07/2010

The Foundations: Funding the Greenwashers

The recent attempts by nativist groups and activists to convince environmentalists to oppose immigration have not paid for themselves. Behind the "greenwashers" have been several major right-wing foundations.

The most important may be the Colcom Foundation, a $400-million-plus entity founded in 1996 by Cordelia Scaife May of the far-right Scaife family. May is a close friend and long-time funder of John Tanton, the man who started the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and who spearheaded the idea of trying to convert environmentalists to the nativist cause. And Colcom's vice president is John Rohe, who worked for years at Tanton's U.S. Inc. foundation and once wrote a fawning biography of Tanton and his wife. In 2008, Colcom gave four groups started by Tanton — FAIR, U.S. Inc., the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA — a total of nearly $8.5 million, part of it earmarked for work on the "impact of immigration" on the environment. In 2009, according to Colcom's website, it also supported the newly established Progressives for Immigration Reform, now the leading greenwashing organization in the country. Colcom also funds genuine environmental groups like The Conservation Fund, the National Tropical Botanical Garden and the Pennsylvania Resources Council.

Colcom also funded three organizations listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Between 2007 and 2009, the foundation gave $100,000 to American Border Patrol, $470,000 to the American Immigration Control Foundation, and $255,000 to the VDARE website's parent foundation.

The Weeden Foundation has long supported both nativist and environmental groups. Alan Weeden, president of the foundation, also serves on FAIR's board of directors. In 2008, the foundation supported CIS, NumbersUSA and Population-Environment Balance (whose president, Virginia Abernethy, is a self-described white separatist and member of the baldly racist Council of Conservative Citizens). It also funds environmental stalwarts like the National Resources Defense Council and the Earth Island Institute. It does not, however, support the powerhouse Sierra Club, which Weeden's brother and fellow foundation official Don Weeden described in 2009 as having "just dropped domestic population growth as an issue."

Other organizations that have supported both nativist and environmental groups include the Blair Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation.