WRAL ignores wealthy funders on left

by Susan Myrick

Raleigh, NC – WRAL’s Laura Leslie wrote about an Energy Forum held at the Legislature September 9 organized by opponents of renewable energy programs. (Translation from WRAL speak: opponents to taxpayer-funded renewable energy programs.) The central theme of Leslie’s article seems to be the famous “Koch Brothers.” That would be Charles and David Koch, the businessman brothers who are favorite boogeyman targets of the progressive left.

mediarichLeslie makes a Koch connection with the sponsor of the event, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), because they are “the political lobbying arm of the Institute for Energy Policy (IEP), a conservative think tank funded by Charles and David Koch.”

Then Leslie sets her sights on the event moderator, Tom Pyle, because he is the “president of the AEA and the IEP, and a former Koch Industries lobbyist.” She goes on to say that the Koch family has made most of their money from petrochemical fuels and spends that money defending the fossil fuel industry. Leslie even attempts to tie Utah State University’s Institute for Political Economy to the Koch brothers.

While Leslie spends most of the article throwing around Koch connections of those testifying against political favoritism for renewable energy, she cites four pro-renewable groups (translation: groups that promote government subsidies and political privileges to an industry that can’t stand on its own) for balance.

Unsurprisingly, Leslie fails to reveal where they get their funding or what the funders’ ulterior motives are.

There are probably those who would call Leslie’s work journalistic malfeasance. Others would suggest that Leslie was just being lazy and went to the drawer labeled “Koch Demons” and called it a day. Incidentally, Jim Goodman, owner of Capitol Broadcasting/WRAL, also owns a very large solar facility in North Carolina and has reaped the benefits from the taxpayers for several years. This fact is mentioned as an afterthought with a disclaimer after the article stating: “WRAL News parent Capitol Broadcasting Co. owns a solar farm.”

So Civitas will take up where Ms. Leslie left off, and tell you the rest of the story: the left-leaning groups and rich people who fund the solar and wind power lobby for their own profit.

#1 Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is the largest and one of the oldest environmental organizations in the country. This article from the Oregonian contends that Sierra Club’s contributors are now putting the “almighty dollar before mother earth” and cites a report by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute that reveals that many “environmental activists benefit richly from their donations to the Sierra Club.” The article gives examples of the very wealthy making money from their philanthropy.

“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 clean energy.”

The Oregonian article goes on to say that the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign had been discredited because it had been funded by board members and donors who “benefit financially from the organization’s anti-fossil fuel crusades.” It goes on to say that “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.”

On the local level, here is a link to the Sierra Club in Mapping the Left, where you will find that the Sierra Club in North Carolina has received $160,000 from the Educational Foundation of America. The Educational Foundation of America describes itself as “an advocate for progressive change” and funds some of the most liberal/progressive groups in the nation.

#2 Wind Energy Foundation

The Wind Energy Foundation appears to be relatively new. According to the Foundation Directory, the Wind Energy Foundation has received 99.9 percent of its funding from the Energy Foundation.

A 2014 United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Minority Staff report, titled “The Chain of Environmental Command – How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA,” describes the Energy Foundation this way:

“The Energy Foundation is a pass-through public charity utilized by the most powerful Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) members to create the appearance of a more diversified base of support, to shield them from accountability, and to leverage limited resources by hiring dedicated energy/environment staff to handle strategic giving. The Energy Foundation is the largest recipient of grants from the foreign-funded Sea Change Foundation; yet, it appears the Energy Foundation attempts to hide donations from Sea Change, as it is not listed as one of Energy Foundation’s partners.”


#3 RTI

RTI, formerly Research Triangle Institute, receives hundreds of millions of dollars (RTI reported income of nearly $800 million in 2013) each year from government agencies and many left-wing philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation ($6 million since 2004), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (more than $26 million since 2007) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (nearly $8 million since 2003).

In 2014 Civitas reported that RTI, a non-profit receiving billions in taxpayer funds, had experienced a decade of poor audit reports from international auditing firms. According to the Washington Examiner, “IG auditors have long accused RTI of filing faulty progress reports, misusing tax dollars and failing to implement projects according to contract specifications.”

#4 North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) 

Since 2008 NCSEA has received more than $925,000 (46 percent of its grant funding) from the Energy Foundation. Tom Steyer, the hedge-fund billionaire from San Francisco, granted $3 million through his foundation TomKat Charitable Trust to the Energy Foundation. To read more about the Energy Foundation, see #2. It has been well documented that Steyer has a financial stake in the politically-aided growth of renewable investments.


It is evident and unfortunate that Laura Leslie is fixated on the Koch Brothers, when far more people and significantly more money funds the solar and wind power industry. Wealthy, self-interested businessmen are largely funding the government cronyism behind the renewable industry, in seek of exploiting political privilege for personal gain.

An honest journalist would be consistent in citing the funders behind both sides of the renewable energy debate. Leslie’s Koch brothers obsession diminishes her work and highlights her political agenda.