Study Details Dark Money Flowing to Climate Science Denial

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Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle’s long-awaited, peer-reviewed study “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations” was published Dec. 20 in the journal Climatic Change.

The Drexel press release, “Not Just the Koch Brothers: New Drexel Study Reveals Funders Behind the Climate Change Denial Effort” gives a quick introduction to the findings:

‘This study marks the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis ever conducted of the sources of funding that maintain the denial effort.
Through an analysis of the financial structure of the organizations that constitute the core of the countermovement and their sources of monetary support, Brulle found that, while the largest and most consistent funders behind the countermovement are a number of well-known conservative foundations, the majority of donations are ‘dark money,’ or concealed funding.”

“Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to denial organizations by the Donors Trust has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change.”

Of course, many recipients engage in numerous other actiivities outside the climate issue, and Brulle’s study did not and could not address the percentage spent on climate change.  The clear message is that tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations that spread climate denial get huge sums of dark money, and we really do not yet know exactly how they spend it.

Brulle has provided DeSmogBlog with the 120-page Supplementary Material, with detailed financial data and explanations of the methodology. Figs 1-4 are attached below. Fig 3 shows how the DONORS TRUST money anonymizer has grown:

Growth of DONORS

DONORS TRUST was first reported on here at DeSmogBlog in February 2012, updated in October, and was mentioned in PBS/Frontline’s Climate of Doubt, with more discussion by Brulle.

UPDATE 02/05/14: Brulle’s paper was featured in a 10-minute briefing (video) by US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Image Credit: Michael Nowosielski  / Shutterstock.

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