Union of Concerned Scientists

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is a left-wing advocacy organization that spreads unscientific alarmism about environment and energy topics. It is currently bragging about being a major architect and proponent of using the federal RICO Act against executives at fossil fuel companies and nonprofit think tanks, such as The Heartland Institute.

Despite the impression given by its name and the image the way in which the media portrays it, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is not a professional scientific organization; in fact, for a $25.00 donation, you can also become a “concerned scientist.” Though founded in 1969 by faculty, including some scientists, and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, UCS’ mission from the beginning has never been the pursuit of knowledge through scientific discovery. It has instead pursued left-wing advocacy on technology, environmental, and energy issues—regardless of what the scientific data have shown.

It supported a New York Attorney General investigation against ExxonMobil using the state’s outdated 1921 Martin Act, which has been called unconstitutional.

Background & History

The Union of Concerned Scientists seems to take its root, at least originally, in a Vietnam-era war protest collective. A long 1968 “UCS Founding Document” focused on the complaint, “Through its actions in Vietnam, our government has shaken our confidence in its ability to make wise and humane decisions.” According to newspapers of the time, the founding involved a one-day academic work stoppage and a conference that included speeches by M.I.T. linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky – icon of the Left and author of the radical essay The Responsibility of Intellectuals – and Eric Mann, leader of the violent Weatherman group in Cambridge (according to a congressional report, Mann was sentenced to two years in prison for various crimes and served 18 months with 40 days in solitary confinement). These speakers and others continue to characterize many UCS views, which have remained steadfastly “progressive.”

The UCS founders are listed as Kurt Gottfried and Henry Way Kendall. Their primary interests, according to the Wikipedia entries, focused on “avoiding nuclear war, opposing the Strategic Defense Initiative, the B2 bomber, nuclear reactor safety and global warming.” In more recent years, UCS has targeted pesticides and genetically engineered foods for intense opposition.

UCS has done little experimental science, but has concentrated on literature searches of scientific papers to find those that agree with their political goals, and generating polls or petitions seeking the views of known scientists of like-mind in order to feed media claims for current campaigns, asserting that “science has spoken.”

In November 2015, the UCS was exposed as the source of the “RICO Strategy to shut down fossil fuel companies and ruin climate skeptics.” RICO is the 1978 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was enacted to control mob crimes. UCS conceived the strategy in conjunction with the newly-minted (2011), three-person Climate Accountability Institute, run from a residence in Snowmass, Colorado. One of the three original CAI directors was climate alarmist Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt. In 2015 she resigned the board of directors to become an advisory board member along with a new advisor, climate professor and “hockey-stick” graph inventor, Michael Mann.

The Union of Concerned Scientists within the last decade has adopted a more establishment-friendly manner, keeping its tax-exempt procedures according to all rules and developing a reputation as a well-run non-profit while still expressing its hostile, anti-climate skeptic agenda in blunt terms.

With its new reputation, the Union of Concerned Scientists received a $200,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation “for coal retirement and removing market barriers to renewable energy projects,” a very specifically targeted donation called a prescriptive grant. Foundations employ “prescriptive grantmaking” to guarantee that their beneficiaries will work to fit the agenda of the foundation and its donors. UCS had a strategic plan to destroy coal that matched the Hewlett formula, suiting it to be an instrument of foundation agendas.

Source: Foundation Search; Charity Navigator; Billionaires Report, pages iv and 5.

Early Anti-War Focus

Growing out of Vietnam War protests on college campuses across the nation in the 1960s, UCS’ founding document states it was formed to “initiate a critical and continuing examination of governmental policy in areas where science and technology are of actual or potential significance” and to “devise means for turning research applications away from the present emphasis on military technology toward the solution of pressing environmental and social problems.”

In 1984, UCS sent popular science writer Carl Sagan on a 15-city tour to bolster Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale and his opposition to President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1988, UCS opposed research on what’s now called the “stealth bomber,” claiming it would make war with the Soviet Union more likely.

From humble beginnings, UCS has grown to become one of the most well-connected and influential pro-big-government, anti-free-market, left-wing advocacy organizations that has worked tirelessly to spread unscientific alarmism about genetically engineered foods, climate change, and other technology, environmental, and energy issues.

According to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 990 forms, UCS’ annual reports, and the Foundation Source databank, UCS’ assets in 2014 topped $46.5 million, including $3.6 million in publicly traded securities. Its 2014 income was $26.5 million, and it received $11.1 million in foundation grants in 2013.

Connected to Political Establishment

UCS has influenced policy almost since its inception, and it has operated as a revolving door for government agencies and congressional offices. UCS employees have given testimony before the U.S. Senate on 453 occasions, despite the fact UCS has conducted little experimental science or independent research; UCS has instead concentrated on producing literature reviews highlighting scientific research that agrees with UCS’ political goals.

Nine UCS employees have served as members of 11 federal advisory committees from 2000 to 2015. One example is David Friedman, who served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ panel charged with reviewing and making recommendations concerning the nation’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards in 2007. Friedman was appointed to this important post despite having no advanced or technical degrees and having never served in an academic position. Friedman was also a well-known proponent of increasing fuel-economy standards, and his research on the topic was published almost exclusively by UCS and without peer review.

Friedman later left UCS to join the Obama administration’s Department of Energy as the acting assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

UCS staff has also been involved in producing the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s (USGCRP) draft report. Of the 13 senior scientists who put together USGCRP’s January 2013 draft report, four have ties to the UCS, including the USGCRP Chair Jerry Melillo, a contributing author for UCS; Susanne Moser, a former UCS staff scientist; Andrew Rosenberg, a UCS director; and Donald Wuebbles, an author of UCS reports.

Additionally, Brendan Bell, a senior Washington, DC representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists, joined Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) staff as a legislative assistant, serving Lautenberg in 2013, the year before Lautenberg died.

Controversies

According to a report in Reason Magazine, titled Union of Concerned Scientists Cooks the Books, Media Swallow It, UCS and its analysts used corporate giving data to “imply that General Electric executives were climate change hypocrites,” supportive of some think tanks that are skeptical of the “scientific consensus” on global warming, including Reason itself, which UCS accused of “misrepresenting climate change science.”

UCS, instead, seems to have deliberately confused corporate matching funds for employee donations with direct donations from GE. GE employees donated a total of $325 to Reason, a sum that GE matched as part of a program that gave little to no regard to which foundations the employees chose to give to. GE executives had given a total of $497,744 to environmentally conscious organizations, but UCS appeared to have given the $325 matching donation equal weight.

The ‘Climate Deception Dossiers’

The UCS maintains a set of selective clips from various oil and gas industry documents, designed as a resource for organizations looking to cast a negative light on fossil fuel companies. These clips, obtained usually through the Freedom of Information Act, operate for UCS as an “evidence bank” in their quest to determine connections between the oil and gas industry and opposition to climate change legislation. UCS uses the documents, as well, to compel companies, through public advocacy campaigns, to abide by their agenda.
Source: Climate Deception Dossiers

 

Green Foundations Back UCS Advocacy

Amongst its biggest supporters are a number of major left-wing foundations, many of which are featured here on the LeftExposed website—a project of The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

From 1998 through 2014, UCS received 1,294 grants totaling $97.6 million from 237 foundations. Most donors are members of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a planning and organizing cartel for Big Green foundations. The donors who have given at least $1 million include: The Energy Foundation($15.3 million), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation ($6.2 million), John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($5.7 million), David and Lucile Packard Foundation ($3.6 million), and the Pew Memorial Trust ($1 million).

These foundations are among the crème de la crème of foundations funding anti-science, pro-regulation campaigns carried out by groups such as UCS. They actively work to limit logging, fossil-fuel development and use, the development and commercialization of genetically modified foods, and commercial fishing. The founders of many of the foundations making grants to UCS would likely be surprised and appalled at how their money is now being used. For instance, the Pew Charitable Trusts—of which the Pew Memorial Trust is a part—were founded by Sun Oil Company founder Joseph Newton Pew. The most active donor to the Pew Memorial Trust was J. Howard Pew, who lived from 1882–1971. Pew believed individual freedom was closely linked to political, religious, and “industrial freedom,” and until shortly after his death the Pew Trusts supported a variety of conservative think tanks.

UCS has worked hard within the past decade to develop an establishment-friendly image, keeping its tax-exempt procedures in accordance with all of the IRS’ rules and developing a reputation as a well-run nonprofit. Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit organization that evaluates U.S. charities, gave UCS a four-star rating (out of a possible four stars) and an overall score of 91.19 out of 100 for keeping fundraising expenses and salaries low relative to overall income and revenue spent on operations. UCS spent $3.2 million on fundraising, $14.9 million on salaries, and reported spending just $43,135 on lobbying in 2014.

 

Hypocritical Campaigns

UCS has recently involved itself in a number of controversial and hypocritical political campaigns. In 2012, UCS attempted to stigmatize General Electric (GE) for its corporate giving. UCS and its analysts used corporate data to “imply that General Electric executives were climate change hypocrites,” because GE has said it believes the “scientific consensus” is humans are causing dangerous climate change while also supporting some think tanks who have written skeptically concerning the causes and consequences of climate change, including the Reason Foundation, which UCS accused of “misrepresenting climate change science.”

The Reason Foundation showed UCS deliberately confused corporate matching funds given as a result of employees’ donations with direct donations made by GE. GE employees donated a total of $325 to the Reason Foundation, a sum GE matched as part of a matching gift program that gave little to no regard to which foundations the employees chose to give to. GE executives had given a total of $497,744 to environmentally conscious organizations, but UCS attacked it for giving the $325 in employee-matching grants to the Reason Foundation.

In 2015, with the publication of Freedom to Bully: How Laws Intended to Free Information Are Used to Harass Researchers, UCS began to call for restrictions on scientific sharing and public oversight of research. UCS’ report laments scientists at public universities, research institutes, and federal agencies are subjected to demands for information under a variety of state open-records laws and the 1967 federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which was designed to hold government agencies accountable by providing the public with access to records from any federal agency.

A foundational statement on UCS’ Center for Science and Democracy (CSD) website declares, “Knowledge is power, and when citizens and communities are denied access to scientific knowledge, they are effectively disempowered. For this reason, transparency, access to information, and the public’s right to know are pivotal issues for science and democracy.”

Seemingly contradicting this statement, Michael Halpern, CSD program manager and author of Freedom to Bully, says open-records laws should be amended to limit information available to the public, including limits on public access to e-mails between scientists, research notes, and primary data, telling the Associated Press, “We don’t want to work in an environment where every keystroke is subject to public records.”

Alarmingly, while UCS is calling for limits on the oversight of and access to scientific research, in 2013, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy appointed Francesca Grifo, who ran UCS’ scientific integrity efforts, to run EPA’s scientific integrity program.

Under Grifo’s management, UCS attempted to suppress scientific dissent. For instance, UCS attacked one congressman who expressed skepticism concerning climate change after he was allowed to serve as member of the House Science Committee. Additionally, UCS’ Sound Science Initiative attempted to discredit the Global Warming Petition Project, a statement signed by more than 31,000 scientists stating humans are not causing a global warming crisis. UCS said the Petition Project is “non-scientific” because it was allegedly motivated by certain “value positions.”

It appears for UCS the only legitimate views are those expressed by scientists who share UCS’ values.

UCS Goes After ‘Climate Deniers’

UCS was a leading force behind the proposed effort by the Justice Department and various Democratic Party state attorneys general to prosecute ExxonMobil, other fossil-fuel companies, researchers, and think tanks who have expressed doubts about the claim humans are driving dangerous climate change. UCS and the attorneys general have argued “climate deniers” could potentially be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for allegedly engaging in fraud and criminal conspiracy. RICO was enacted in 1978 to help reduce organized crime, especially crimes related to the mob.

UCS conceived the strategy in conjunction with the three-person Climate Accountability Institute (CAI), which is run from a residence in Snowmass, Colorado. One of the three original CAI directors is climate alarmist Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, and a new advisor is climate professor and “hockey-stick graph” inventor Michael Mann.

In 2012, in La Jolla, California, UCS and CAI co-sponsored a meeting of environmental activists and organization heads, titled “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages: Lessons from Tobacco Control.”

The conference featured Richard Ayers, co-founder and current trustee of the National Resources Defense Council, who argued, “The RICO Act, which had been used effectively against the tobacco industry, could similarly be used to bring a lawsuit against carbon producers.” According to Ayers, charging fossil-fuel companies under RICO “would effectively change the subject to the campaign of deception practiced by the coal, gas, and oil companies.”

UCS’ efforts bore fruit when 18 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives directly cited UCS in a November 2015 letter requesting a formal investigation into ExxonMobil, among others, stating, “UCS uncovered many internal company documents confirming a massive coordinated campaign of deception conducted by the industry to deceive the public of climate science that even their own scientists confirmed.”

UCS’ efforts to constrain technology, capitalism, and the use of fossil fuels is grounded in leftist ideology, not science. Its efforts merit no media recognition or financial support.

RICO Investigations of Global Warming ‘Deniers’

According to the Daily Caller, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report documenting a “coordinated campaign of deception” on climate science led by “ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell, Peabody Energy, and other members of the fossil fuel industry,” sparking an interest among Democratic lawmakers in investigating so-called global warming “deniers.”

Eighteen Democrats in the US House of Representatives directly cited UCS in a letter requesting a formal investigation into Exxon, among others, stating, “UCS uncovered many internal company documents confirming a massive coordinated campaign of deception conducted by the industry to deceive the public of climate science that even their own scientists confirmed.”

Exxon has denied the allegations that it was deceiving the public in any way on the issue of climate change.

The Union of Concerned Scientists appears to have pioneered the strategy of investigating organizations and corporations hostile or agnostic to their agenda with the RICO statutes, a strategy that has culminated with the recent  investigation into Exxon by New York using the state’s 1921 Martin Act, an outdated law which is more severe than the federal RICO Act.

Three years ago in La Jolla, California, ACU sponsored a meeting of high-level environmental activists and organization heads, titled “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages: Lessons from Tobacco Control,” an obvious nod to RICO investigations used to accuse tobacco companies of a large scale conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of cigarette smoking. UCS has admitted to hosting the conference and has published “Summary of the Workshop on Climate Accountability, Public Opinion, and Legal Strategies.” The conference featured co-founder and current trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Richard Ayers, an attorney and seasoned veteran of the environmental movement.

Ayers argued at the summit that, “the RICO Act, which had been used effectively against the tobacco industry, could similarly be used to bring a lawsuit against carbon producers.” Ayers is recorded in the summary as saying, “the RICO statute requires that a claimant establish the existence of a ‘criminal enterprise,’ and at least two acts of racketeering (with at least one having occurred within the past four years).” Ayers cautioned, “RICO is not easy. It is certainly not a sure win. But such an action would effectively change the subject to the campaign of deception practiced by the coal, gas, and oil companies.”

UCS organized the conference at the suggestion of climate activist and author Naomi Oreskes, who is thought to have “conceived” the La Jolla meeting. Oreskes planned to use RICO statutes to punish organizations that she claimed “knowingly have deceived the American people about the risks of climate change.” Oreskes’ organization, the Climate Accountability Institute, collaborated on the conference.

Money

(source: IRS Forms 990 Annual Reports and Foundation Source databank)

  • Union of Concerned Scientists 2014 Assets: $46,515,215 including $3,645,489 in publicly traded securities (investments)
  • UCS 2014 Income: $26,587,749 including $467,375 foundation grants
    • 2013 income $26,806,462 including $11,165,833 foundation grants
  • UCS spent $3,278,499 on fundraising in 2014.
  • UCS spent $14,969,694 on salaries in 2014; $13,707,474 on salaries in 2013
  • UCS spent $43,135 on lobbying in 2014

Power

(source: U.S. Senate Office of Public Records and Influence Explorer)

  • Union of Concerned Scientists employees have given testimony before the U.S. Senate on 453 occasions.
  • Nine employees of UCS have been members of eleven Federal Advisory Committees from 2000 to 2015. Link leads to all details.
  • Revolving Door for Congressional Staff: Brendan Bell took the revolving door in 2012. He was a senior Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists and before that the Sierra Club, but went to work for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in a legislative assistant role. Senator Lautenberg died in 2013. For a year, UCS had eyes and ears at a high level in the Senate.

Network Interactions

Follow this link to the Muckety Map of the Union of Concerned Scientists interactions with donors, organizations, activists and influentials.

Donor Network (1998-2014)

The Union of Concerned Scientists has received 1,294 grants from 237 foundations totaling $97,682,247. Most donors are members of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a planning and organizing cartel for Big Green foundations only. The million-dollar-plus donors are:

  • THE ENERGY FOUNDATION $15,347,70
  • FOUNDATION FOR THE CAROLINAS $11,810,200
  • BRIGHT HORIZON FOUNDATION $9,785,000
  • WILLIAM & FLORA HEWLETT FOUNDATION $6,280,000
  • JOHN D & CATHERINE T MACARTHUR FOUNDATION $5,731,450
  • DAVID AND LUCILE PACKARD FOUNDATION $3,618,510
  • THE OAK FOUNDATION USA $2,300,002
  • JOYCE FOUNDATION $2,271,667
  • FIDELITY INVESTMENTS CHARITABLE GIFT FUND $2,085,408
  • GRANTHAM FOUNDATION FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT $1,745,000
  • KRESGE FOUNDATION $1,475,000
  • JOHN MERCK FUND $1,334,500
  • VANGUARD CHARITABLE ENDOWMENT PROGRAM $1,285,500
  • THE WALLACE RESEARCH FOUNDATION $1,225,000
  • PLOUGHSHARES FUND INC $1,127,117
  • FORD FOUNDATION $1,040,000
  • BLUE MOON FUND INC $1,004,930
  • PEW MEMORIAL TRUST $1,000,000
  • BARR FOUNDATION $1,000,000

Source: Foundation Search databank

Donor Network for Most Recent Year (2014)

The Union of Concerned Scientists received 15 grants from 15 foundations totaling $467,375. Most donors are members of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a planning and organizing cartel for Big Green foundations-only.

  • MARTIN FOUNDATION INC $100,000;
  • PLOUGHSHARES FUND INC $50,000;
  • BAUMAN FAMILY FOUNDATION $50,000;
  • AYRSHIRE FOUNDATION $50,000;
  • VANGUARD CHARITABLE ENDOWMENT PROGRAM $35,875;
  • FOUNDATION M $30,000;
  • PROSPECT HILL FOUNDATION INC $30,000;
  • MARTY & DOROTHY SILVERMAN FOUNDATION $26,500;
  • SHIFTING FOUNDATION LOUIS A HAZEL BRESKIN FOUNDATION $25,000;
  • ARIZONA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION $15,500;
  • WILLIAM B WIENER JR FOUNDATION $15,000;
  • MARTIN FABERT FOUNDATION $15,000;
  • DEL MAR GLOBAL TRUST $15,000;
  • B T ROCCA JR FOUNDATION$5,000;
  • MARGARET H AND JAMES E KELLEY FOUNDATION INC $4,500.

Source: Foundation Search databank