For Immediate Release:
April 2, 2015
E&E Legal Launches Sierra Club Unearthed, a Special Project to Expose How the Sierra Club’s Been Hijacked by National “Players,” and to Serve as a Portal for Local Club Members Seeking to Restore the Group to its Original Mission
Washington, D.C. — Today, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), a 501 (c) (3) watchdog group, launched Sierra Club Unearthed, a special project of E&E Legal. The goal of Sierra Club Unearthed is two-fold: 1) Use investigatory research and other information to document the extent to which a small group of national hacks have hijacked the Sierra Club and have used it for their own financial and political purposes; and 2) Provide a confidential portal for local Sierra Club members to share their “horror stories” about the national Sierra Club’s activities with the goal of returning the Sierra Club to the original mission of its founder John Muir.
The Sierra Club Unearthed website documents several areas in which the national Sierra Club has sold out, including their “War on Coal,” which directly financially benefits 8 of the Sierra Club Foundation’s 18 Board of Directors due to their ownership and/or management of renewable energy companies – a segment of the market that would certainly benefit if coal’s share were diminished. Its “War on Coal” also coincided with natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy’s $26 million donation to the Sierra Club for the express purpose of forcing coal-fired electricity companies to switch to natural gas.
Other areas exposed through the site include the fact that the Sierra Club is engaged in direct commercial sales – creating unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) – on which they have never paid taxes. For example, the Sierra Club has an exclusive deal with Sungevity, a global solar company, that provides the Sierra Club with a $750 kickback on each product sold but there is no indication that the they are reporting this as income. The group also hawks hats, and vacation packages – for profit ventures – again with no evidence they are paying taxes on this income.
Another area the Sierra Club – a non-profit organization – may have violated tax laws is the group’s extensive foray into local, state, and national politics. During the 2014 national elections, the Sierra Club, along with other green groups, spent heavily in political races, using their various affiliated entities to launder money, and to make huge political campaign purchases like the $1 million ad buy in Iowa in September. One of the Sierra Club’s biggest contributions to the green movement’s political force is engaging at the grassroots level. Since the Sierra Club local organizations, like labor unions, are free to electioneer, the national leadership has applied top-down mandates on their local clubs – mandates that were directly coordinated with “Obama campaign staff,” during the 2012 election, according to a Sierra Club document.
And of course, there is the now infamous “greenwashing” deal where Clorox, a leading bleach manufacturer, paid the Sierra Club huge sums of money in exchange for essentially Sierra Club’s endorsement of their product. This story is also documented on the site.
“It’s truly sad what the Sierra Club has morphed into over the past twenty-five years,” said Craig Richardson, executive director of E&E Legal. “This once prestigious organization, founded by John Muir in 1892 as a means of conserving this country’s natural resources, has clearly lost its way, become mired in politics, and have aligned themselves with corporate interests so they can line their own pockets.”
Another aspect of the Sierra Club Unearthed project is to provide a portal for local Sierra Club members to report malfeasance regarding the national organization. E&E Legal has already spoken to “whistleblowers” who have expressed a keen concern for the direction of the national Sierra Club, and quite simply just want to have their organization back so they continue working on local environmental issues.
“I have personally spoken to local Sierra Club members from New York, and Pennsylvania,” said David W. Schnare, E&E Legal general counsel. “These are sincere and concerned individuals who are alarmed at the amount of money the national group is siphoning away from local efforts, and in their hearts they know that the group has abandoned its roots, and they want it back.”
Schnare added that one of the missions of the project is to provide a confidential place these individuals can tell their story, and he also noted that E&E Legal will provide and/or secure legal representation for any local Sierra Club member who believe such services are required.
E&E Legal produced two investigatory reports on the Sierra Club last fall, and it is planning on releasing another report next week that will examine funding issues related to the organization. In addition to primarily research, E&E Legal plans on regularly posting news items to the Sierra Club Unearthed site related to the project.
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.