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Liberal Foundations Poured Tens Of Millions Of Dollars Into Influential Environmental Org Tied To Chinese Government

Major U.S.-based liberal charitable foundations have donated millions of dollars to Energy Foundation China (EFC), a San Francisco-based environmental nonprofit with deep ties to the Chinese government.

U.S.-based liberal charities, such as the Hewlett Foundation and nonprofits managed by left-wing dark money consultancy Arabella Advisors, have poured over $100 million into EFC since 2020, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of tax filings and foundation grant databases. EFC uses those funds to bankroll U.S.-based climate activists and to support the development of clean energy in China.

EFC has close ties to the Chinese state; at least nine members of the organization’s leadership and senior staff have previously held positions in China’s government, with one described in a Tsinghua University press release as an “outstanding [Chinese] Communist Party member.”

EFC spent more than $52 million funding green projects and organizations in the United States and China in 2022, according to tax forms.

EFC funds several of the U.S.-based organizations that have played a role in influencing the Biden administration’s climate agenda. American groups funded by EFC have, among other things, opposed the development of new oil drilling sites and promoted renewable energy technologies, like solar panels.

Green Cash

Liberal foundations have poured millions into EFC over the last four years, specifically for climate and energy programs in China, tax documents and grant databases show.

EFC had been a program under the Energy Foundation before breaking off and becoming an independent legal entity in 2019, according to its website. Prior to 2019, grants from charitable foundations to EFC were made out to the Energy Foundation and earmarked for EFC.

The Packard Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, all major players in American environmental activism, were some of EFC’s largest donors, representing almost 40% of the over $217.1 million the group raised between 2020 and 2022.

The MacArthur Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation donated at least $6 million and $67 million to EFC, respectively, between 2020 and 2023. The Packard Foundation, meanwhile, has donated about $19.3 million to the organization since 2020, according to its grant database.

Likewise, senior employees of the MacArthur Foundation, the Packard Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation hold seats on EFC’s board of directors.

The MacArthur Foundation gave EFC $2 million between 2020 and 2021 to help “China transition to a sustainable energy future,” according to its tax filings.

The Hewlett Foundation, meanwhile, paid out grants explicitly to fund EFC’s pro-Chinese government activities.

The Energy Foundation, which housed EFC at the time, received $8.4 million from the Hewlett Foundation in 2016 in part to fund EFC’s efforts to support the “climate implementation goals for China’s 13th Five-Year Plan.”

China’s Five-Year plan is formulated by the CCP and “sets forth China’s strategic intentions and defines its major objectives” for a five year period, according to the Chinese government.

Furthermore, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave EFC $200,000 in 2021 to support “low carbon transportation planning in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao greater bay area.” Rockefeller Brothers spent $200,000 bankrolling a similar project in 2019.

EFC’s donors, while funding the organization’s China-based activities, also served as major backers of domestic liberal activists. The Packard, Hewlett and MacArthur foundations, for instance, have poured millions of dollars into Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups, according to tax filings.

The Energy Foundation’s activities in China also attracted significant support from entities tied to the Democratic Party.

The Heising-Simons Foundation, a California-based family charity founded by Democratic megadonors Liz Simons and Mark Heising. The foundation gave $925,000 to the Energy Foundation for its Chinese operations in 2017 and about $2.3 million in 2018, when EFC was still part of the Energy Foundation, according to tax forms.

Simons and Heising have donated nearly $10 million to Democrats and members of Congress who caucus with the Democrats since 2020, campaign finance records show.

Windward Fund and Hopewell Fund, nonprofits managed by the Democrat-aligned consultancy Arabella Advisors, supported EFC to the tune of nearly $2.5 million between 2020 and 2022, according to tax filings.

Several of the funds managed by Arabella Advisors are “dark money” organizations that are not required to disclose their donors and direct the bulk of their grants to left-wing and Democrat-aligned groups. Hopewell and Windward disclose their donors, however Hopewll received funds from Sixteen Thirty Fund, an organization in Arabella’s network that does not disclose donors, according to tax forms.

“Windward Fund recognizes that the climate crisis is a global challenge,” the organization said in a statement to the DCNF.

The Packard Foundation, Heising Simons Foundation, Hopewell Fund, MacArthur Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Hewlett Foundation did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

The China Connection

Former Chinese government officials have an outsized presence among EFC’s leadership and senior staff.

Zhang Hongjun, who is on EFC’s board of directors, was an official in China’s National Environmental Protection Agency and a legislative director in China’s National People’s Congress, focusing on environmental laws, according to EFC’s website.

The National People’s Congress (NPC) is “the highest organ of State power in China,” according to its website. The NPC operates under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and leaders of the NPC’s standing committee, a powerful subset of the NPC, are “invariably influential members of the CCP and leaders of major mass organizations,” according to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

He Kebin, another board member, was a representative in the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress in 2018, according to Sina, a Chinese-language media outlet. The Beijing Municipal People’s Congress works under the direct leadership of the CCP in implementing policy and providing services in China’s capital city, according to a report published by the mayor of Beijing in January 2023.

A group of universities in Beijing awarded Kebin the title of “outstanding member of the [Chinese] communist party” at a celebration marking the 99th anniversary of the CCP, according to a press release from Tsinghua University.

Several board members, including Kebin and Hongjun, are listed as council members on the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development’s (CCICED) website. CCICED was founded in 1992 with the approval of the Chinese government and advises the Chinese government on environmental policy and development, according to the organization’s website.

CCICED reports to the Chinese government’s State Council and its executive committee is staffed by several high-ranking Chinese government officials, according to the organization’s website.

CCICED Chairman Ding Xuexiang is the top-ranking vice premier of the People’s Republic of China and a member of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee, a seven-person Chinese government body headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping.

Other EFC board members are listed as special advisors for CCICED, including Shenyu BelskyHongpeng Lei and EFC President Zou Ji.

Zou Ji formerly served as deputy director general of China’s state-run National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, and he was a key player in China’s delegation to the Paris Climate Accords in 2015, according to his bio on EFC’s website.

EFC paid Ji almost $500,000 in 2021 for his work as the group’s president and CEO, according to the organization’s 2021 tax filing. Board members Kebin and Hongjun drew compensation of $6,000 and $4,500, respectively, according to the 2021 filing.

EFC’s Senior Program Director of Strategic Communications Hui Jing formerly worked at the state-run National Natural Science Foundation of China, and Lan Yu, a program officer for EFC’s Low Carbon Economic Growth initiative, previously served in China’s finance and environmental ministries, according to their respective bios on EFC’s website.

Xin Liu, who leads EFC’s environmental management division, formerly served as a senior official in the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, and Ping He, who is the program director of EFC’s industry program, worked at the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences for almost a decade, according to EFC’s website.

While the organization’s tax forms say it’s based in San Francisco, EFC also has an office in Beijing, which, according to the group’s website, is “registered with the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau and supervised by the National Development and Reform Commission of China.”

The National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC) is a Chinese government agency that exists to “formulate and implement strategies on national economic and social development” and create “strategies, plans and policies for utilizing foreign capital,” according to the NDRC’s website. The commission also is involved with the Chinese military as it “undertake[s] specific tasks of the National Defense Mobilization Committee,” according to its website.

Additionally, EFC disclosed a payment of nearly $400,000 for “consulting services” to the state-run China News Service on its 2020 tax forms.

The State Department designated China News Service as a foreign mission in 2020, meaning that it was found to be effectively controlled by the Chinese government.

‘China’s Ambitious Climate Vision’

Among other things, EFC says its goals are to improve China’s transportation system, to help the communist country achieve clean economic growth and to promote “China’s ambitious climate vision.” EFC aimed to assist China in becoming “the world leader in clean energy production, consumption, and investment, by 2030,” according to an archived version of the organization’s webpage

“Communist China is our enemy, and their ‘green energy’ policies are based on slave and child labor, government subsidies and trade abuses,” Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott told the DCNF.

EFC has also funneled large sums of money into influential, left-of-center environmental groups in the U.S.

Domestic climate groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), received millions from EFC between 2020 and 2022.

RMI, a nonprofit dedicated to “working to accelerate the clean energy transition,” was behind a study cited by Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr.’s decision to consider a ban on gas stoves, which attracted significant controversy.

The Colorado-based organization also partnered with the Chinese government to produce a report advising a transition away from oil and gas. EFC was also involved in producing that report.

White House officials have met privately with leaders of RMI, Fox News Digital reported.

EFC gave about $1.8 million to RMI between 2020 and 2022, tax forms show.

NRDC, meanwhile, received about $700,000 from EFC between 2020 and 2022, according to tax forms.

NRDC describes itself as the “first national environmental advocacy group to focus on legal action.” NRDC has opposed expanded oil drilling in the United States, power plants that run on coalmining projects and the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

NRDC also has close ties to the Biden administration.

Gina McCarthy, NRDC’s former president, served as the White House’s national climate advisor from 2021 to 2022, Fox reported. The organization’s current president, Manish Bapna, has attended at least two White House meetings and the NRDC regularly communicates with Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s office, Fox reported.

“There are those, foremost among them, John Kerry, but there are many others who believe the existential challenge of our time … is climate change, and therefore we must have a more cooperative relationship with China,” House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mike Gallagher told the DCNF.

“That’s nonsense. We need to get realistic before it’s too late. Thinking that Xi Jinping cares about the documents that are signed at [the United Nations Climate Change Conference] is naïve, utopian nonsense. It reflects a profound misunderstanding of how the geopolitical world works.”

NRDC and RMI both have offices in China.

EFC has provided funding to RMI and NRDC’s Chinese programs, though grants to those organizations on EFC’s most recent publicly-available tax forms are earmarked for “education and analysis” operations with no mention of China.

RMI employs a number of former Chinese government officials through its China program. Ting LiMinhui GaoKaidi GuoQiyu Liu and Qian Sun are among the RMI staffers who formerly held posts in the Chinese government.

EFC did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

AUTHORS

ROBERT SCHMAD AND PHILIP LENCZYCKI

Contributors.

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