Green Watch

Eco-Hysteria in the Theater: Dark Waters Network

Hedge-Fund Millionaires Bring Eco-Hysteria to the Theater (full series)
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Dark Waters Network | Forsythia’s Investment

Summary: Eco-elites and ultra-wealthy foundations are using Hollywood scare tactics to ban the products you cook and clean and protect your home with. Dark Waters is just Hollywood’s latest effort to scare moviegoers into voting against their own interests. The film details how one trial lawyer, Robert Billott, faced down chemical giants DuPont and Chemours for “pollut[ing] the environment” with what the film calls “forever chemicals”—a decidedly unscientific term. The whole scheme is arranged to keep Americans in the dark about the funding sources and fool them into supporting the very laws and regulations that would leave them poorer and less safe—all in the name of consumer “safety.”

The Dark Waters Network

Dark Waters was produced by Participant (until recently known as Participant Media), a company known for producing movies with a political message, including Al Gore’s “climageddon” documentaries. Participant is a part of the Skoll Network, a web of left-wing mega-funders founded and run by Canadian philanthropist and ex-eBay president Jeff Skoll.

The company lists nine “partners” involved in Dark Waters:

Fight Forever Chemicals, an anti-PFAS campaign ginned up by Participant in conjunction with the release of Dark Waters. Fight Forever Chemicals is jointly led by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), one of the leading lights on anti-chemical litigation efforts. The Fight Forever Chemicals campaign is supported by environmental heavyweights like the Union of Concerned Scientists and NRDC, the latter of which has received nearly $900,000 from Passport and Forsythia since 2009.

EWG lobbies against modern agricultural practices and technology and specializes in class-action lawsuits and promoting harrowing conspiracy theories, once going so far as to entertain the CDC-debunked hypothesis that vaccines cause autism. EWG led the charge a few years ago to force food producers to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients (the GMO scare). Its reports on pesticides and other chemicals have regularly been discredited by scientific and academic journals.

EWG has received over $400,000 from Passport and Forsythia. It’s also heavily funded by the left-wing Hewlett, Marisla, and Joyce Foundations (the latter of which once included then-Sen. Barack Obama on its board). The group was incubated by the Tides Foundation, which specializes in creating new activist and litigation groups; Tides founder Drummond Pike was even the former chair of EWG’s board and played a personal role in its formation.

In fact, most of groups behind Dark Waters and Fight Forever Chemicals share one thing in common: funding from the Forsythia and Passport Foundations.

See the complete list of grants from Forsythia and Passport to eco-groups here.

Safer States, for example, is one of the leading trumpets trying to ban PFAS. The group has received $140,000 in grants from Passport and Forsythia, but it isn’t even a real nonprofit; “Safer States” is essentially a marketing campaign for Toxic-Free Future, until recently known as the Washington Toxics Coalition.

Toxic-Free Future in turn is heavily funded by two more left-wing foundations you’ve probably never heard of: the John Merck Fund and Marisla Foundation, which between them have granted it over $5 million. (CRC has tracked Merck and Marisla’s anti-DuPont, anti-consumer funding since at least 2005.)

The Green Science Policy Institute, another Dark Waters partner, is a Berkeley, California-based think tank that publishes scientific papers critical of PFAS and other “forever chemicals.” It’s headed by Arlene Blum, a chemistry research associate at the University of California, Berkeley.

The institute is the brains of the Fight Forever Chemicals campaign, lending intellectual credibility to Ruffalo & Co.’s activist crusade. In 2017, two Institute researchers (including Blum) authored a study on the public health effects of PFAS in the journal Environmental Health arguing that the “possible health impacts of exposure to highly fluorinated chemicals [i.e. PFAS] are of great concern to communities whose water has been impacted” and calling for “regulatory decision making . . . to contribute to reducing future exposures.”

The study’s funders were the Passport, Forsythia, and Tides Foundations.

In fact, Passport and Forsythia together have granted the Green Science Policy Institute $150,000 since 2017. The Institute is also funded with hundreds of thousands dollars by the Tides and Stephen Silberstein Foundations (both based in California), which have made grants supporting the Institute’s research into “per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances”—better known as PFAS.

See a pattern?

Toxic Philanthropy

Dark Waters isn’t the first anti-PFAS documentary that Forsythia and Passport have funded. Forsythia’s Alison Carlson was co-executive producer of The Devil We Know (archived here), another documentary about PFAS litigation released in 2018..

The film’s list of partners is almost the same list from Dark Waters and the Fight Forever Chemicals campaign: the NRDC, Environmental Working Group, Toxic-Free Future (the sponsor of Safer States), and the Forsythia Foundation. Another film partner, Kitchen Table Campaigns, is a major anti-chemical lobby that goes by the name Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. It has received $135,000 from Passport and Forsythia.

It’s worth pointing out that the Forsythia-Passport axis isn’t the only big funder on the anti-chemical Left. Support for The Devil We Know also came from Chicken & Egg Pictures, a far-left “social justice” nonprofit studio which produced the 2011 documentary Semper Fi: Always Faithful, about chemicals leaked into the water supply at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Chicken & Egg Pictures began as a project of the Tides Center, the arm of the Tides Foundation dedicated to incubating new left-wing groups. It produces only films by directors who are “self-identifying women (cis or trans), gender nonconforming individuals, or a female/male co-directing partnership.” Unsurprisingly, Chicken & Egg Pictures got $10,000 from the Tides Center to film Semper Fi, funds that ultimately originated with the Passport Foundation.


In the next installment of “Eco-Hysteria in the Theater,” look closer at Forsythia Foundation.

Robert Stilson

Robert runs several of CRC’s specialized projects. Originally from Indiana, he has a B.A. from Hanover College and a J.D. from University of Richmond School of Law, where he graduated…
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Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is an Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. He is a native of Orange County, California, and a graduate of Sonoma State University.
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