GOP Lawmaker Asks EPA to Investigate Environmental Groups’ Ties to Russia, China, Election Interference

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The letter names the Sea Change Foundation, the Sierra Club, and the Sunrise Movement as examples of groups that work to put radical environmental policies in place through funding from foreign donors that can remain anonymous with a 501-C4 tax status.

“We have reason to believe the eco-lobby has spent years channeling money from foreign governments into American elections, skirting laws which require they register as foreign agents in the process,” Gooden said in a statement.

“If this is true, they are giving the enemy an avenue to covertly influence our politics. It’s unacceptable and we must hold them accountable,” Gooden said.

The letter, which is cc’d to Attorney General William Barr, said in part:

Both members of Congress and the media have long noted that many environmental groups receive large sums of money from an organization called ‘Sea Change Foundation’, a proven front group for foreign financing, funded by off-shore hedge funds in Bermuda. In fact, in 2017, the House Committee on Science identified Russian-funded social media advertisements actively targeting the U.S. energy sector, particularly fracking, leading up to the 2016 U.S. election.

Many 501(c)(4)s receive foreign funding for research or programming, but the environmental groups in question are not acting as mere think tanks or research organizations. These groups actively lobby Congress for legislative action, support political affiliations, and promote policy. They have also been known to organize and pay operatives to disrupt American energy operations and election processes.

While it is not illegal for tax-exempt 501(c)(4)s to receive funding from foreign countries, the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) stipulates that any foreign-funded organization engaged in political activity must register as a foreign agent. Environmental groups that receive money from Sea Change or other foreign-funded organizations, who then use those funds to target American energy interests, should disclose the source of their funding and potentially register as foreign agents. These groups are clearly engaging in politics at best, and operating at the behest of foreign actors at worst.

The letter noted that China and Russia want to undermine the U.S. energy independence by pushing the climate change/clean energy agenda that wants to eliminate the oil and gas industry.

“The future and national security of America are at stake – we must protect our resources,” the letter said.

Gooden ended the letter with a quote from Barr saying China is the greatest threat to the 2020 general election.

“We have strong reason to believe that one of the many tactics they are using to influence our elections is through eco-left ‘green’ groups,” Barr said. “The CCP cannot be trusted and we must hold them and any bad actors accountable for funding political activity and election meddling in the United States.”

This isn’t the first time controversy has surrounded the Sea Change Foundation, according to the leftist Inside Philanthropy website, which supports and advances the climate change agenda, but its reporting shows that even with the foundation’s effort to be more transparent there are many unanswered questions about its work:

The controversy stems from two contributions to Sea Change around 2011 totaling $23 million, from Klein Ltd., the Bermuda-based entity. The remaining $315 million-plus deposited into Sea Change over its decade or so of existence came from U.S.-based funds belonging to Nat and Laura–who’ve made their own wealth through the Meritage Group, a San Francisco-based hedge fund–and a couple of deposits from Jim Simons.

Speculation about that $23 million has ricocheted mostly around conservative media for years. Specifically, voices on the right have claimed that Sea Change is a conduit for Russian funding of the U.S. environmental movement. And despite the lack of evidence behind it, the theory has taken on a life of its own.

Claims about Sea Change and Russia cite a dubious 2014 report from the Environmental Policy Alliance, a front group run by notorious communications firm Berman & Company to discredit environmental groups. The report hinges on Russian business connections of employees at a Bermuda law firm that provides financial services, including for Klein, declaring that this “raises serious questions.” A sort of telephone game of tweets, blog posts and op-eds have followed, often misleading or vastly overstating the report’s shaky premise. The theory was resurfaced in 2017 by GOP Reps. Lamar Smith and Randy Weber, who used it as a reason to request an investigation by the U.S. Treasury.

The article noted that because Sea Change Foundation International is based in Bermuda, “it’s not possible to track its activities through tax filings.”

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