The Sierra Club Has Become a Front Group for its Donors' Financial Interests
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By Drew Johnson
One of America's most respected environmental nonprofits has traded in
one kind of green for another. Some of the Sierra Club's board members
and most important donors have put the almighty dollar before Mother
Earth by encouraging the organization to engage in activities that
bolster their bottom line.
In a new report, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute reveal that
many environmental activists benefit richly from their donations to the
Nathaniel Simons, a hedge fund baron worth an estimated $12 billion, has
donated more than $14 million to the Sierra Club since 2009. Those
contributions have largely been earmarked for campaigns to "educate the
public about clean energy" but have proven quite worthwhile to Simons.
While he was underwriting the Sierra Club's efforts to promote
renewables, Simons was quietly creating a venture fund that invests in
The co-founder of Applied Energy Services, Roger Sant, has donated up to
$4 million to the Sierra Club. Sant, the Chairman Emeritus of the
renewable energy company, is an outspoken advocate for a carbon dioxide
emission tax. That's because such a policy would mean millions of dollars
for Sant and other Applied Energy Services investors. Few organizations
have championed a carbon tax more fervently than the Sierra Club. Those
efforts have undeniably been bolstered by Sant's contributions.
This isn't the first example of conflicts of interest between the Sierra
Club and its directors.
The Sierra Club's well-known "Beyond Coal" campaign has been largely
discredited because the campaign appears paid for by board members and
other donors who benefit financially from the organization's anti-fossil
Eight of the Sierra Club Foundation's 18 directors are involved with
organizations that profit from the Beyond Coal campaign.
Those directors are owners, founders and CEOs of renewable energy
companies and investment firms who donated millions to the Sierra Club's
war on fossil fuels. These green energy tycoons knew lambasting coal, oil
and natural gas would increase demand for renewables like solar and
wind?and generate more money for their businesses.
Companies with top executives on the Sierra Club's board of directors
include solar firms such as SolarCity, Sun Run and the Solaria
Corporation, as well as the green energy investment funds at Barclays,
Walden Capital and Boston Common Asset Management.
For those eight board members, earnings, not the environment, appear to
motivate their involvement with the Sierra Club.
The organization's largest donor ? the funder behind much of the Beyond
Coal campaign ? may have the biggest investment of anyone in strangling
America's cheap and stable conventional energy market.
That man, David Gelbaum, has spread $500 million amongst more than 40
green energy companies, all of which benefit from the Sierra Club's
attack on fossil fuels. For Gelbaum, his $100 million donation to the
Sierra Club is a way to vilify his competition and entice people to
accept his expensive green energy schemes.
Obviously, today's Sierra Club, which now operates as a political
lobbying firm focused on enriching its donors, is a far cry from what
naturalist John Muir had in mind when he created the organization in
1892. As Energy & Environment Legal Institute's Legal Executive Director
Craig Richardson points out, the Sierra Club's war on fossil fuels is "an
effort that clearly benefits the very same people who are donating the
money ? it's clear the Sierra Club is now just a mercenary force beholden
to the highest bidder."
Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and
a columnist at The Washington Times.
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