Dark Money

Dark money is a term for concealed donations given to “pass-through” foundations who are supposed to use that money for charitable purposes. These foundations are vehicles for businesses to pay less tax, because they’re donating to  charity. Most importantly, dark money sources don’t have to identify themselves if they’re not actively supporting politicians or causes.

Sometimes these foundations say they’re a group of citizens wanting grass-roots change. In 1990 a foundation called Citizens for the Environment called acid rain “a myth”. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigated this group and discovered it had no “citizen membership of its own”. If you don’t have a citizen membership, who’s running things?

In an article for the New Yorker in 2010, Jane Mayer wrote this about the brothers Charles and David Koch:

They are “longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry – especially environmental regulation.

These views dovetail with the brother’s corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the Unites States.

Until 2007, Koch Affiliated Foundations, along with ExonMobil Foundation, spent millions of dollars funding climate change denial efforts. Then the funding declined to almost nothing.

Coinciding with that decline in traceable funding, Robert Brulle, a Drexel University environmental sociologist, found a dramatic rise in the cash flowing to denial organizations from DonorsTrust, a donor-directed pass-through foundation whose funders cannot be traced.

Dr. Brulle writes in a study published in the journal Climatic Change:

… the largest, most consistent money fueling the climate denial movement are a number of well-funded conservative foundations built with ‘dark money’.

The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on global warming. 

Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight  – often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians – but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers. If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes. Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible.

So, who is behind the scenes? Thanks to the excellent research by the writers quoted above, we know two of them are Charles and David Koch.

Who are these guys?