Exclusive: The Oily Operators Behind The Religious Climate Change Denial Front Group, Cornwall Alliance
"Exclusive: The Oily Operators Behind The Religious Climate Change Denial Front Group, Cornwall Alliance"
Defenders of the dirty energy status quo, particularly the lobbyists and politicians associated with the oil and coal industry, have continually trotted out a group of evangelical leaders known as the Cornwall Alliance to counter the growing sentiment in the evangelical community that anthropogenic climate change is a threat to God’s creation. Cornwall declares that true Christians believe “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.”
This Friday at the polluter-funded Heritage Foundation, Cornwall is preparing to roll out its latest campaign called “Resisting the Green Dragon.” Billed as “a Biblical response to one of the greatest deceptions of our day,” the video series claims the entire climate change movement is a “false religion,” a nefarious conspiracy to empower eugenicists and create a “global government.” Watch the absurd trailer here, which portrays the idea of climate change as akin to the Lord of the Rings villain Sauron:
Thus far, Cornwall has been able to masquerade as a legitimate, independent group of pastors and religious leaders opposed to addressing climate change. However, ThinkProgress investigated the group and found deep ties to the oil industry, as well as with longtime right-wing operatives orchestrating the climate science denial machine.
The Cornwall Alliance appears to be a creation of a group called the James Partnership, a nonprofit run by Chris Rogers and Peter Stein, according to documents filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Rogers, who heads a media and public relations firm called CDR Communications, collaborates with longtime oil front group operative David Rothbard, the founder and President of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and Jacques Villarreal, a lower level staffer at CFACT, for his James Partnership group. In the past, Rogers’ firm has worked for the Bush administration and for the secretive conservative planning group, the Council for National Policy.
According to public records, the following entities are all registered to the same address, 9302-C Old Keene Mill Road Burke, VA 22015, an office park in suburban Virginia:
In late 2005, evangelical leaders like Rick Warren joined a drive to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying “millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.” To counter this historic shift in the evangelical community, a group called the “Interfaith Stewardship Alliance” (ISA) was launched to oppose action on carbon emissions and to deny the existence of climate chance. One of the men guiding this group was Paul Driessen, a consultant for ExxonMobil, the mining industry, and for CFACT.
For “stream lining” reasons, ISA relaunched as the Cornwall Alliance in 2006. With the new name came a redesigned website, highly produced web videos, and an organized network of churches to distribute climate change denying propaganda to hundreds of pastors around the country. The branding for the Cornwall Alliance is derived from the “Cornwall Declaration,” a 1999 document pushing back against the creation-care movement in the evangelical community. The Declaration “stressed a free-market environmental stewardship and emphasized that individuals and private organizations should be trusted to care for their own property without government intervention.” CFACT President Rothbard has been hailed as the “driving force” behind the Cornwall Declaration public relations effort.
CFACT is a gimmicky right-wing organization that does everything it can to try to discredit the science underpinning climate change. For instance, staffers from the group traveled to the Copenhagen conference on climate change to stage silly press conferences with Rush Limbaugh’s former producer and stunts aimed at mocking Greenpeace.
But who is the “driving force” behind CFACT? According to disclosures, CFACT is funded by at least $542,000 from ExxonMobil, $60,500 from Chevron, and $1,280,000 from Scaife family foundations, which are rooted in wealth from Gulf Oil and steel interests.
CFACT and the Cornwall Alliance, according to disclosures filed with the Washington State Secretary of State’s office, share a common fundraising firm, ClearWord Communications Group. ClearWord has helped raise millions of dollars not only for CFACT and Cornwall, but also for infamous polluter front groups like FreedomWorks, the Institute for Energy Research, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Last year, Cornwall produced a video with former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) attacking clean energy legislation as part of a campaign by the ExxonMobil-funded “American Energy Freedom Center.”
In a call to the Cornwall Alliance’s media office Monday afternoon, spokesman Quena Gonzalez said Cornwall has no relationship to CFACT and said CFACT President Rothbard has no official capacity with his group. Gonzalez said that in “several years of working” at Cornwall, he has never heard any questions about working with CFACT, and instructed ThinkProgress to contact Calvin Beisner, the national representative for Cornwall. Incidentally, Beisner is a board member of CFACT.
Rothbard had a central role in sparking the founding of Cornwall and is currently a partner with Chris Rogers, the man who runs Cornwall and CDR Communications. Nevertheless, under his capacity as CFACT President, Rothbard’s anti-Greenpeace publicity stunts are reported regularly on the Cornwall blog as breaking news, without any acknowledgement of Rothbard’s relationship with Cornwall.
Gonzalez also said he had never heard of CDR Communications. But according to his own LinkedIn profile, Gonzalez works for CDR Communications as the “Director for Religion and the Environment” at the firm. ThinkProgress contacted Chris Rogers on Monday, who contradicted Gonzalez and said his firm CDR Communications provides “support” for Cornwall but did not clarify.
It appears that Cornwall attempts to carefully hide its backers. Not only did Gonzalez refuse to provide much information, but Cornwall’s website is registered with a special service to hide the identity of the person or group who purchased the domain address.