“Dark Money” in the Climate Debate: “Dark Money” Links

“Dark Money” in the Climate Debate: Questions for the Record (full series)
DISCLOSE Act | “Dark Money” Links
“Cherry-Picked” Data

See also: Senate testimony

Question #2: “Dark Money” Links

In ten climate hearings, Democrats have never asked a single one of their witnesses about their receipt of dark money, let alone attempted to impugn their integrity or accused them of conspiracy. Fortunately, you revealed multiple of the links between the Democratic witnesses on the panel of this hearing to the web of liberal dark money donations. Are any of the past Democratic witnesses linked to the liberal web of dark money donations?

First, let me repeat my oral testimony[1] that I believe “dark money” is a bogeyman, not a serious threat to the Republic: “To say that a group uses ‘dark money’ is like saying the group uses telephones—it’s a universal technology,” and if someone still insists “dark money” is a monster, “it’s not a large one,” accounting for about 7 percent of election spending in the 2020 cycle and tilting strongly to the left and the Democratic Party, according to the left-leaning OpenSecret’s statistics.[2]

Proof of the universality of “dark money” across the political spectrum is found in the backgrounds of numerous witnesses the Democratic Members of the Committee have called in earlier Budget hearings. The same Members avoid any precise legal definition of “dark money,” so let me use the amorphous definition given in an edition of the Party’s Captured Courts reports that was co-authored by Chairman Whitehouse: “funding for organizations and political activities that cannot be traced to actual donors.”[3] That loose definition fits the overwhelming majority of 501(c)(3) charities and 501(c)(4) nonprofits who do not disclose their donors, as well as charities that receive funding from donor-advised fund providers, such as Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and DonorsTrust, whom the Chairman regularly attacks. Under that rubric, the Democratic Members’ witnesses in this committee float in a sea of “darkness.”

Personally, I would insist that the substance of the witnesses’ arguments is what matters, not their funding sources, but in the hearing where I last testified before him, Chairman Whitehouse stated that if you know who’s paying for a speaker’s “megaphone,” then “you might very well discover that you can discount the voice.”[4] That’s logically and scientifically false, and another example of the pattern of using loose talk about “dark money” to try to silence other people’s speech. But if we are supposed to ignore the truth or falsehood of a “voice” and simply disqualify people because they are associated with or helped by funding sources whose donors are not entirely disclosed, then these witnesses must have their integrity impugned and their voices ignored, according to the Chairman’s standard:

Matthew Eby

  • Founder/CEO of First Street Foundation, 501(c)(3)
  • Former president of American Flood Coalition Action, 501(c)(4), then called the Seawall Coalition[5]

Kate Michaud

  • Board member of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, 501(c)(4)
  • Recognized as “local leader of the year” by Clean Water Action, 501(c)(4)[6]

 Mark Carney

  • Board member of Peterson Institute for International Economics, 501(c)(3); the Group of Thirty, 501(c)(3); Bloomberg Philanthropies, 501(c)(3); and several for-profit companies and foreign/international nonprofits and organizations
  • Former board member of the World Economic Forum, 501(c)(6)[7]
  • Co-chair of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero

Robert Litterman

Has served on the boards of

  • Commonfund, 501(c)(3)
  • Niskanen Center, 501(c)(3)
  • Resources for the Future, 501(c)(3)
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 501(c)(3)
  • Ceres, 501(c)(3)

Ceres received almost $7.3 million from Arabella Advisors’ New Venture Fund from 2017 to 2021.

  • World Wildlife Fund, 501(c)(3)

From 2018 to 2021, World Wildlife Fund received $11,210,483 from the Tides Foundation and $16,704,896 from Arabella Advisors’ New Venture Fund

  • Sloan Foundation, 501(c)(3)
  • Woodwell Climate Research Center, 501(c)(3)
  • Climate Leadership Council, 501(c)(3)
  • Also board member of Climate Central, 501(c)(3)
  • Former board member of the Crane Institute of Sustainability/Intentional Endowments Network, 501(c)(3)

Stephanie M. Smith

  • Former legislative counsel/staff attorney (sources give conflicting titles) at Earthjustice, 501(c)(3)
  • Board member of Green 2.0, 501(c)(3)
  • Member of the Sierra Club, 501(c)(4)

Michael Greenstone

  • Co-director of Climate Impact Lab, 501(c)(3)
  • Co-founded Climate Vault, 501(c)(3)
  • Former director of Hamilton Project, part of the Brookings Institution, 501(c)(3)
  • Co-chair of King Climate Action Initiative, part of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT, 501(c)(3)

Ted Gayer

  • President of Niskanen Center, 501(c)(3)
  • Multiple former leadership roles at the Brookings Institution, 501(c)(3)
  • Former visiting fellow and visiting scholar at Public Policy Institute of California and American Enterprise Institute, both 501(c)(3)s

Bill Frist

  • Global board chair of Nature Conservancy, 501(c)(3)
  • Founder/chair of SCORE, 501(c)(3)
  • Former board member of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 501(c)(3)
  • Founder/Chairman of NashvilleHealth, 501(c)(3)

Naomi Oreskes

  • Board of National Center for Science Education, 501(c)(3)
  • Board member of Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, 501(c)(3)
  • Former board member of Protect Our Winters, 501(c)(3)
  • Co-founder/former board member of Climate Accountability Institute, 501(c)(3)


Richard Painter

  • Former board member/vice chair of CREW, 501(c)(3)
  • Founding board member of Take Back Our Republic, 501(c)(3)
  • Advisory board member of Issue One, 501(c)(3)
  • Board member of Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 501(c)(3)

Michael Wara

  • Senior research scholar, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, part of Stanford University, 501(c)(3)

This Institute received $260,000+ from Arabella Advisors’ New Venture Fund in 2015

David Burt

  • Trustee, Boston Children’s Museum, 501(c)(3)
  • “establishing a foundation to help preserve climate stability for future generations,”[8] which will presumably be a 501(c)(3)

Gregor Semieniuk

  • Assistant Research Professor, Political Economy Research Institute, part of University of Massachusetts Amherst, 501(c)(3)

Daniel Raimi

  • President Advisor, US Association for Energy Economics, 501(c)(6)
  • Fellow, Resources from the Future, 501(c)(3). This group receives significant funding from donor-advised fund providers: Fidelity ($611,000+ since 2017), Schwab ($1.2 M since 2014), Bank of America, community foundations, etc. It has also received funding from Arabella Advisors’ New Venture Fund, as well as $681,000 from the Energy Foundation, a pass-through charitable foundation that is the largest grant recipient of the Sea Change Foundation, which has connections to Russian funds, as documented by the S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Minority Staff.[9] For more information on the Russian ties of the offshore corporation Klein Ltd., see also a report from the Environmental Policy Alliance.[10] A chart from the Senate report follows:

Source: Minority Staff, “The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA,” U.S. Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works,” July 30, 2014, 65, https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/10/chain-of-environmental-command-2014-report.pdf.

In the next answer, the slur of “cherry-picked data” is easily refuted and says more about the Democratic witness than about her intended target.

[1] Scott Walter, “Transcript of Scott Walter’s Testimony Before the Senate Budget Committee,” Capital Research Center, June 22, 2023, https://capitalresearch.org/article/transcript-of-scott-walters-testimony-before-the-senate-budget-committee/.

[2] Anna Massoglia and Karl Evers-Hillstrom, “‘Dark Money’ Topped $1 Billion in 2020, Largely Boosting Democrats,” OpenSecrets, March 17, 2021, https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2021/03/one-billion-dark-money-2020-electioncycle/.

[3] Debbie Stabenow, Chuck Schumer, and Sheldon Whitehouse, Captured Courts: The GOP’s Big Money Assault on the Constitution, Our Independent Judiciary, and the Rule of Law (Washington, DC: Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, 2020), p. 22, https://www.democrats.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Courts%20Report%20-%20FINAL.pdf.

[4] Michael E. Hartmann, “‘It All Needs to Stop,’” Giving Review, May 16, 2022, https://philanthropydaily.com/it-all-needs-to-stop/.

[5] Seawall Coalition, IRS Form 990 for 2017, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/822617852/201803189349307950/full.

[6] Clean Water Action, “Clean Water Action Announces 2022 Environmental Champions,”  https://cleanwater.org/releases/clean-water-action-announces-2022-environmental-champions.

[7] World Economic Forum, “Leadership and Governance,” archived February 28, 2021,  https://web.archive.org/web/20210228015804/https://www.weforum.org/about/leadership-and-governance.

[8] DeltaTerra Capital, “About DeltaTerra,” https://www.deltaterracapital.com/about.

[9] Minority Staff, “The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA,” U.S. Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works,” July 30, 2014, https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/10/chain-of-environmental-command-2014-report.pdf.

[10] Big Green Radicals, “From Russia with Love? Examining Links Between US Environmental Funder and the Kremlin,” December 2015, https://www.biggreenradicals.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Klein_Report_12-2015.pdf.

Scott Walter

Scott Walter is president of Capital Research Center. He served in the George W. Bush Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and was vice president at…
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