The Dark Money Behind The Latest LEED-Bashing

TPA/Screen capture

Paula Melton of Environmental Building News describes how the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for all of the emails (nine years worth) between the US Green Building Council, creators of LEED, and the General Services Administration. TPA President David Williams tells the Daily Caller:

We’re trying to see if there is a connection between the U.S. Green Building Council, a 501(c)3, that is benefitting financially from these new standards, to get to the genesis of these LEED standards and see exactly just how much influence this nonprofit had.

On their website, the TPA explains in more detail, (emphasis mine)

TPA has been concerned about private, non-science based non-profit organizations like the USGBC being involved in creating environmental standards that are then relied upon to dictate government policies and in turn cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Last year, TPA highlighted the fundamental problems with LEED and the attempt to institute LEED v.4. In TPA’s public comment letter to the USGBC, TPA pointed out that products such as plastic insulation, vinyl roofing, and LED lighting are discouraged through the chemical avoidance credits in LEED v4, which uses the European Union’s REACH regulations as a benchmark. This is a standard that small and medium U.S. based manufacturers are unfamiliar with and will struggle to meet. Moreover, there are credits for certification in this new standard that could reward architects for rejecting modern technology and chose instead to use a thatched straw roof, yet the standards dissuade builders who use bullet resistant glass in federal courthouses. LEED v4 is filled with arbitrary and requirements that pick winners in losers in the marketplace. The USGBC seems to have undue influence in mandating LEED standards and now TPA wants answers.

So who is the TPA and who is behind it? Paula Melton asked TPA President Williams. She writes:

This attention from a tax-focused interest group comes on the heels of aggressive lobbying against LEED by certain segments of the forestry and chemical industries. Their efforts have contributed to anti-LEED legislation in a few states and, at the federal level, restrictions on LEED for the U.S. military. When EBN asked if industry groups are backing his efforts, Williams refused to say. “It comes from private sources, and I don’t reveal who my donors are,” he replied.

David Williams does not have much of a paper trail. On the website his bio says that he is "an expert in finding and exposing government waste and has helped fine tune criteria in identifying and ultimately eliminating earmarks. " He has a "Senior Fellow", Drew Johnson, who has been a guest on Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity shows, and got famous for going after Al Gore in 2007 for using as much electricity in his house in a month as average Americans use in a year. Neither of them are big fish.

Form 990/ IRS/Public Domain

However when you dig up the 990, a form required by the IRS for every tax-exempt non-profit, you find some very big fish indeed.

Barry Bennett and the Alliance for America's Future

Barry Bennett is described lovingly in Huffington Post:

Bennett has a history as a frontman for Republican Party ventures financed by donors intent on maintaining their anonymity. Since the 1990s, he has headed two nonprofits set up for the purpose of influencing elections while maintaining donor secrecy. He has operated within the underbelly of politics where secret money flows through obscure trusts and foundations to finance attack ads and campaigns free of fingerprints.

Bennett now runs The Alliance for America's Future; Paul Blumenthal continues in Huffpo:

Joining him at the new conservative nonprofit were Mary Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and Kara Ahern, Cheney's former chief of staff. The nonprofit was formed after the Citizens United ruling that, among many other things, allowed nonprofits to spend money on express advocacy for candidates seeking election. This change effectively sanctioned much of the activity that Bennett and CCF [his former gig] had pursued in the 1990s. The CCF ads had to mask their negative message about a candidate behind criticisms over issues. The Alliance for America's Future, however, could raise unlimited contributions from anonymous donors to fund ads that openly call for the victory or defeat of candidates.

The nonprofit is part of a network of independent conservative groups that have either been established or increased their visibility in the wake of the Citizens United decision. They include the Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads and the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Job Security.

AJS/Screen capture

Stephen Demaura and Americans for Job Security

And who is president of Americans for Job Security? Why, it is Stephen Demaura, Treasurer and Secretary of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance. According to Sourcewatch,

AJS has long been ahead of the trends for dark money political spending. "You could say Americans for Job Security has been keeping donors anonymous since before it was cool," Talking Points Memo wrote in December 2012....in a FEC Complaint, Public Citizen wrote that AJS is a "sham front group that would be better called Corporations Influencing Elections ... masquerading as a non-profit to conceal its funders and the scope of its electioneering activities."

No wonder TPA Prez David Williams refused to tell Paula where his money came from; he's the front man for two of the biggest conservative dark money organizations in the country, funded by the Kochs and no doubt the American Chemistry Council and SFI, who are all working together to gut LEED and make America safe for the makers of formaldehyde, vinyl and clearcut lumber.

Mother Jones tried to visit the offices of a few of these organizations, and couldn't find them.

Tags: Green Building | LEED

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