New reports by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Free Beacon have further exposed how anti-fossil fuel activists colluded to push politically-motivated investigations of climate dissent, adding to a series of reports from Energy In Depth that already uncovered the funding and inspiration behind the broader campaign.
After the Wall Street Journal revealed Wednesday that anti-fossil fuel activists (such as 350.org founder Bill McKibben and former member of Greenpeace Board of Directors Kenny Bruno) met “behind closed doors” at the Rockefeller Family Fund offices in January to strategize on furthering the #ExxonKnew campaign, many more details have now emerged.
The Free Beacon has since posted the memo laying out the guest list and agenda for that meeting, which was sent around to the group by Bruno. In that memo, Bruno states as the group’s “common goals” the following:
And if there’s any doubt about how Bruno really feels, here’s what he tweeted on March 30:
I don’t want to abolish Exxon. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.
— Kenny Bruno (@greenwashbuster) March 30, 2016
Note here how the memo states quite clearly that the group is focused on establishing “in the public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution.” Despite that, Lee Wasserman, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, literally uttered the following words to the Wall Street Journal this week:
“‘It’s about helping the larger public understand the urgencies of finding climate solutions,’ said Lee Wasserman, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, which hosted the January meeting. ‘It’s not really about Exxon.’”
Of course, the claim that the campaign was “not really about Exxon” could raise new questions about its real purpose, which many have already alleged is politically motivated. The effort has already led to a subpoena of a libertarian think tank in Washington, DC, with the U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general demanding documents related to that organization’s advocacy on climate policy. Naturally, the USVI official also wants to know who funds the group.
Not the first time
What the Wall Street Journal and Free Beacon didn’t report, however, is that the January 2016 meeting was not exactly the first strategy session that took place in which plans to target Exxon in particular were on the agenda.
In 2012, the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which are both funded by the Rockefellers, held a workshop in La Jolla, Calif., at which one of the topics discussed was the various ways they could help hasten an investigation into ExxonMobil via RICO laws. Apparently proud of the progress they had made, the groups released a report after the meeting concluded called, “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages: Lessons from Tobacco Control.” The Rockefellers, as mentioned, hosted the Jan. 2016 meeting. And guess who provided the financial support for 2012 conference in La Jolla? (Yes, them.)
Interestingly, the January 2016 meeting included many of the same participants who attended the 2012 meeting in La Jolla, including attorneys Matt Pawa and Sharon Eubanks, Carroll Muffett, and representatives from Greenpeace.
Matt Pawa, an attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and a board member of the CAI, which organized the La Jolla meeting, has long been involved in campaigns aimed at attacking ExxonMobil. As the CIEL website states,
“Mr. Pawa also has pioneered the use of tort theories against greenhouse gas polluters in cases such as Connecticut v. American Electric Power and Kivalina v. ExxonMobil.” (emphasis added)
Sharon Eubanks was the director of the Department of Justice’s tobacco litigation effort in the 1990s and has been active in the press on anti-Exxon efforts. Carroll Muffett is also on the board of CAI.
The state attorneys general investigations rely on cherry-picked articles written by the Rockefeller-funded InsideClimate News (ICN) and Columbia School of Journalism, which Energy In Depth has definitively debunked. ICN published an article entitled “How We Got the Exxon Story” in November 2015, which admits that ICN journalist Dave Hasemyer “learned from scientist Michael MacCracken, who had long helped run federal climate research programs, that Exxon scientists had worked with the government on climate science as far back as the early 1980s.” Michael MacCracken is a scientist with the CAI and he also attended the 2012 La Jolla conference.
According to the activists themselves, they had been looking to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for quite some time as the perfect person to launch an investigation. As ICN also reported in that same article, “Some climate advocacy groups have long urged that Schneiderman, a second-term Democrat, investigate Exxon and other companies under the 1921 statute.”
The 2012 La Jolla report even admitted:
“State attorneys general can also subpoena documents, raising the possibility that a single sympathetic state attorney general might have substantial success in bringing key internal documents to light. In addition, lawyers at the workshop noted that even grand juries convened by a district attorney could result in significant document discovery.”
In other words, the #ExxonKnew campaign didn’t just materialize overnight. It was the product of four long years of careful planning and constant coordination among the groups and the Rockefellers, which handled at key stages issues related to logistics, network management, and (critically) funding. The Rockefeller Family Fund has admitted that it poured tens of thousands of dollars into ICN and Columbia School of Journalism in order to push “better climate policy.” According to Reuters:
Rockefeller Family Fund Director Lee Wasserman said Exxon was not singled out when it granted about $25,000 to InsideClimate News.
“We supported public interest journalism to better understand how the fossil fuel industry was dealing with the reality of climate science internally and publicly,” Wasserman said. “No specific company was targeted in our push to drive better public understanding and better climate policy.”
This is just the latest report to note the large web of activists working hand in glove to push a story that is based on anti-fossil fuel ideology, rather than the facts. We don’t expect it to be the last.