REVEALED: Donors Trust is the secret ATM machine for climate deniers

by Aliya Haq

February 15, 2013

Elektrownia Patnów, a coal fired power station near Konin in western Poland that was expanded in 2007. The plant burns Lignite, known as 'brown coal' which is extracted locally via vast open cast pits situated in the Konin area. Poland is dependent on coal for 93% of it's power capacity, via electricity from generation from coal fired power plants such as this.

© Greenpeace / Nick Cobbing

Donors Trust climate denial funding skyrockets

Donors Trust climate denial funding skyrockets

REVEALED: Donors Trust is the secret ATM machine for climate deniers

A new Greenpeace analysis released today shows that Donors Trust, a shadowy funding vehicle, has laundered $146 million in climate denial funding from 2002 to 2011. Yesterdays article in the Guardian referenced part of the Greenpeace analysis. Todays report is now up to date with the latest available funding from 2011. As climate denial funding from traceable Big Oil sources like Exxon and the Koch brothers is declining, the anonymous money funneled through Donors Trust is skyrocketing.

This interesting coincidence is illustrated in the graph from the Greenpeace report:

Donors Trust climate denial funding skyrockets

Big Oil funding of climate denial declines... "Anonymous" funding through Donors Trust skyrockets. Interesting.

In addition to today’s Greenpeace analysis, yesterday a Center for Public Integrity report detailed the efforts of Donors Trust to set up conservative media megaphones in state capitals. Today, the Guardian reported that these ideological media outlets have been instrumental in anti-climate fights at the state level. These include state and regional attacks against wind power, solar power, and carbon pollution reduction programs.

The key findings of the Greenpeace analysis on Donors Trust:

  • Donors Trust and its associated organization, Donors Capital Fund, have funded 102 climate-denial organizations since 2002.
  • From 2002 to 2011, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund have provided $146 million to climate denial groups.
  • In 2010, a dozen climate denial groups received between 30% to 70% of their funding from Donors Trust, including the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, as well as Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)
  • Additional climate denial organizations that have received major funding in recent years by Donors Trust include the Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute and the James Partnership (Cornwall Alliance).

Wait, so what is Donors Trust, exactly? Its a shadowy funding operation for anti-government extremists and climate deniers. The mission of Donors Trust is to provide ultra-conservative funders a way to support their controversial pet-causes without leaving fingerprints on the grants.

But dont take our word for it heres an excerpt from the Donors Trust FAQ webpage:


Who is behind this untraceable money? Its impossible to track all of the big-pockets hiding behind Donors Trust. One notable individual is Charles Koch, the secretive oil billionaire who was discovered to have funneled $8 million through Donors Trust from two of his foundations. And thats only the amount that we can track we dont know the full extent of the Kochs account with Donors Trust.

As posted yesterday on our blog and detailed in another great Guardian article, several climate denial organizations rely on Donors Trust for a large share of their budgets. The Heartland Institute, creator of the famously reviled Unabomber billboard and coordinators of the annual Denial-palooza conference, relies heavily on a single anonymous donor that sends money through Donors Trust. According to internal Heartland plans leaked to the public, this Anonymous Donor has been responsible for up to 60% of the organizations annual revenue, with the majority of fund earmarked to global warming programs. Even though the leaked documents prove this money is specific for climate projects, the Donors Trust tax forms only disclose the fundings purpose as general operations.

The deep dependence on Donors Trust by climate deniers goes far beyond the Heartland Institute. Marc Moranos organization, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, has received between 40% and 46% of its budget through Donors Trust in recent years. Morano was named 2012 Climate Misinformer of the Year, often found as a talking head on Fox News or CNN denying that human activity is affecting the climate. In response to the Presidents 2013 State of the Union address, Morano published a point by point rebuttal to the section on climate change.

CFACT is among over a dozen organizations that get 30% to 70% of their total budgets from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.Other noteworthy groups include Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Cornwall Alliance (James Partnership), and the State Policy Network.

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