newman, donated significantly to both the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Until 2006, Teresa Heinz, wife of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was on the board of trustees for EDF. Heinz is chairwoman of Heinz Endowments, a part of the Heinz Family Foundation, one of the nation’s 25 largest charitable foundations. EDF trustee George Woodwell also serves on the board of the NRDC.

    EDF reported raising $71.8 million for the 2006 calendar year, and reported receiving contributions totaling more than $94 million during the 2006 IRS filing period.

    “Clearly, where these environmental groups are concerned, there is no line between issue advocacy and political activity” Inhofe said. “And most disturbing is the fact that one can’t tell if these so-called environmental groups that claim to protect and conserve our environment, really spend ANY money on actually improving our environment.”

    Inhofe said this is important “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 30 years, we've cut air pollution in half.

    “This is also important because these wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing are deceiving the America people. When an individual gives their hard-earned money to one of these organizations, most expect it to be used for the environmental cause they support, not political campaigning.”

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