Elections, Energy, Environment, Politics

Nowhere to hide: National anti-fracking groups have blown their cover in Colorado

Colorado’s “ban fracking” campaign is over for 2016. The activists working on two ballot measures, aimed at driving oil and gas development out of the Centennial State, have been reassigned to other contests on the November ballot. But if history is any guide, the anti-fracking campaign will be back soon enough, with big national environmental groups once again pretending to be homespun, grassroots and local.

Remember when the activists mocked the idea of outside support from national groups as “obviously ridiculous” while they pushed a series of local fracking bans? Remember when they denied that “outside groups were pushing some sort of nefarious agenda” to impose a statewide ban on oil and gas development? Remember when they told the press “this isn’t about banning fracking” while working withban fracking” and “keep it in the ground” groups like Food & Water Watch, 350.org and the Sierra Club?

Icon_2016_Op_EdYou can expect the same misinformation from the anti-fracking left in 2017 and 2018, but it’s going to be much, much harder for these groups to fool anyone the next time around. Their track record, and the public record, is just too well established.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office, for example, keeps records on who actually gathers signatures for proposed ballot measures. In those records, you will see the 350.org Action Fund, Food & Water Watch, the Food & Water Watch Action Fund and Greenpeace USA listed as signature gatherers for two anti-fracking initiatives which ultimately failed to make the ballot. These are big national organizations – standing political campaigns, in effect – based in New York and Washington, D.C. with combined annual budgets in the tens of millions of dollars.

Perhaps more importantly, the Secretary of State’s office also keeps records on the local issue committee promoting those two ballot measures – Yes For Health and Safety Over Fracking. Those records show that anti-fracking campaigners in Colorado raised more than $526,000 in financial and in-kind contributions this year – and where those contributions came from.

Even a cursory examination of these campaign finance records shows the fingerprints of big national environmental groups everywhere. More than 85 percent of the financial and in-kind contributions came from these groups, in fact. Far and away the biggest contributor was the Sierra Club, based in San Francisco, Calif., which poured more than $230,000 into the anti-fracking committee.

Of course, there was an effort to “localize” the Sierra Club’s contributions, by attributing them to the group’s Rocky Mountain chapter. But where does the money for the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter actually come from? According to Colorado Gives, a “fiscal sponsor” called the Sierra Club Foundation, also based in San Francisco, which has financial assets of more than $100 million.

Importantly, the 85 percent of contributions from big national environmental groups does not include out-of-state contributions from individuals. Nor does it include some contributions to the anti-fracking committee that came from outside the country, according to Compass Colorado.

The activists on the anti-fracking left believe the public, the political press and our elected officials are just going to forget all that when 2017 rolls around. They will try to treat us like fools – again – but that doesn’t mean we should let them.

Simon Lomax is an associate energy policy analyst with the Independence Institute and a consultant who advises pro-business groups. From 2004 to 2012, he was a news reporter covering energy and environmental policy in Washington, D.C. Contact him at simon@i2i.org.




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