U.S. environmental organizations are perceived by many as independent voices within policy and political debates. They have historically championed land and resource protection, air and water pollution standards, and conservation of unique plant and animal species.

In recent years, however, many environmental organizations have raised their profiles by actively combating development and resource extraction, even in cases when it is lawfully permitted by federal and state governments and regulators.

So who is behind this tidal wave of activity? When the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) pulled back the curtain in a new report, the answers were startling.

E&E Legal released new research that details how major environmental nongovernment organizations (ENGOs) both in the U.S. and U.K. are being funded by a few ultra-wealthy population control extremists in the U.S, but influencing policy on both sides of the Atlantic. This new report from E&E Legal and the U.K.-based Taxpayers’ Alliance details how billionaires like Fred Stanback, heir to the Stanback headache powder fortune, are quietly funding ENGOs to further his controversial ideological agenda.

ENGOs like the Asheville-based Dogwood Alliance, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which are active in both the U.K. and U.S. have received significant funding from another nonprofit, the Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC), a nonprofit “community foundation.” As the new report details, Stanback and other extremists are funneling donations through the FFTC because the FFTC administers donor-directed funds. That fund structure offers Stanback control over the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars from the FFTC.

What is especially concerning is that beneath the FFTC’s community-centric focus lies significant donations to fringe anti-immigrant and population control groups, channeled from Stanback via the FFTC.

An alumnus of Duke University, Stanback sits on boards of major environmental groups and has funded environmental programs at the University of North Carolina and Catawba College, as well as an internship program at Duke University named after him. In 2013, it was revealed that the Duke Stanback Internship Program had been systematically placing interns at controversial immigration organizations like, NumbersUSA, Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Following reports, those organizations were removed from the list of approved for internships.

Stanback maintains numerous ties to anti-immigration groups like the FAIR, and its founder Dr. John Tanton. Stanback has closely associated himself with Dr. Tanton, and contributed significantly to the advancement of FAIR’s ideological and political goals. Stanback reportedly even spent $5,000 for hundreds of copies of, The Camp of the Saints, a famous book widely shared and cited within the anti-immigration movement. According to memo and letters written by Dr. Tanton, by the mid-1990s, Mr. Stanback had donated more than $500,000 to FAIR.

The scale of Stanback’s influence in environmental circles is best illustrated by the sheer size of his funding. Stanback’s 2014 donation of over $397 million to FFTC in “non-cash” contributions would rank as the third- on MarketWatch’s annual list of the largest charitable donations, had they been public. That donation actually accounted for 64 percent of FFTC’s total grant revenue that year. Since 2014 alone, FFTC has funded, the Southern Environmental Law Center for $57,000,000, NRDC for $25,000,000, Friends of the Earth for $6,000,000, Greenpeace for $3,000,000, and the Dogwood Alliance for over $2,000,000.

For environmental activist groups, millions of dollars of funding that has been publicly documented for years in IRS filings continues to tie back to the FFTC, and through the FFTC, the donations of Mr. Stanback. Recently, a new website, www.PlotAgainstDACA.com aimed at outing the organizations and individuals funding campaigns to end DACA named both Stanback and FFTC among their network of funders and facilitators.

For some groups, political activism under the guise of a nonprofit is nothing new. The Dogwood Alliance was previously audited by the IRS at the behest of a watchdog group for engaging in political activities while claiming nonprofit status. And legal issues aside, E&E Legal’s research also raises the greater question of the morality and motives behind their funding and coordinated political action. This new report makes it clear that these “independent organizations” are in reality part of a larger network of wolves in sheep’s clothing, beholden to the extreme viewpoints of Mr. Stanback and his ideological partners.

Craig Richardson is the President of E&E Legal, a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues.

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