Oct 14, 2010 – 8:46 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 27, 2011 1:10 PM ET
The Tides Foundation has spent $6-million to fund green lobbies
By Vivian Krause
There has never been a major oil spill in Vancouver harbour, but this coming Sunday protestors who say a spill is inevitable will take kayaks and canoes out into the water to stare down oil tankers. Chances are there won’t be a tanker in sight, but there will be a party boat, organizers say.
If the campaign against oil tankers were to succeed in Vancouver, overseas exports of Canadian oil would be blocked and Canada would be stuck with only one major customer for Alberta oil: the United States. That’s the trade-off.
Like most protests, the one against oil tankers has all the look and feel of a Canadian grassroots movement. The campaign against Alberta’s oil sands also seems to rise out of the people, but the interesting thing is that there are very few roots under that grass. Money comes in from a small core of U.S. charitable groups. One of those groups — the U.S. Tides Foundation of California (Tides U.S.) and its Canadian counterpart have paid millions to at least 36 campaign organizations. (See list below.)
All the money, at least US$6-million, comes from a single, foreign charity. The Tides U.S. campaign against Alberta oil is a campaign against one of Canada’s most important industries. It’s fair for Canadians to inquire about who’s funding this campaign and why. The trouble is, nobody knows.
But Tides U.S. is not alone. U.S. tax returns and public records show that Tides U.S. and charities based in California and New York have granted US$15-million since 2003 specifically for campaigns against Alberta oil and against oil tanker traffic and pipelines through British Columbia. The purposes for these grants are clearly outlined in the filings. For example, Tides U.S. received US$700,000 in 2009 from the Oak Foundation of San Francisco “to raise the visibility of the tar sands issue and slow the expansion of tar sands production by stopping new infrastructure development.”
The Oak Foundation, created by a duty-free-shop founder, paid Greenpeace Canada an undisclosed sum of money “to leverage the growing interest of ranchers and landowners in limiting unbridled oil and gas exploration and production in southern Alberta.” Greenpeace was also funded “to conduct specialized opinion research and media work” and to identify messaging for maximum information value among Albertans. World Wildlife Fund Canada was paid an unreported amount by the Oak Foundation for “an e-campaign to mobilize Canadians and send a politically compelling message.”
In short, environmental organizations are doing what they are paid to do. What hasn’t been known is who’s paying the pipers — and why. One thing is sure: when 36 organizations are all funded by a common, foreign source, their multi-million dollar campaign — with paid, full-time staff, expensive billboards and state-of-the-art web-sites — is anything but a grassroots operation.
The Tides Foundation is an American charity that has given away US US$1.5-billion since 1976. For many years, the chairman of the U.S. Tides Foundation, and the vice-chairman of Tides Canada, has been Joel Solomon. Mr. Solomon, an interesting figure in his own right, also backed the election campaign of Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson to the tune of about US$330,000. But that’s another story.
U.S. tax returns show that Tides and Tides Canada have paid US$4.3-million for a “Tar Sands Campaign.” The top recipients were the Sierra Club (US$909,652), Corporate Ethics International (US$750,000), the Natural Resources Defense Council (US$520,000), and Forest Ethics (US$401,364).
Many of the grants for the “Tar Sands Campaign” are far larger than grants for other important causes. For example, a rape intervention project in Sub-Saharan Africa got US$9,000 and a project to support people with HIV in Indonesia got US$9,998. In comparison, Greenpeace got US$186,000 and the World Wildlife Fund got US$160,000 to campaign against Alberta oil.
Unlike many charitable foundations, Tides U.S. doesn’t have a large endowment. “In practice, Tides behaves less like a philanthropy than a money-laundering enterprise, taking money from other foundations and spending it as the donor requires,” writes the U.S. Center for Consumer Freedom. “Called ‘donor-advised’ giving, this pass-through funding vehicle provides public-relations insulation for the money’s original donors.”
Since 2000, Tides Canada has been paid at least US$56-million by American charitable foundations. In 2007 and 2008, Tides Canada received US$34-million and ranked 14th in the world in terms of funding from U.S. foundations. Obviously, something about Tides Canada is very important to its American funders.
Tides, and the U.S. foundations that fund it, have incredibly deep pockets. A large part of Tides’ funding comes from the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. These are The Big Five. They give away about US$1.2-billion every year. If these foundations decide to undermine a foreign industry, they probably can.
These Big Five have poured at least US$190-million into Canada’s environmental movement over the last decade, but their American logos are nowhere to be seen. Instead, we see a pageant of Canadian icons: dogwood, herds of caribou, wild salmon, First Nations and loons. U.S. tax returns show that the David Suzuki Foundation has been paid at least US$10-million from American foundations. This hasn’t exactly been out in the open.
The Moore Foundation is the creation of Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel Corp. According to Forbes, he was once the ninth-wealthiest American. Based in San Francisco, the Moore Foundation has paid B.C. organizations nearly US$50-million and says as plain as day that grantees are expected to influence British Columbia’s resource management decisions, specifically with regards to oil and gas.
Since 2006, the Moore Foundation has paid US$14-million to support the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area Initiative (PNCIMA). This is a federal agency assigned the task of helping to plan all coastal development and influence decisions about natural resources from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the southern border of Alaska, a strategic part of the Canadian coast. Ottawa created the PNCIMA, but its role is unclear. If PNCIMA — funded by the anti-tanker Moore Foundation — were to recommend banning oil tankers, Alberta oil can’t go to Asia.
Hands down, the biggest beneficiaries of Tides Canada’s distributions have been First Nations along the B.C. coast. Some of these same First Nations have vehemently promised to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline to send oil from Alberta to Kitimat, on the B.C. coast.
U.S. tax returns for 2008 show that Tides Canada paid two coastal First Nations US$27.3-million in a single grant. This mega-grant was “to fund conservation planning projects and conservation initiatives” and was earmarked for the Nuxalk and the Lax Kw’alaams. Tides Canada’s objective was to pay for “Mobilizing First Nations Against Climate Change in B.C.” and for “support of Coastal First Nations to hire a co-ordinator to engage with government, industry, environmental groups, media and the public regarding the proposed Enbridge Gateway tar sands pipeline.”
Rethink Alberta, the newest campaign to try to influence Alberta development, is led by Corporate Ethics International. Its aim is to tell tourists and tour operators to boycott Alberta. In addition to funding from Tides U.S., Corporate Ethics received US$950,000 from The Rockefeller Brothers Fund “to stem demand for tar sands derived fuels in the United States.” Never mind oil from Nigeria or the Middle East, Rockefeller Brothers has honed in on Alberta.
Michael Marx, the executive director of Corporate Ethics International, won’t answer any questions about CEI’s sources of funding or how that’s spent. “CEI’s policy is to maintain the confidentiality of its funders,” Marx replied by email.
The Hewlett and Packard foundations in California were created by the founders of tech giant Hewlett-Packard. With assets of almost US$7-billion, Hewlett alone is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. Since 2000, the separate Hewlett and Packard foundations have contributed US$71-million to conservation initiatives, including an effort to “reform” resource-based industries, and to fund First Nations in Canada. That included US$29-million towards the Great Bear Rainforest, US$22-million to reduce the development of fossil fuels in northern Canada, and US$14-million to support First Nations.
My research into the filings of U.S. charities active in funding activists against Canadian and Alberta energy development shows that the anti-oil sands movement is the product of American charities with unknown or certainly unclear motives. At least US$15-million has been paid by the Hewlett and other foundations since 2003, most of it in recent years, including US$3.7-million in U.S. grants paid to the Pembina Foundation, which funds the Pembina Institute of Calgary, a tar sands critic. The flow of money though the Tides group, in turn, is going to Greenpeace Canada and others.
The kayaks bobbing into Vancouver Harbour on Sunday are likely riding a sea of money from U.S. sources. If all this money isn’t enough to get Alberta to “rethink,” there’s plenty more where it came from, which means the Alberta oil industry is up against a billion-dollar gorilla. There’s nothing’s wrong with foreign funding for charitable purposes but charities should do charity and foreign funding should be out in the open.
Vivian Krause is a Vancouver-based writer and researcher. For more on the activities of U.S. charities in Canada, see her Web site at www.fair-questions.com.
If you are commenting using a Facebook account your profile information (job/employer/location) may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to Financialpost.com.
FP Comment’s annual Junk Science Week celebrates the scientists, NGOs, activists, politicians, journalists, media outlets, cranks and quacks who toil to advance the principles of junk science. Junk Science occurs when science is politicized and facts and risks are exaggerated, distorted and misrepresented.
Junk Science Week is over for 2011, but its exposés remain relevant.
Letters to the editor, intended for publication in the print Financial Post, should be sent to email@example.com.
We give preference to letters that refer to a particular article by headline, author and date. Send letters concerning articles in other sections of the National Post, including business articles that appear in the A section, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, home address and daytime telephone number. Copyright in letters and other materials sent to the publisher and accepted for publication remains with the author, but the publisher and its licensees may freely reproduce them in print, electronic and other forms.
The NoPigou Club aims to counter the ideas of the Pigou Club, an informal assembly of economists and pundits who support the idea of raising gasoline taxes. Arthur C. Pigou was an early 20th-century British economist, one of the fathers of welfare economics. We view the Pigou approach as just another form of central planning dressed up in free market terminology.
Powered by WordPress.com VIP