Back in 2010, an outfit called Corporate Ethics International began an international campaign against Alberta oil with the catchy tag-line, "RETHINK ALBERTA."
In hindsight, it is apparent now that this was the first move in a massive campaign that would befuddle one of our country's most important industries and strain relations with our only neighbour and most important trading partner.
In August of 2010, CBC reported that the RETHINK ALBERTA campaign had put up 11 digital billboards in England and sent 7,500 postcards to travel agents across the United States.
Canadians who are affected by this campaign have a right to inquire about the funding of this San-Francisco-based campaign against one of Canada's most important industries. Not only there were the stamps on the post cards, the flashy billboards and the state-of-the-art web-site to pay for, there was also the the six digit salary for Michael Marx, the executive director of Corporate Ethics.
According to the web-site of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the production of this video was funded through Tides Canada. In a letter sent in December of 2010, the lawyer for Tides Canada wrote, "Tides Canada is not involved with, has not received funding from and has not provided any funding whatsoever to "Rethink Alberta." This statement does not ring true with me because of these two facts: 1) The Rockefeller Brothers Fund paid Tides Canada $50,000 for a project titled, "Oil Sands Tourism" and 2) The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has confirmed that the web-site produced with these funds is Rethink Alberta.
The lawyer for Tides Canada also wrote, "Tides Canada is not in any sense of the word an “affiliate” of Tides U.S."
Documents provided by the Canada Revenue Agency (anyone can request these documents) show that the organization that is now known as Tides Canada Foundation did, in fact, begin as a branch office of sorts of the U.S. Tides Foundation. Tides incorporated in British Columbia in 1993. In 2000, the Tides Foundation changed its name to Tides Canada Foundation.
One of the ways to find out how environmental campaigns are funded, is to ask. In 2010, I wrote to Michael Marx to inquire about who funds the Rethink Alberta campaign. Mr. Marx replied but did not answer my question. "Our policy is to maintain the confidentiality of our funders and the purpose of that funding," he wrote.
Another way to find out how environmental campaigns are funded is to look at the annual reports of the organizations that participate in these campaigns, and to then look at the funding of these organizations. Then, look at the U.S. tax returns of the donors to the organizations that participate in the campaigns.
In 2010, in the course of my research on a completely different issue (the campaign against salmon farming), I happened to notice a large number of payments for something called a "Tar Sands Campaign." One of the organizations that received funds ear-marked for the Tar Sands Campaign, was Corporate Ethics International. In fact, it was the top recipient.
In July of 2010, RETHINK ALBERTA listed ten organizations as participants in this campaign. The U.K. Tar Sands Network was later added to the list. Most of these organizations are among the groups funded by Tides for the Tar Sands Campaign, according to its tax returns. In total, Tides paid about $1.8 million to these groups in 2009. Those funds were just the beginning.
Since 2010, when the Tar Sands Campaign first came to light, the U.S. Tides Foundation has paid a total of $25 million to at least 75 groups in the U.S., Canada and in Europe. The question is, where did these funds originate?
Some of the funders of the Tar Sands Campaign are known:
- The Rockefeller Brothers Fund
- The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
- The Marisla Foundation
- The Sea Change Foundation
- The Oak Foundation
- The Westwind Foundation
- The Schmidt Family Foundation
But their contributions do not account for all of the funds that the Tides Foundation has dispersed. Where did the rest of the money come from?
More to follow.