EXCLUSIVE: Republicans Probe Foreign Influence on US Climate Policy

Republican Leaders Investigate League of Conservation Voters’ Relationship with Foreign Donors

Republican leaders on the House Natural Resources Committee have launched an inquiry into the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), an influential environmental group, as part of a wider investigation into potential manipulation of U.S. tax-exempt organizations by foreign entities aimed at influencing American environmental, natural resource, and energy policy. Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., the chairman of the oversight subcommittee, have written a letter to LCV President Gene Karpinski demanding answers to a series of questions about the organization’s internal operations.

House Natural Resources Committee Questions LCV’s Compliance with Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

The lawmakers are particularly concerned about LCV’s relationship with foreign donors, such as Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, and whether the group is in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Under FARA, individuals and organizations financed by a foreign principal or lobbying for a foreign principal must register to do so. The committee suspects that LCV’s political and lobbying activities, which oppose fossil fuel drilling on public lands and promote green energy policies, may be influenced by prohibited foreign contributions.

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In their letter to Karpinski, Westerman and Gosar emphasize the importance of FARA in promoting transparency and ensuring that the United States government and the public are aware of any foreign influence in American public opinion, policy, and laws. The lawmakers warn that failing to register under FARA can result in fines of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.

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LCV has reported receiving $114.7 million in financial contributions in 2021, a significant increase compared to the $77.7 million received in 2020. A large portion of the group’s funding has come from the Wyss Foundation and Berger Action Fund, two dark money groups overseen by Hansjörg Wyss. According to filings obtained by Americans for Public Trust (APT), the Berger Action Fund received a massive $278.9 million from an anonymous donor, likely Wyss himself, between April 2021 and March 2022. The fund distributed $72.7 million to various organizations involved in political campaigns, including nearly $3.5 million to LCV.

The Berger Action Fund also provided $20.3 million to the Fund for a Better Future (FBF), which subsequently gave $10.7 million to LCV. Additionally, the Berger Action Fund sent $42.5 million to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which then contributed $18.9 million to LCV. The Wyss Foundation directly wired $60,000 to LCV in 2021 and $210,000 to the LCV Education Fund in 2020.

Molly McUsic, a member of LCV’s board of directors, is also the president of the Wyss Foundation and a director on the board of the Berger Action Fund. These financial ties have raised concerns about potential foreign influence on LCV’s activities.

The investigation into LCV is part of the House Natural Resources Committee’s broader examination of foreign manipulation of U.S. tax-exempt organizations. The committee will scrutinize LCV, the LCV Action Fund, LCV Victory Fund, and LCV Education Fund.

Chairman Westerman expressed deep concern about the association between unregistered foreign interests and domestic lobbying efforts. He emphasized that foreign entities should not be allowed to manipulate organizations that influence American environmental, natural resources, and energy policies. The congressman underscored the importance of Congress’s duty to conduct thorough oversight in this situation.

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LCV has not yet responded to the committee’s request for comment.

Conclusion

As the House Natural Resources Committee investigates the League of Conservation Voters’ relationship with foreign donors, questions arise about the compliance of the organization with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The committee is concerned about the impact of prohibited foreign contributions on LCV’s political and lobbying activities. With millions of dollars in contributions coming from Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, the committee seeks transparency and accountability in order to protect America’s ability to achieve energy independence. The inquiry into LCV is part of a wider investigation into potential foreign manipulation of U.S. tax-exempt organizations, and the committee remains committed to conducting thorough oversight in this matter.