La Jolla: Anatomy of a Plot, Part II. The group of politically-motivated activists trying to take down America’s energy manufacturers have latched onto just about any tactic they can find to push their anti-energy agenda. One of those astonishing tactics is try to use RICO statutes—the federal code used by the government to put away notorious criminals like the Hells Angels, Michael Milken and the Gambino crime family. Not long ago, this would have been considered too outlandish for even fringe websites peddling in conspiracy theories. But today, this incredible theory appears to be spreading, as progressive politicians, Attorneys General and even mainstream news outlets are increasingly peddling it.
How did this fringe theory go mainstream? Perhaps unsurprisingly, trial lawyers and advocacy journalists are playing key roles.
The latest activist campaign has come to rely on media entities connected by a small group of wealthy donors and foundations. These donors have supported the Columbia School of Journalism, run by Steve Coll, a journalist-activist with a track record of singling out certain manufacturers.
The Columbia School of Journalism recently created an “Energy & Environment Fellowship Project” from a large donation from some of the same wealthy donors who have funded other agenda-driven environmental groups. This fellowship program partnered with the Los Angeles Times on a controversial series that fueled the calls for an investigation of manufacturers in the energy sector.
Then there is InsideClimate News. It, too, has published reports lobbing controversial allegations at energy manufacturers, including claims of hiding scientific data. Yet InsideClimate News relied on publicly available documents to make those claims. How can you credibly allege a company hid something that was publicly available? Further, the targeted manufacturers also note that the reporters discarded documents that didn’t fit their chosen narrative.
InsideClimate News has itself been the subject of controversy. National Review has uncovered that Science First, a public relations consultancy run by David Sassoon, the founder of InsideClimate News, appears to serve as the publisher of the news outlet. National Review also found “that tax filings show that environment-minded foundations and nonprofits seemed to consider Science First and InsideClimate News synonymous, often giving them money through another nonprofit, NEO Philanthropy, which served as the ‘fiscal sponsor’ for both of the entities from 2010 to 2014.’’