Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced a probe into several green energy groups reported as having taken money from an allegedly Russian-funded foundation seeking to undermine U.S. energy security. [bold, links added]
The GOP committee members wrote to three groups Thursday — the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club — demanding more information about their financial ties to the California-based Sea Change Foundation.
The NRDC vehemently denied the allegations Thursday, saying the reports Republicans referenced were false.
“It has been alleged that Putin is using a San Francisco-based eNGO, the Sea Change Foundation (Sea Change), to funnel money into U.S.-based environmental advocacy efforts designed to undermine American energy production,” the GOP’s letters stated.
“According to a 2014 report, Sea Change receives contributions from a ‘Bermuda-based company called Klein Ltd.’ which is used ‘for funneling Russian government money to American environmental groups in order to undermine U.S. natural gas and oil production to Russia’s benefit.’”
“Notably, reports suggest that your organization is one of the top e-NGO recipients of Sea Change grants since 2006,” they added.
The Sea Change Foundation was founded in 2006 as a private family foundation dedicated to addressing global climate change, according to its website.
The organization had end-of-year assets net-worth more than $255.7 million and raised more than $54 million in 2018, its latest annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service showed.
Its top contributors were its co-founders and co-directors Nathaniel Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons and a fund under their name, the 2019 filing showed.
Klein Ltd., the Bermuda-based company that has allegedly funneled money from Russia to Sea Change, according to the letters Thursday, has previously denied such efforts, The Washington Times reported.
Klein Ltd. was founded in 2011 and now operates under the name Sea Change Foundation International, of which Simons and Baxter-Simons are co-directors.
Sea Change Foundation International is the “international philanthropic counterpart” to Sea Change.
“I wish to clarify that press reports speculating that Klein has received funding from outside sources are factually incorrect and have no basis,” Simons said in a statement amid speculation of Sea Change’s finances in 2018, according to Inside Philanthropy.
“Neither Klein nor Sea Change Foundation has ever solicited or accepted contributions from non-family related sources.”
But in their letters to the environmental groups that reportedly received significant contributions from Sea Change, the Republicans posed a series of questions about how closely affiliated they were with the Russian government.
They also asked which specific programs the funds received from Sea Change were earmarked for.
“Any action by President Putin, the Russian government, or Putin’s allies to undermine American energy security must be addressed,” they wrote.
They requested answers from the groups by March 25.
The NRDC, however, echoed Simons and characterized the allegations as a “distraction” in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“These allegations are false. We receive no funding from the governments of Russia or China,” NRDC’s director of strategic engagement Bob Deans told the DCNF.
“We answer to our independent leadership, and we don’t do the bidding of any government – foreign or otherwise – in our work to advocate for commonsense environmental protections in the public interest.”
“These allegations are rooted in a smear campaign orchestrated nearly a decade ago by fossil fuel interests and a right-wing think tank,” he continued.
Sea Change, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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