This week media, activists, major environmental donors, and government officials will descend on San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit hosted by California Gov. Jerry Brown and co-chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, United Nations representatives, and others. According to a new report by Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) Senior Fellow Chris Horner, the summit is part of a larger scheme, in which governors’ offices are coordinating with activists and donors, who in turn are underwriting a massive, off-the-books campaign to provide staff and other resources to elected officials.
In the report, “Government for Rent: How Special Interests Finance Governors to Pursue Their Climate Policy Agenda,” Horner uses public documents to demonstrate how donors are funneling tens of millions of dollars to privately fund staff—public relations professionals, consultants, and what aides call “necessary support functions”—for advocacy work at governors’ disposal. The documents, obtained through open records requests, show non-profit groups acting as well-compensated pass-through entities for donors to fund climate change work, directly hiring staff and providing other assets, in governors’ offices in California, New York, and Washington.
“Public records reveal a sprawling dark money enterprise to underwrite governors’ political advocacy for implementing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the climate change agenda more broadly, because as some staffers said, ‘it can’t always be us staff’,” said Horner. “This unprecedented scheme of activist donors bankrolling governors committed to advancing their climate agenda is very concerning. It raises serious questions about the use of public offices to serve private interests, transparency and the reporting of these dollars, compliance with gift laws applying to elected officials, and restrictions on private financing of official activities.”
The three-day Global Climate Action Summit, budgeted at $10 million, was billed as an opportunity for financial supporters to engage summit leaders, including government officials, to shape an event that will promote climate action worldwide. One budget document detailed in the paper reveals staff’s request for additional funding of $15 million in 2018, ramping up to $30 million in 2019 and $50 million in 2020, mostly earmarked for specific non-profit, “pass-through” groups to assist the governors’ advocacy campaign with support staff and services.
“The evidence in these documents demands immediate legislative oversight—at the state and federal levels—to determine the propriety and legality of this arrangement,” said Horner. “Legislatures and inspectors general should promptly assess whether private interests have undue influence over public policy, and whether these millions of dollars in privately funded governance constitute improper gifts.”
This report follows Horner’s recent analysis detailing how activist donors are paying to place prosecutors in state attorney general offices to pursue an expressly partisan climate change agenda.