Washington Legal Foundation

Washington Legal Foundation (WLF)


The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) was founded in 1977 to fight “activist lawyers, regulators, and intrusive government agencies at the federal and state levels, in the courts and regulatory agencies across the country.” WLF is a national non-profit foundation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.1WLF at-a-glance,” Archived September 2, 2008. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The Washington Legal Foundation has repeatedly opposed the EPA and the Clean Air Act, having described it as a “power grab.” In 2014 they supported two cases against the EPA, one regarding the Clean Water Act, and one regarding the Clean Air Act.2 WLF 2014 Annual Report (PDF), Washington Legal Foundation. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) has revised its mission. In 2012, it describes its three essential programs as “shaping public policy through aggressive litigation and advocacy,” “publishing timely legal studies,” and “educating policy-makers and the public through extensive communications outreach.” As of 2015, WLF’s new mission statement is “to preserve and defend America’s free enterprise system by litigating, educating, and advocating for free market principles, a limited and accountable government, and individual and business liberties.”3WLF Mission,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived September 23, 2015. WebCite URL: 4WLF Mission,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived March 7, 2012. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The Washington Legal Foundation has received funding from Koch Family Foundations, oil company ExxonMobil, Scaife Family Foundations, and the tobacco industry as well as numerous other large, conservative foundations. It has represented large oil companies including ExxonMobil, and has worked with large tobacco companies including Phillip Morris — the same companies that provided it millions of dollars in financial contributions.

Stance on Climate Change

“As MIT’s Richard Lindzen noted, ‘water vapor is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide… .’ “

“Given the continuing uncertainties and disputes regarding the causes and possible effects of increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, and the effectiveness and economic and societal consequences of any chosen response, Congress has held over 200 hearings, enacted at least a half dozen statutes, and taken other actions establishing a measured course of action for the Nation, designed to address concerns about potential global climate change through a greater understanding of the possible problems and solutions.”5 “PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ex rel. EDMUND G. BROWN, JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, et al., Defendants-Appellees.” No. 07-16908 (PDF). Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“[G]lobal warming ‘liability’ presents a nonjusticiable political question.”6 NATIVE VILLAGE OF KIVALINA and CITY OF KIVALINA, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. EXXONMOBIL CORPORATION et al (PDF). Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Because of its wide impact, climate change regulation could be extremely costly economically, with most cost estimates of the various bills in Congress running to more than a hundred billion dollars each year.7 COMMENTS Of the WASHINGTON LEGAL FOUNDATION To the ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY Concerning PROPOSED ENDANGERMENT FINDING AND CAUSE OR CONTRIBUTION FINDING FOR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS UNDER SECTION 202(a) OF THE CLEAN AIR ACT. Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171 (PDF). Archived .pdf on File at DeSmog.


As Donor

According to public 990 tax filings, Washington Legal Foundation gave $11,684,725 to the U.S. Justice Charitable Foundation in 2010. WLF’s 2008 990 form lists the U.S. Justice Charitable Foundation as a related tax-exempt organization.

As Recipient

According to data compiled by the Conservative Transparency project, the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) has received funding from the below sources. Note that not all data has been verified by DeSmog.8Washington Legal Foundation,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved July 6, 2016.

View the attached spreadsheet for additional information on the Washington Legal Foundation’s funding by year (.xlsx).

The Carthage Foundation$2,910,000
American Legal Foundation$2,799,977
John M. Olin Foundation$2,735,000
U.S. Justice Charitable Foundation$2,362,440
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation$1,605,000
Sarah Scaife Foundation$920,000
Dodge Jones Foundation$771,400
Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Foundation$716,725
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation$580,500
Exxon Mobil$575,000
The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation$375,000
National Philanthropic Trust$350,000
Donors Capital Fund$281,000
Sidney A. Swensrud Foundation$265,000
Armstrong Foundation$265,000
Kickapoo Springs Foundation$255,681
Allied Education Foundation$250,000
F.M. Kirby Foundation$217,500
Allegheny Foundation$200,000
William H. Donner Foundation$160,000
Ed Uihlein Family Foundation$90,000
The Rodney Fund$71,000
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers$70,000
K W Grader Foundation$63,500
JM Foundation$60,000
The Helen Diller Family Foundation$60,000
Woodhouse Family Foundation$48,000
John William Pope Foundation$35,000
Philip M. McKenna Foundation$34,000
Boh Foundation$25,500
The Weiler Foundation$25,000
CIGNA Foundation$25,000
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation$17,593
Arthur N. Rupe Foundation$15,000
William E. Simon Foundation$10,000
National Christian Charitable Foundation$10,000
Joyce and Donald Rumsfeld Foundation$9,000
Richard Seth Staley Educational Foundation$7,950
The Davidow Charitable Fund$4,000
Edward L & Addie M Soule Foundation$4,000
Grand Total$19,401,766

Associated Groups & Charities

The WLF has received significant support from the American Legal Foundation. According to the group’s 990 forms, its mission is “to work through the institutional facilities and abilities of Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) and other public charities, through financial assistance to provide a balanced public interest and strong institutional capability.” The group’s primary expense for several years appears to have been supporting the WLF.’

Another group, the Allied Education Foundation, reported on its tax forms that it worked “in association with Washington Legal Foundation” in 2013. It has also provided funds to WLF.

ExxonMobil Funding

According to Greenpeace’s ExxonSecrets, Washington Legal Foundation has received at least $375,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. A search of data via Conservative Transparency and public 990 forms puts that total at $575,000.9 ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Washington Legal Foundation, WLF. Accessed February 13, 2019.

Koch Funding

Greenpeace found that WLF had received at least $1,605,000 from Koch Foundations between 1998 and 2010:10Washington Legal Foundation (WLF): Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group,” Greenpeace USA. Accessed July 6, 2016. Most recent data on file at DeSmog.

YearClaude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation
Grand Total$1,605,000

Tobacco Industry Funding

Internal tobacco industry documents reveal that WLF sought and obtained funding from Philip Morris and the now defunct Tobacco Institute:

Philip Morris

Total: $1,250,000

The Tobacco Institute

Total: $125,000

990 Forms

Key People

The following is a snapshot of the Washington Legal Foundation’s “Legal Policy Advisory Board” as of September, 2015:20Legal Policy Advisory Board,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived September 24, 2015. WebCite URL:


  • Jay B. Stephens — Former Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Raytheon Company



  • Mark A. BehrensPartner, Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP, Washington, DC
  • Gregory A. BrowerPartner, Snell & Wilmer, Las Vegas and Reno, NV
  • Carol Elder Bruce — Partner, K&L Gates LLP
  • The Honorable James H. Burnley, IVPartner, Venable LLP, Washington, DC
  • Ralph J. Caccia, Esq. — Partner, Wiley Rein LLP, Washington, DC
  • Michael A. Carvin, Esq.Partner, Jones Day, Washington, DC
  • Drew Clark — Vice President and General Counsel, McKee Foods Corporation
  • Charles Cooper, Esq. — Founding Partner, Cooper & Kirk PLLC, Washington, DC
  • Joseph E. diGenova, Esq.Founding Partner, diGenova & Toensing, Washington, DC
  • Professor Viet D. DinhProfessor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC
  • The Honorable John EnglerPresident, The Business Roundtable
  • The Honorable Tim Fox — Attorney General, State of Montana
  • Richard L. Frank — Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC, Washington, D.C.
  • The Honorable Harold Furchtgott-RothPresident, Furchtgott-Roth Economic Enterprises
  • Kenneth S. Geller, Esq. — Partner, Managing Partner, Mayer Brown LLP, Washington, DC
  • Stuart M. Gerson, Esq. — Member of the Firm, Epstein Becker & Green, P.C., Washington, DCNY
  • Thomas C. Goldstein, Esq. Partner — Goldstein & Russell, P.C., Washington, DC
  • Eric Grannon, Esq. Partner — White & Case, Washington, DC
  • Professor William F. HarveyCarl M. Gray Professor of Law Emeritus, Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis
  • Coleen Klasmeier — Partner, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, D.C.
  • Philip A. Lacovara, Esq. — Senior Counsel, Mayer Brown LLP, New York, NY
  • Jay P. LefkowitzPartner, Kirland & Ellis LLP, New York, New York
  • Susan W. Liebeler, Esq.President, Lexpert Research Services, Los Angeles, CA
  • Daniel M. Mandil — Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Viacom, New York, New York
  • Arvin Maskin, Esq. — Litigation Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, New York, NY
  • The Honorable Rob McKennaPartner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Seattle, Washington
  • John A. Merrigan, Esq. — DLA Piper
  • Professor John Norton Moore — Walter L. Brown Professor of Law, University of Virginia, School of Law
  • The Honorable Gerald J. Mossinghoff — Senior Counsel, Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, Alexandria, VA
  • The Honorable Theodore B. Olson — Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Washington, DC
  • Carter G. Phillips — Partner, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, D.C.
  • Professor Stephen B. Presser — Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus, Northwestern University, School of Law
  • Professor George L. Priest — Professor of Law & Economics, Yale University Law School
  • Charles F. (Rick) Rule, Esq. — Partner, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, Washington, DC
  • The Honorable Kenneth W. StarrPresident, Baylor University, Waco, Texas
  • The Honorable John W. Suthers Former Attorney General, State of Colorado
  • George J. Terwilliger III, Esq. — Partner, McGuire Woods LLP, Washington, DC
  • Larry D. Thompson Former Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Pepsico
  • Daniel E. Troy — Senior Vice President and General Counsel, GlaxoSmithKline
  • The Honorable William F. Weld Partner, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC, New York, NY
  • Joe D. Whitley, Esq. — Partner, Baker Donelson, Washington, DCGA

As of February, 2012, the following additional board members (no longer listed in 2015) were listed on WLF’s website:21Legal Policy Advisory Board,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived February 19, 2012.

  • Joseph A. Artabane, Esq. — Artabane & Belden, P.C.
  • Professor Thomas E. Baker — Professor of Law, Florida International University College of Law.
  • Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., Esq. — Partner, Patton Boggs LLP, Washington, DC.
  • Michael K. Brown, Esq. — Partner, Reed Smith, Los Angeles, CA.
  • Richard Duesenberg — Former Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Monsanto Company.
  • Professor Maurice J. Holland — Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon, School of Law.
  • Clarence T. Kipps, Jr., Esq. — Of Counsel, Miller & Chevalier, Washington, DC.
  • The Honorable Robert F. McDonnell — Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Glen D. Nager, Esq. — Partner, Jones Day, Washington, DC.
  • The Honorable Mark Shurtleff — Attorney General, State of Utah.
  • The Honorable Don Stenberg — Former Attorney General, State of Nebraska.
  • Ambassador Robert S. Strauss — Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Washington, DC.
  • John Thorne — Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Verizon Communications, Inc.
  • Wayne Withers — Of Counsel, Bryan Cave LLP, St. Louis, MO.


July 28, 2015

The Washington Legal Foundation filed formal comments with the Environmental Protection agency, “urging the agency to revise its recent draft report on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to make more explicit its findings that fracking poses no threat to drinking water.”22Case Detail: In re EPA Report on Hydraulic Fracturing,” Washington Legal Foundation, July 28, 2015. Archived September 24, 2015.

Related docs:


The Washington Legal Foundation was involved in two cases against the Environmental Protection Agency. The following summaries are taken from WLK’s 2014 Annual Report (PDF).23 WLF 2014 Annual Report (PDF), Washington Legal Foundation. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA.

“EPA had sought to expand regulation of greenhouse gases in the wake of the Court’s earlier decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, but WLF’s brief argued that EPA improperly seized on the Court’s narrow earlier ruling to enhance the agency’s regulatory authority

[…] Although WLF would like to have seen the Court cut back even further on EPA’s power grab, the partial victory nonetheless established real constraints on whose emissions EPA may regulate.”

American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA

“In a brief filed on behalf of 39 Members of Congress challenging EPA’s conduct, WLF argues that EPA is exceeding powers delegated to it and violating Congress’ desire for state primacy as expressed in the CWA.”

July 7, 2010

The Washington Legal Foundation filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit urging it to reject an appeal filed by the Alaskan village of Kivalina, which seeks to revive a lawsuit contending that global warming is destroying the village by melting Arctic sea ice.24 NATIVE VILLAGE OF KIVALINA and CITY OF KIVALINA, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. EXXONMOBIL CORPORATION et al (PDF). Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 25 Case Detail: Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp, Washington Legal Foundation.

The lawsuit was directed at ExxonMobil Corporation among 19 American oil and energy companies.

According to WLF, “allegations are not sufficient to support the imposition of joint and several liability for Kivalina’s alleged damages on this group of Defendants, whose alleged ‘contribution’ to global warming in 2004, according to Plaintiffs’ own sources, is only approximately 2.68%.”

June 23, 2009

WLF opposed the EPA’s proposed endangerment finding which would classify elevated atmospheric concentrations of six GHGs, including carbon dioxide (CO2), as air pollution with the potential to endanger public health and welfare.

Their opposition was on the grounds that it could potentially “encourage a flood of lawsuits against companies that emit greenhouse gases claiming that such activities constitute ‘negligence’ or a ‘nuisance.’”26 COMMENTS Of the WASHINGTON LEGAL FOUNDATION To the ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY Concerning PROPOSED ENDANGERMENT FINDING AND CAUSE OR CONTRIBUTION FINDING FOR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS UNDER SECTION 202(a) OF THE CLEAN AIR ACT. Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171 (PDF). Archived .pdf on File at DeSmog.

July 1, 2008

WLF filed comments with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on its proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards which would improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

WLF warned against any actions that would “impose undue costs to the industry and consumers,” and “urged NHTSA not to effectively force manufacturers to reduce the weight of their vehicles to meet aggressive fuel economy standards, which would make them less crashworthy.”27Case Detail: In re Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived September 24, 2015.

Related docs:

April 15, 2008

WLF filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals urging the court to reject an appeal filed by the State of California that had described global warming is a public nuisance that has caused California to suffer beach erosion and other environmental impacts.

California listed the General Motors Corporation and five other major automakers as partially responsible for contributing to the global warming.

WLF concluded that “California mischaracterizes global climate change and its highly complex causes as an actionable public nuisance under federal common law and enlists the federal courts into making nationwide energy and economic policy in the guise of a tort suit. Realizing this, the district court properly dismissed California’s claims on the grounds that they raise nonjusticiable political questions.”28Case Detail: California v. General Motors,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived September 24, 2015.

Related docs:


WLF filed an amicus brief in Massachusetts v. EPA, 127 S. Ct. 1438, declaring that Congress did not give authority to the EPA under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions for climate change purposes.

WLF argued that a court ordering the EPA to regulate emissions would constitute a “back door” method of implementing the Kyoto Treaty regulating greenhouse gases, and “cause severe harm to our economy.”29Case Detail: Massachusetts v. EPA,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived September 24, 2015.

Related docs:

May 18, 2007

While petitioners were urging the EPA to increase regulation for mercury emissions from power plants WLF argued that no additional regulations were necessary as “mercury emissions from utilities do not pose a hazard to public health.”30Case Detail: New Jersey v. EPA,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived September 24, 2015.

Related docs:

June 10, 2001

In a biweekly “In All Fairness” ad in the New York Times, WLF’s Daniel Popeo condemned “self-anointed consumer protection groups, working closely with profiteering plaintiff lawyers, […] Naderite food police,” and “no-growth activists,” saying that “in the post-September 11 world we can no longer afford to put the narrow agendas of a ‘public interest’ elite ahead of our own national interests.”31 John Stauber. “Cold War Rhetoric Fuels Global Warming,” Pr Watch, July 9, 2001. WebCite URL:


WLF, which receives funding from the Philip Morris tobacco company (PM), publicly defended the tobacco industry.

In 1998, the WLF ran an inflammatory, pro-tobacco advertisement titled “In all Fairness: A Constitutional tragedy in the making” in several large papers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the National Journal, the CongressDaily AM, and others.32IN ALL FAIRNESS A CONSTITUTIONAL TRAGEDY IN THE MAKING,” Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates Number 2060567856.

An April 1994 activity report by Philip Morris employee Roy E. Marden states he was “Working with the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF)in the development of a strategy to counteract and attack the efforts of the antis [public health advocates]…”33REM MONTHLY REPORT, 940400,” Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Bates Number 2078212287/2288.

WLF was listed as a think tank housing “policy analysts sympathetic with our views” in a February 25, 1999 memo from BSMG Worldwide to Philip Morris. The memo describes strategies to “support a full court press to thwart the filing of a federal lawsuit against the tobacco industry in order to force the industry to settlement.”

The objective of the strategy was to “[Enlist] allies and other potential third parties to help provide a “echo chamber” of opinion in local, regional,and national media, consistent with our messages.”34COMMUNICATIONS PLAN – SUPERSIZED,” Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Bates Number 2077085684/5692.

As of June 2016, the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) listed the following contact information on its website:35Contact WLF,” Washington Legal Foundation. Archived June 29, 2016. WebCite URL:

Washington Legal Foundation
2009 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
[email protected]
ph. 202-588-0302

Washington legal foundation has coordinated on issues with other Washington-based think tanks including the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.36Washington Legal Foundation Seminar on Free Enterprise & Criminal Law: Transcript Summary,” White&Case, March 17, 2010. Archived June 25, 2011.

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