A new investigation reveals charitable and environmental organizations claiming to be nonpartisan may be using donations to funnel money to Democratic Party politicians.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released an updated report from an investigation into financial and political activities of such groups. He referred to several charitable and environmental organizations as “wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.”
“Campaigns to ‘save the cuddly animals’ or ‘protect the ancient forests’ are really disguised efforts to raise money for Democratic political campaigns,” Inhofe said while speaking on the Senate floor Saturday. “Environmental organizations have become experts at duplicitous activity, skirting laws up to the edge of illegality, and burying their political activities under the guise of nonprofit environmental improvement.
Inhofe referenced a League of Conservation Voters, or LCV, advertisement displayed on its website. The ad seeks donations for the nonprofit organization.
“LCV takes these donations, given to ‘save the environment’ and uses them to fund ads for Democratic Candidates such as Ben Lujan from New Mexico,” Inhofe revealed. “LCV, similar to other groups I’ll highlight later, disguises itself as an environmental group dedicated to saving the environment, yet, as shown by this political ad, it is simply an extension of the Democratic political party.”
Inhofe accused the environmental groups of “fleecing the American public’s pockets,” by using scare tactics to obtain donations for Democrats in an election year.
“We also find exhausting litigation, instigation of false claims, misleading science, and scare tactics to fool Americans into believing disastrous environmental scenarios that are untrue,” Inhofe said. “Especially in this election year, the American voter should see these groups and their many affiliate organizations as they are: the newest insidious conspiracy of political action committees and perhaps the newest multi-million dollar manipulation of federal election laws.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on the difficulty of tracking political activity of 501(c) organizations, stating the IRS does not require such organizations to list spending records or distributors. The newspaper conducted an investigation of 30 separate 501(c) organizations that donated funds to elections from 2000 to 2006.
“The data show that the 30 organizations spent at least $155 million on the 2006 elections, nearly twice what they spent in 2000,” the Journal reported.
While tax-exempt 501(c) nonprofit groups are allowed to engage in political issues, they cannot participate in specific political campaigns. Inhofe’s report focused on organizations such as Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, or LCV, and the Sierra Club.
The LCV releases a “Dirty Dozen” list of environmentally unfriendly candidates each election cycle, Inhofe said. Each year, the group lists between 11 and 15 individuals, and every election year since 1996 has included a minimum of 11 Republicans and no more than one or two Democrats. Seventy-four of 83 names placed on the list since it began are Republicans.
“By their bipartisan claims, it would be expected that LCV’s support would be split evenly; however, almost 90 percent of LCV’s recommendations have been to remove Republican candidates,” Inhofe’s report stated.
Additionally, he said the Sierra Club has a history of endorsing candidates and has pledged its support to Sen. Barack Obama. It also announced support for 13 candidates for U.S. Senate – none are Republicans. According to the report, 98 percent of Sierra Club endorsements are for Democrats.
The investigation revealed Environmental Defense Fund trustee Frank Loy is currently a top environmental adviser for the Obama campaign. Another EDF trustee, Douglas Shorenstein, donated $272,100 to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Al Franken. Trustee Joanne Woodward donated to the Clinton and Obama campaigns.
Inhofe revealed donors who contribute to environmental causes may be unknowingly giving money to partisan activities. He said the funds could have been used to support conservation efforts.
“As an American citizen concerned about our environment and our country, I’m dismayed and saddened by this deception,” he said. “If these groups actually used the hundreds of millions of dollars they raise for actual environmental improvement, just think how many whales and forests we could save. These wolves should be seen for what they really are: massive democratic political machines, disguised as environmental causes.”