Democratic governors belonging to the U.S. Climate Alliance outsourced communication and research work to environmentalist organizations, the Washington Times reports.
New email correspondence uncovered through FOIA requests shows that climate activist groups, most notably Climate Nexus—a sponsored project of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors—act as the press arm for these governors’ offices at no charge. They also operate as a “shadow staff” to support climate change communications efforts, and supplied research later promoted by these state governors as their own. This includes at least one for-profit contractor, raising the question who its actual paying client is.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute initiated the open records requests that yielded the emails.
The report raises questions about the blurred lines between liberal activist donors who fund these groups and the work they carry out for free for state governments. The Washington Times points out it is not uncommon for government to seek out the expertise of think tanks or other groups when formulating policy. But emails show how the relationship between climate groups and government goes much further, with one functioning as an operating arm of the other.
In one instance, correspondence between Climate Nexus Executive Director Jeff Nesbit and Sam Ricketts, director of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s Washington, D.C. office, show that Climate Nexus was responsible for the messaging surrounding the U.S. Climate Alliance. The U.S. Climate Alliance is a “bipartisan” coalition of states that are dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Alliance is headed by Governors Jay Inslee of Washington, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Jerry Brown of California. From the Washington Times report:
“’Can you call me asap?’ Sam Ricketts, director of Mr. Inslee’s Washington, D.C., office, asked in a June 5 email. ‘Sounds like we states have some particular, and substantively very valid, concerns about how this coalition is messaged. If not met I think states will pull out.’
“‘OMG, come on. I’ve been dealing with this all weekend,’ Mr. Nesbit responded. ‘We’re not messaging it incorrectly at this point. But yes, I’ll call you.’”
Nesbit was also responsible for coordinating different governors’ offices and sending joint statements to high-profile media outlets:
“Mr. Nesbit also wore the hat of press secretary, saying he needed to send a joint statement from Mr. Inslee, Mr. Brown and Mr. Cuomo to The New York Times.
“‘Do you have it? Is it approved? Is Inslee available to talk to the NYT and others today before Trump does his Rose Garden ceremony at the WH?’ Mr. Nesbit asked in the June 1 email.”
Other emails show that Nesbitt is on something California Governor Brown’s staff calls the “kitchencab listserv,” “Kitchen Cabinet” being a term used for “a collection of unofficial advisors.” Later, it’s revealed that these climate groups are not only in charge of the messaging, but are also directly responsible for operating the Alliance’s website and that of another group supposedly created by politicians but seemingly run by outside parties, off the books:
“’How come governors aren’t even listed on the [We Are Still In] website?’ Mr. Ricketts asked in a June 5 email.
“Mr. Nesbit replied: ‘They will be! I promise. It’s controlled by WWF [apparently referring to the World Wildlife Fund]. They’re melting down over there. I’ll make sure the 9 governors are listed ASAP.’”
Nesbit was referring to the We Are Still In website. In another email, Gov. Brown’s aide says of the USCA website, “I talked to UN [F]oundation yesterday and they had secured the URL for the coalition previously when we were talking to Rick, Pete, et al about them supporting this effort.” Other emails suggest Rick and Pete are with the liberal Hewlett Foundation. The UN Foundation is Ted Turner’s outfit, run by former Sen. Tim Wirth, who chaired the notorious 1988 “stagecraft” hearing unveiling the global warming political issue.
She continued, about the UN Foundation, “As y’all probably know they house a number of efforts (unbranded) including Sustainable Energy for All.”
In another instance, the Alliance released a report about economic output and greenhouse gas emissions. Although branded as their own research, it turns out that the report relied almost exclusively on data compiled by the Rhodium Group—an organization headed by a former Hillary Clinton energy and climate advisor, Trevor Houser.
Indeed, given that the central focus of the emails obtained by CEI is tapping the “plethora of advocate and funder interest” in providing support functions which were beyond the ability of the governors’ offices, it seems far more likely this pricey gift was provided to the governors by the for-profit Rhodium Group. What isn’t yet clear is which clients paid for this glossy product of a high-priced consultancy.
It’s unsurprising that the Rockefellers have found a way to exert their influence inside state governors’ offices. Climate Nexus has also been heavily involved in promoting the #ExxonKnew campaign for the Rockefellers. When the RICO 20 – a group of professors who petitioned the Obama administration to bring racketeering charges against those who disagreed with the president’s climate agenda – faced enormous backlash for their efforts to silence dissent, Climate Nexus rushed in to clean up the mess. You see, the RICO 20 was suggesting that the government prosecute individual climate skeptics, which got in the way of the Rockefellers’ plans to have the government go after energy companies.
Climate Nexus also receives funding from the Energy Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, two other groups heavily involved in backing the #ExxonKnew campaign.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Chris Horner makes a salient point in the Times article: if the politics on this story were reversed and it was the Koch brothers providing staff to Republican governors, every outlet would be covering this story and a large portion of the American public would be outraged.