Shady outside interests control Oregon environmental groups

Drew Johnson_thb

by Drew Johnson

Two of the loudest voices in Oregon state politics receive the majority of their funding from outside the state and get their marching orders from shady special interests, according to IRS documents and other public records.

The Oregon Environmental Council and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters are considered among the most prominent environmental groups in the state. Few organizations have as much sway in the halls of the state capitol and in the voting booth.

This year, the two environmental extremist groups have fought, with mixed success, to keep the state’s unpopular Clean Fuel program, increase public funding for electric vehicles and passenger rail boondoggles, and ban many children’s toys containing common chemicals, among other pet issues.

It increasingly appears, however, that Oregon lawmakers are doing a disservice to their constituents by allowing these groups to dictate policy debates in Salem.

The Oregon Environmental Council claims to be a “membership-based organization,” but the outfit is clearly more concerned with making its deep-pocketed out-of-state donors happy than it is representing members who actually live in Oregon.

In 2013, the most recent year that full records are available, more than 77 percent of the grants collected by the Oregon Environmental Council came from out-of-state sources. A staggering 82 percent of money the group received from foundations came from outside Oregon in 2012. That year, only two of the 12 foundations that donated to the Oregon Environmental Council were based in Oregon. The organization’s largest grants came from places like New York, Michigan and Massachusetts.

Oregon Environmental Council decision-makers happily burn through the dubious out-of-state dollars as soon as they come in. The Council’s executive director earns well over $130,000 a year in salary and benefits, according to the organization’s tax records. The group also admitted to spending more than $214,000 a year on wining and dining lawmakers, and other lobbying tactics.

The most consistent donor to the Oregon Environmental Council is the Boston-based John Merck Fund. The foundation, which was funded by an heir of the Merck pharmaceutical fortune, focuses on “reforming state and federal chemicals policies.” That may well explain why so much of the Oregon Environmental Council’s focus is related to chemical policy issues.

In the past three years alone, the John Merck Fund has showered the Council with no less than $315,000.

The fact that an out-of-state foundation spends so much money buying favor with an Oregon-focused environmental organization should be concerning enough. But, even more troublingly, the John Merck Fund serves as a puppet master for a number of state environmental groups around the country.

Radical environmental organizations like the Oregon Environmental Council have been co-opted by large national donors, led by the John Merck Fund, and turned into de facto franchises that share the same resources and push the same legislation.

The organization in charge of these state-based franchises is the State Alliance for Federal Reform of Policy, known more commonly as “Safer States.”

Safer States serves as the smoke-filled back room where one-size-fits-all legislative proposals are developed and then disseminated to its “partners” in more than a dozen states. This questionable scheme explains why environmental and anti-chemical legislation supported by the Oregon Environmental Council looks almost exactly the same as bills proposed in Maine, Washington, Alaska, Minnesota, California, Maryland, Connecticut and many other states.

Safer States directs money to its partner organizations, authors research papers released by the state outfits, and provides the anti-chemical groups with lobbying and marketing assistance in order to promote legislation. Perhaps most importantly, Safer States works to ensure organizations such as the Oregon Environmental Council appear as if they are independent, locally focused and grassroots-oriented groups – even though they’re really nationally controlled mouthpieces for powerful companies, foundations and environmental activists.

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters, unlike the Oregon Environmental Council, does little to hide the fact that it is an arm of a large national organization. Its parent group, the League of Conservation Voters, spends millions of dollars annually in an attempt to buy elections for environmentally focused Democratic candidates.

Much like the Oregon Environmental Council, however, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters can’t seem to drum up adequate donations in Oregon and resorts to relying heavily on out-of-state dollars to operate.

In 2012, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters collected 83 percent of its foundation grants from groups operating outside the state. The next year, 54 percent of foundation support came from out-of-state organizations. Both years, just one single in-state foundation donated to the group: the Oregon Community Foundation. Even though the Oregon League of Conservation Voters is based in Portland, there’s little doubt that the group is beholden to its masters in Washington, D.C.

Both the Oregon Environmental Council and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters work hard to maintain a façade of representing Oregonians and their interests. But, in reality, both groups get much of their funding and most of their ideas from special interest groups and politically motivated foundations located far from the Beaver State.

Lawmakers and voters should take recommendations from the Oregon Environmental Council and the Oregon League of Conservation with a grain of salt. When organizations are clearly bought and paid for by sketchy outsiders, it’s hard to tell whether they actually have best interest of Oregon residents at heart.

Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and a columnist at The Washington Times

  • Eric Blair

    LOL… and wow. You can tell Johnson writes for the Washington Times. Speaking of shadowy, I wonder if Johnson would be willing to share who donates to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance? And the irony — an outside organization complaining about outside organizations trying to influence Oregon politics.

    • thevillageidiot

      George, I am glad you are back. keeps the comments interesting.

    • Dick Winningstad

      Hmmm…. Looking up the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, they are a national organization and make no claim to being a state only organization. So your comparison with the Oregon Environmental Council and Oregon League of Conservation Voters who do claim to be intrastate seems off as the TPA makes no such claim of locality. But it does show the lengths the left will go to to obscure their legitimacy.

      • Eric Blair

        LOL. no.. but the fact that the article is about outside influence… and the fact that the TPA is engaging in their attempt to influence opinion about two Oregon conservation groups… well, there is the irony.

        I think you need to take a look at the language used in the article.. the scare words. Puppet masters? Seriously? The article was nothing more than agitprop. And not even very good agitprop at that.

        The fact is, non-profit organizations frequently solicit funds from Foundations not based in Oregon. Is the Portland Art Museum suspect because it received $250.000.00 last year from the Andrew Mellon Foundation?

        • guest

          Eric Blair or John Reed. Same snuff and consequence.

          • Eric Blair

            Why thank you. 🙂 That is the nicest thing you’ve ever said.

          • guest

            OMG, the pollywoggle hath flipped a bow amidst schleps in his bay of begs.

        • thevillageidiot

          Andrew Mellon foundation is not trying to influence Oregon politics. Typical, change the subject, redirect the conversation, compare apples to oranges. Scare words? simply using the same tactics as the Liberals using such words as racist, bigot, homophobia.

          • Eric Blair

            Oh, but I’m willing to bet that the PAM is trying to influence Oregon politics, as are many other arts agencies. And no.. its Apples to Apples… funding from outside Foundations.

            No where in the article is it asserted that Oregon League of Conservation Voters is doing anything either illegal, or unethical, or that they are even doing something that Conservative interest groups eschew. If it had been on TV there would have been a grainy picture and a “scary” voice. What a wastes of perfectly good pixels.

            How many interest groups take outside money? Both Liberal and Conservative? I really don’t care as long as it is made explicit and transparent. Then everyone gets to decide if they like the funding.

            The bottom line of this post: I don’t like their politics so rather than make a cogent and coherent article, I’m going to make it sound ominous. Propaganda.

            LOL.. and.. do two wrongs make a right in your book?

          • Dick Winningstad

            LOL Keep digging!

        • Dick Winningstad

          Following the money is a good way to see who is in control. If the supposed local group is getting most of its money from outside the state then claiming to be local controlled, which the TPA does not claim, that makes them hypocrites and liars.
          Does the Art Museum try to influence politics?

          • Eric Blair

            Here is how a grant works.. an organization applies for the grant, the foundation agrees or disagrees. The control is still local as long as the grant is spent within the rules that it was given.

            There is no proof in the article, that outside foundations are calling the shots against the wishes of the board controlling the conservation groups. Instead of facts, this article relies on innuendo and speculation.

            Yes, the Art Museum does.

            LOL.. and keep dancing!

          • Myke

            There is also no proof in the article that the outside foundations aren’t calling the shots. Except for the fact that the rules for the grants are written by, who else, the foundations doling out the cash. Really not a huge leap, regardless of ones political persuasion. Everyone has an agenda, especially when money is involved.

          • Eric Blair

            Oh good God.. My assumption, and I know it’s an assumption, is that if there was such proof, the article would have offered it up… or… it’s really bad research and writing. Proving a negative is incredibly difficult.

            Yes.. everyone has an agenda… but the whole tone.. puppet masters, etc.., is way over the top.

          • .

            twit spillage over the top of a davidappelll barrel

    • Orville Write

      Is Eric Blair really David Appell in demise?

      • redbean

        I do fear the DA has moved on to greener trolling grounds. We didn’t deserve him and his ginormous brain. They were such a cute couple but now Mr. EB is all by his lonesome. George does seem to be shouldering the burden quite well, wouldn’t you say?

  • Evan Manvel

    I hate it when outsiders protect my kids from toxic pollution.

    • mampdx

      Oh, come now — you know your children are just a “pet project!”

  • Moe

    I don’t care where these people live. I want them involved in helping Oregon lead the way in saving our mother, the earth. Please, can’t we all just get along and help our mother while doing so? Quit the bickering and start the healing…now, before it is too late.

    • .

      You’d suckle Mother Nature ’til she was bone dry, wooden shoe Dutch tete?

    • IhateLiberals

      How do you know the earth is female? You don’t; so quit making ASSumptions.