Good news, everyone! Republicans definitely care very sincerely about transparency in nonprofit donations, seemingly reversing decades of efforts to assist industry donors in concealing their disinformation networks. This could offer an unprecedented opportunity for bipartisan legislation that would make political giving more transparent, dragging the Koch network’s influence, as well as other groups, into the light.
Unfortunately, what House Republicans and their comrades in the UK are doing is attempting to resuscitate a myth propagated as a “no u” response to the reports of Russian influence helping Donald Trump during the 2016 election. How? By accusing major green groups of secretly being funded by Putin to attack fracking, thereby leaving us dependent on Russian fossil fuels.
As usual, any evidence evaporates as soon as one looks for it. Because there is no evidence that big green groups are getting Russian money. The stories are predicated on an ASK for evidence! Specifically, House Republicans sent letters to the Sierra Club, NRDC, and LCV, asking questions that, it turns out, have already been answered.
As Politico’s Ben Lefebvre documented in 2017, the real story here is that this attack is orchestrated by a group run by Rick Berman, who Lefebvre notes earned the moniker “Dr. Evil” for fighting in favor of every sort of evil industry. Like his campaign against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, this campaign, targeting environmentalists, began back in 2014.
The green groups involved said at the time it was categorically false, and then even donors themselves cleared it up in 2018, clarifying that the money donated was from their own family wealth accrued in offshore funds, with the backstory documented by the Panama Papers coverage. (Defending oneself with one of the largest leaks of offshore wealth chicanery is basically the philanthropic equivalent of when Principal Seymour Skinner cleared up rumors he was making babies with Mrs. Krabapple in the school closet by admitting to Springfield he was a 44 year old virgin.)
No mention of all that pesky evidence now though, and when you go each conspiracy theory-peddling rightwing tabloid talking about it in 2022 - from Fox, Daily Mail, (twice!) the Sun, RealClearEnergy , NewsMax, and op-ed clearinghouse The Hill, they all rely on the same baseless smears from Berman’s crew, laundered by House Republicans looking to defend Trump and score cheap political points while Putin’s soldiers invade Ukraine.
If Republicans weren’t so adamant about shielding nonprofits from transparency, they wouldn’t now have to be sending angry (toothless) letters.
They could write a law! They could’ve written a law back in 2017! Or 2020! But hey, there’s no better time than the present, right?
No doubt their Democratic counterparts would be more than happy to find a way to make it so that both the Heritage Foundation and Sierra Club have to provide a greater degree of transparency!
Surely we can get some bipartisan applause for transparency!