Non-profit

Climate Investigations Center

Type:

Environmental Journalism Group

Project of:

Our Next Economy

The Climate Investigations Center (CIC) is a center-left environmental journalism group critical of oil and natural gas producers. It is a project of Our Next Economy, a limited liability company (LLC).

CIC has received substantial funding from the Sustainable Markets Foundation, a left-of-center environmentalist pass-through grantmaker funded by major environmentalist groups and center-left foundations such as the Rockefeller Family Fund, Tides Foundation, and TomKat Charitable Trust. [1]

History

The Climate Investigations Center is an environmental research nonprofit established in 2014. It professes to investigate companies, organizations and individuals that oppose environmental regulations—chiefly oil, coal and gas companies. It claims the fossil fuel industries engage in what it calls, “climate science denial campaigns.” [2]

The center has successfully pushed its investigations into several major metropolitan-liberal media outlets. During 2019, the center’s research was cited by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, Reuters, Rolling Stone, The Intercept, the Dallas Morning News, and other outlets.

The organization has come under scrutiny for its secrecy about who its donors are. It lists only a post office box in Alexandria, Virginia, as its address on the website. While it claims nonprofit status, it is not registered as a nonprofit with the Internal Revenue Service, avoiding certain disclosure requirements. [3]

Staff

Kert Davies, founder and director of the center, is a professional environmental activist and alumnus of Greenpeace. He previously helped launch the Greenpeace project ExxonSecrets in 2004. He also established Greenpeace’s PolluterWatch website. [4]

Dan Zegart is an investigator with the center, after a career in ideological-left and metropolitan-liberal journalism. He had a 10-year newspaper career and also reported for The Nation, Ms., the New York Times, PBS Frontline, ABC’s “20/20,” and “CBS Evening News.” He is the author of two books. [5]

Dark Money Secrecy

Several of the center’s investigations have focused on oil and coal companies contributing to causes that influence environmental policy and demand more information about funding. The group also investigates “dark money” campaigns. Despite this, critics have argued that the Climate Investigations Center is secretive about its own sources of funding. [6]

An pass-through grantmaking entity called the Sustainable Markets Foundation actually funds the CIC, according to the Washington Free Beacon. The SMF gives through a pass-through entity known as Our Next Economy LLC, which then gives the money to the CIC. [7]

CIC director Kert Davies previously worked for Our Next Economy founder John Passacantando first at Ozone Action and later at Greenpeace. [8]

Sustainable Markets Foundation directed about $5 million to Our Next Economy from September 2010 through August 2017 as an independent contractor, according to Energy In Depth. From 2010 through 2013, the payments were as between $180,000 to $320,000. After the Climate Investigations Center was founded in 2014, the SMF donation to Our Next Economy increased to about $1.5 million annually. [9]

SMF donors have included the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Tides Foundation, and the TomKat Charitable Trust, which is a nonprofit founded by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer. [10]

The CIC website domain is registered through a server that intentionally conceals the identity of those who purchased the domain name. Also, unlike other nonprofit websites, there is no place to donate to the organization. Further, unlike groups registered as nonprofits with the IRS, the Climate Investigations Center does not make their financial information or salaries of top officials public. [11]

Nonprofit Status Controversy

FreedomWorks, a right-leaning taxpayer advocacy group, filed a complaint with the Justice Department against the Climate Investigations Center regarding the center’s claim of nonprofit status to gain access to fee waivers for Freedom of Information Act requests. The complaint says the CIC is not listed in the Internal Revenue Service database as a nonprofit and thus should not be entitled to fee waivers. FreedomWorks attorney Chris K. Gober wrote in the complaint that the group, “is brazenly asking federal taxpayers to repeatedly foot their bill so they can engage in fishing expeditions into the annals of government records for the purpose of attacking the private entities they are averse to.” [12]

Among the largest requests by CIC targeted the Environmental Protection Agency, asking the agency to provide digital copies of all emails from the EPA Office of Policy with any mention of two large oil and gas pipeline projects over a 49-month period. [13]

References

  1. Shepherd, Todd. “Climate Change Reporting Website Obscures Its Funding With Dark Money Network.” Washington Free Beacon. October 12, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/issues/climate-change-reporting-website-obscures-its-funding-with-dark-money-network/ ^
  2. LinkedIn. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/company/climateinvestigationscenter/ ^
  3. Johnson, Drew. “Environmental Group Misrepresented Itself As A Nonprofit In Order To Stick Taxpayers With The Bill For Its Open Records Requests.” The Daily Caller. December 5, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://dailycaller.com/2019/12/05/climate-investigations-center-misrepresented-nonprofit-taxpayers-bill/ ^
  4. Who Are We. Climate Investigations Center. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://climateinvestigations.org/who_we_are/ ^
  5. Who Are We. Climate Investigations Center. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://climateinvestigations.org/who_we_are/ ^
  6. Johnson, Drew. “Environmental Group Misrepresented Itself As A Nonprofit In Order To Stick Taxpayers With The Bill For Its Open Records Requests.” The Daily Caller. December 5, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://dailycaller.com/2019/12/05/climate-investigations-center-misrepresented-nonprofit-taxpayers-bill/ ^
  7. Shepherd, Todd. “Climate Change Reporting Website Obscures Its Funding With Dark Money Network.” Washington Free Beacon. October 12, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/issues/climate-change-reporting-website-obscures-its-funding-with-dark-money-network/ ^
  8. Shepherd, Todd. “Climate Change Reporting Website Obscures Its Funding With Dark Money Network.” Washington Free Beacon. October 12, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/issues/climate-change-reporting-website-obscures-its-funding-with-dark-money-network/ ^
  9. Walrath, Spencer. “Climate Investigations Center Utilizes Dark Money Network to Obscure Its Funds.” Energy In Depth. October 14, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://eidclimate.org/climate-investigations-center-utilizes-dark-money-network-to-obscure-its-funders/ ^
  10. Shepherd, Todd. “Climate Change Reporting Website Obscures Its Funding With Dark Money Network.” Washington Free Beacon. October 12, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/issues/climate-change-reporting-website-obscures-its-funding-with-dark-money-network/ ^
  11. Johnson, Drew. “Environmental Group Misrepresented Itself As A Nonprofit In Order To Stick Taxpayers With The Bill For Its Open Records Requests.” The Daily Caller. December 5, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://dailycaller.com/2019/12/05/climate-investigations-center-misrepresented-nonprofit-taxpayers-bill/ ^
  12. Johnson, Drew. “Environmental Group Misrepresented Itself As A Nonprofit In Order To Stick Taxpayers With The Bill For Its Open Records Requests.” The Daily Caller. December 5, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://dailycaller.com/2019/12/05/climate-investigations-center-misrepresented-nonprofit-taxpayers-bill/ ^
  13. Johnson, Drew. “Environmental Group Misrepresented Itself As A Nonprofit In Order To Stick Taxpayers With The Bill For Its Open Records Requests.” The Daily Caller. December 5, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2020. https://dailycaller.com/2019/12/05/climate-investigations-center-misrepresented-nonprofit-taxpayers-bill/ ^
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