Institutionalizing Delay: Foundation Funding and the Creation of U.S. Climate Change Counter-Movement Organizations

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DOI: 10.1007/s10584-013-1018-7
This paper conducts an analysis of the financial resource mobilization of the organizations that make up the climate change counter-movement (CCCM) in the United States. Utilizing IRS data, total annual income is compiled for a sample of CCCM organizations (including advocacy organizations, think tanks, and trade associations). These data are coupled with IRS data on philanthropic foundation funding of these CCCM organizations contained in the Foundation Center’s data base. This results in a data sample that contains financial information for the time period 2003 to 2010 on the annual income of 91 CCCM organizations funded by 140 different foundations. An examination of these data shows that these 91 CCCM organizations have an annual income of just over $900 million, with an annual average of $64 million in identifiable foundation support. The overwhelming majority of the philanthropic support comes from conservative foundations. Additionally, there is evidence of a trend toward concealing the sources of CCCM funding through the use of donor directed philanthropies.
Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding
and the creation of U.S. climate change
counter-movement organizations
Robert J. Brulle
Received: 25 January 2013 /Accepted: 19 November 2013
#Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
Abstract This paper conducts an analysis of the financial resource mobilization of the
organizations that make up the climate change counter-movement (CCCM) in the United
States. Utilizing IRS data, total annual income is compiled for a sample of CCCM organiza-
tions (including advocacy organizations, think tanks, and trade associations). These data are
coupled with IRS data on philanthropic foundation funding of these CCCM organizations
contained in the Foundation Centers data base. This results in a data sample that contains
financial information for the time period 2003 to 2010 on the annual income of 91 CCCM
organizations funded by 140 different foundations. An examination of these data shows that
these 91 CCCM organizations have an annual income of just over $900 million, with an
annual average of $64 million in identifiable foundation support. The overwhelming majority
of the philanthropic support comes from conservative foundations. Additionally, there is
evidence of a trend toward concealing the sources of CCCM funding through the use of donor
directed philanthropies.
As 2012 ended, a series of increasingly dire predictions regarding the impacts of anthropo-
genic climate change were issued (International Energy Agency 2012; World Bank 2012).
These warnings were amplified when the National Research Council (2012) and the National
Intelligence Council (2012), both issued reports warning of the adverse political and security
impacts that such levels of warming would foster. Even as the consequences of the settled
facts(NRC 2011: 22) of anthropogenic climate change were amplified, the level of under-
standing of this issue in the U.S. remained low. In response to a survey question in the fall of
Do scientists believe that earth is getting warmer because of human activity?43%
replied no, and another 12 % didnt know. Only 45 % of the U.S. public accurately reported
the near unanimity of the scientific community about anthropogenic climate change. This
result reflects a broad misunderstanding of climate science by the general public.
Climatic Change
DOI 10.1007/s10584-013-1018-7
Pew Research Center Poll - October 2012
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10584-013-1018-7)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
R. J. Brulle (*)
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
A number of analyses have shown that one major factor driving this misunderstanding and
an overall lack of legislative action is a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public
discussion and distort the publics understanding of climate change (National Research
Council 2011: 35). This literature has revealed a great deal about the nature of efforts to deny
and/or distort climate science. It clearly shows that a number of conservative think tanks, trade
associations, and advocacy organizations are the key organizational components of a well-
organized climate change counter-movement (CCCM) that has not only played a major role in
confounding public understanding of climate science, but also successfully delayed meaning-
ful government policy actions to address the issue.
In order for these ongoing efforts to continue, it is imperative that the CCCM organizations
mobilize sufficient financial resources. Thus an examination of the funding sources of the
CCCM can provide a deeper understanding of the institutional dimensions of this effort. To the
extent that CCCM funding has been studied, the analyses have focused on the giving patterns
of a few major corporate funders, primarily ExxonMobil and Koch Enterprises, and their
relationships with a few highly visible CCCM organizations. The existing studies provide a
provocative but limited analysis of the organizational dynamics of the denial campaign. Thus,
despite the importance of the organized effort to deny climate change and thus the need to deal
with it, there has yet to be a comprehensive analysis of the funding flows that maintain this
This paper initiates an analysis of the funding dynamics of the organized effort to prevent
the initiation of policies designed to limit the carbon emissions that are driving anthropogenic
climate change. The efforts of the CCCM span a wide range of activities, including political
lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and
media efforts that aim at undermining climate science. This analysis focuses on the institu-
tional building effort of the CCCM organizations that carry out these different activities.
Specifically, it focuses on the financial support that enables the creation and maintenance of
the organizations that constitute the core of the CCCM. This analysis centers on three
questions. The first question is: What is the climate change counter-movement? Here I argue
that an efficacious approach to defining this movement is to view it as a cultural contestation
between a social movement advocating restrictions on carbon emissions and a counter-
movement opposed to such action. Using this perspective, the key organizations of the U.S.
CCCM are identified. This allows for an assessment of a second question, How are these
organizations financially maintained? Utilizing the perspective of resource mobilization, this
paper examines the financial structure of these organizations and identifies their sources of
monetary support. Establishing these funding sources then allows for an assessment of the
third question: How do these organizations and their funders interact to form a social
movement? Utilizing network analysis, this paper traces the links between philanthropic
foundations and the organizations they fund. This analysis shows the overall pattern of
resource mobilization of CCCM organizations, and allows for a series of observations about
the nature of the interactions between CCCM organizations and foundations.
1 The climate change counter-movement
The dispute over climate change involves a wide-ranging network of interaction among
numerous different organizations, each with its own particular perspective on an appropriate
response to climate change. To examine these dynamics, social movement theory has devel-
oped an approach known as field frame analysis (Fligstein and McAdam 2012:9).Field
frames are political constructions that provide order and meaning to fields of activity by
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creating a status ordering for practices that deem some practices more appropriate than others
(Lounsbury et al. 2003:7677). The application of this perspective to public policy centers on
the cultural disputes over what is the binding field frame in a particular policy area.
Accordingly, at the core of social change lie cultural and political disputes to maintain or
redefine a field of practice involving a number of organizational actors, including industry
organizations and their trade associations, professional bodies, government actors, social
movements, and counter-movements.
The locus of cultural contests over the appropriate field frame centers on the interaction
between social movements and counter-movements. Social movements seek to bring about
change through redefining the dominant field frame, spreading familiarity and acceptance of
this alternative frame, and generating political pressure to implement institutional change
(Levy and Egan 2003:805806). Conversely, counter-movements are those organized efforts
that are opposed to the objectives of social movements. Counter-movements are networks of
individuals and organizations that share many of the same objects of concern as the social
movements that they oppose. They make competing claims on the state on matters of policy
and politics and vie for attention from the mass media and the broader public(Meyer and
Staggenbord 1996:1632). Counter-movements seek to maintain the currently dominant field
frame and thus maintain the status quo by opposing, or countering, the efforts of movements
seeking change (Lo 1982: 119). Significantly, counter-movements typically originate as the
change movement starts to show signs of success in influencing public policy, and threatening
established interests. As noted by Gale (1986: 207), these counter-movements typically
represent economic interests directly challenged by the emergent social movement.This
process sets up a contentious political situation in which the social movement and counter-
movement struggle to either change or to maintain a particular field frame (Austin 2002).
Applying this perspective to the cultural conflict over climate change enables us to view
this contest as a political and cultural dispute over the appropriate field frame that governs
energy policy (Knight and Greenberg 2011). McCright and Dunlap (2000: 503) conceptual-
ized the global warming controversy in the United States as a framing contest between the
environmental establishment, and, among others, the conservative movement.Although the
climate change movement (CCM) is comprised of actors with multiple interpretations of how
best to address climate change, the defining characteristic is a focus on legislative actions that
would result in significant reductions of carbon emissions (Brulle 2014). Thus the CCM is
centered on advocating an alternative frame in which legislative restrictions on carbon
emissions sufficient to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system are
enacted. Opposing the efforts of this movement is the CCCM, which engages in a wide variety
of activities opposing any legislative attempts to enact mandatory restrictions on carbon
The CCCM first emerged in 1989, just after the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (Antonio and Brulle 2011). This counter-movement was fundamentally an
extension of the existing conservative movement, whose actions were centered in a number of
conservative think tanks. Jacques et al. (2008: 351) argue that Conservative think tanksthe
key organizational component of the conservative movement and their backers launched a
full-scale counter-movement in response to the perceived success of the environmental
movement and its supporters.A growing body of literature has extensively documented the
role of CCCM organizations in the development and promulgation of arguments designed to
support the conservativesadvocacy of inaction(McCright and Dunlap 2000:510)on
climate change. These arguments are promulgated by many means including the provision
of Congressional testimony, publication of documents on these organizations websites, the
publication of conservative anti-climate change editorials, and books critical of the need to
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address climate change (McCright and Dunlap 2000,2003; Elsasser and Dunlap 2013; Jacques
et al. 2008; Dunlap and Jacques 2013).
As for the organizational makeup of the CCCM, a variety of descriptions can be found in the
existing literature. Common to all of these descriptions is the inclusion of for-profit corporations and
their allied trade associations, conservative think tanks, advocacy/front groups, and foundations. The
different counter-movement organizations are aided in their work by sympathetic media outlets and
the Republican and Tea Parties. To develop a comprehensive roster of CCCM organizations for this
study, a two-step process was used. First, a consolidated list of all of the organizations identified in
prior studies was created. These organizations were then individually examined to identify those that
had a substantive focus on climate change. This process identified 118 CCCM organizations.
2 Resource mobilization of the U.S. climate change counter-movement
This enumeration of the specific organizations that make up the CCCM allows for an analysis
of the second question: How are these institutions maintained? One of the major influences on
the institutional capacity of movement organizations is the level of financial resources (Jenkins
1983). An examination of both the levels and sources of financial resources available to an
organization provides a means to assess its institutional capacity, and thus its potential
influence within the CCCM. Additionally, an examination of the sources of funding can
illuminate patterns of interaction between foundations and CCCM organizations, and the
relative influence of foundations within the overall CCCM.
To determine the amount and sources of income for the CCCM organizations, IRS data were
extracted from both the National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Foundation Center for
the period 2003 to 2010. Out of the 118 CCCM organizations identified (see above), IRS data
were available for only 91. The final sample for analysis consisted of 140 foundations making
5,299 grants totaling $558 million to 91 organizations. This process provided a workable data
set and enabled an examination of the financial income of the 91 CCCM organizations.
To conduct an analysis of the income of CCCM organizations, the official IRS legal
classification scheme is used. The legally assigned IRS designations
provide a robust means
to examine the structure of CCCM organizations in contrast to their arbitrary self-descriptions.
There is a rough correspondence between the distribution of IRS designations and the self-
descriptions of CCCM organizations. Organizations designated by the IRS as a 501 C3 or C4
organization constitute 78 % of the 91 organizations analyzed, which compares favorably with
the 75 % of the distribution of advocacy and think tanks in the original sample of 118 CCCM
organizations. However, the IRS distribution and the self-described distribution varied signif-
icantly in this area. Based on the IRS legal classification, the vast majority65 % (59/91) of
CCCM organizations are classified as 501 C3 organizations, 13 % (12/91) are 501 C4
organizations, and 22 % (20/91) are designated as 501 C5 or C6 organizations. So while the
The coding sheet, procedures, and list of selected organizations are provided in the Supplemental Material,
Tab les S-1 to S-3, pages 24.
For a full explanation of the funding data analysis, see the Methodological Appendix, page 117 in the
Supplemental Material.
IRS Category Descriptions:
501(c)(3) Religious, educational, charitable, scientific, or literary organizations; testing for public safety
organizations. Also, organizations preventing cruelty to children or animals, or fostering national or international
amateur sports competition
501(c)(4) Civic leagues, social welfare organizations, and local associations of employees
501(c)(5) Labor, agriculture, and horticultural organizations
501(c)(6) Business leagues, chambers of commerce, and real estate boards
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total distribution remains unchanged, this breakdown illustrates the arbitrary distinction
between the self-descriptions of organizations and their IRS legal designation. The IRS
designations constitute a consistent and government assigned legal status, and so this analysis
utilizes that breakout to conduct the analysis of resource mobilization.
2.1 Income analysis
Tab le 1shows the income distribution by year for the different legal categories of IRS organizations.
As the table shows, the 91 CCCM organizations had a total income of more than $7 billion over the
eight year period 20032010, with an annual average income exceeding $900 million. There are
large differences among the types of organizations. Trade associations (501 C5/C6) have the largest
annual income, reaching over $800 million for 2010. Tax deductible charitable educational organi-
zations (501 C3) have about $250 million in annual income, and non-tax deductible advocacy
organizations (501 C4) have the least income, running between $30 and $60 million for 2009 and
2010. Since the majority of the organizations are multiple focus organizations, not all of this income
was devoted to climate change activities. But these income breakdowns provide a measure of the
sources of funding of the CCCM organizations, and thus their means of resource mobilization.
The percentage distribution of income for these three different types of organizations is
presented in Figure S-1 (see Supplementary Material, page 116). For trade associations, the
single largest source of income is Membership Dues & Assessments,providing nearly half
of these funds. Foundation grants are not a relevant source of income for this type of
organizations. However, for charitable organizations, foundation grants form over a quarter
of their income, and for advocacy organizations, they amount to just over 14 %.
To further examine the distribution of contributions, an organization-level analysis was conduct-
ed (See Table S-5, Supplementary Material, page 36). The analysis showed that there is considerable
variance in sources of income. Trade associations (501 C5/6) generally have the lowest contributions
from undisclosed sources. This result is due to the primacy of membership dues as an income source
in these organizations. However, the actual contributions from individual member companies is
unknown. 501 C3 & C4 organizations vary widely in the amount of undisclosed contributions. A
number of organizations obtain less than 30 % of their income from undisclosed sources. At the
other end of the spectrum, more than one third (36 %26/71) of 501 C3 and C4 CCCM
organizations obtain more than 90 % of their income from undisclosed sources.
2.2 Foundation funding analysis
It is clear that there is substantial foundation funding of CCCM organizations. While trade
associations rely primarily on member organization dues, foundation funding is a significant factor
in the organizational maintenance of think tanks and advocacy organizations. It provides 25 % of the
income for 501 C3 organizations, and 14 % for 501 C4 organizations. However, there is a wide
variance in the level of funding for various individual organizations, as shown in Table S-5 (see
Supplementary Material). The percentage ranges from zero to nearly 74 %, with a mean of 24.8 %.
Thus foundation funding can be a significant source of income for individual organizations.
To determine the role of foundation funding of the CCCM, the Foundation Center data were
further examined.
The first step was to identify the overall distribution of foundation funding
The detailed data is provided in the Supplemental Material.TableS-6 (pages 39-42) lists grant totals by year
made by foundations. Table S-7 (pages 4344) lists recipient organizations of grants by year. Table S-8 (4578)
lists foundation grants to specific organizations, and Table S-9 (pages 79112) lists organizations that received
grants by foundation.
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Tab l e 1 Climate change counter-movement income distribution by year and IRS category
Income category 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total
501 C 3
Grant income 45,878,504 46,558,674 49,592,175 59,711,973 68,657,919 72,389,193 70,377,129 68,677,979 481,843,546
Contributions - unknown source 104,631,955 121,642,699 140,565,470 129,451,532 168,670,911 201,411,499 212,095,036 187,562,926 1,266,032,028
Program service revenue 7,574,153 8,563,721 8,447,497 8,710,106 7,429,600 8,098,018 8,313,701 8,490,179 65,626,975
Membership dues & assessments 146,565 153,206 197,623 102,932 112,800 111,087 82,981 84,883 992,077
Investment income 2,883,627 5,344,390 8,519,193 20,020,934 30,349,872 6,385,214 2,124,654 5,056,605 67,914,061
Other income 3,114,799 4,040,891 2,492,244 2,623,709 1,595,205 1,917,233 854,204 2,620,655 19,258,940
Total income 164,229,603 186,303,581 209,814,202 220,621,186 276,816,307 277,541,816 293,847,705 272,493,227 1,901,667,627
501 C 4
Grant income 41,000 220,500 1,651,250 1,935,300 1,580,500 3,787,000 4,986,131 9,654,411 23,856,092
Contributions - unknown source 11,966,458 8,091,730 7,235,224 15,317,340 8,738,014 15,129,448 24,677,631 47,580,282 138,736,127
Programservicerevenue000000 64,53648,711113,247
Membershipdues&assessments000000 0 0 0
Investment income 2,301 31,187 3,784 34,376 67,281 45,118 184,818 2,176,654 2,545,519
Other income 17,631 137,977 394,568 366,336 711,921 308,473 314,802 162,292 2,414,000
Total income 12,027,390 8,481,394 9,284,826 17,653,352 11,097,716 19,270,039 30,227,918 59,622,350 167,664,985
501 C 5 & 6
Grant income 60,000 47,820 149,000 118,500 122,500 1,581,006 443,000 654,850 3,176,676
Contributions - unknown source 70,146,127 88,409,206 147,137,007 144,728,060 141,060,709 187,649,338 265,166,080 241,285,304 1,285,581,831
Program service revenue 105,737,896 128,509,565 125,221,348 136,323,746 144,505,459 141,626,051 181,890,394 245,228,568 1,209,043,027
Membership dues & assessments 217,489,944 229,908,304 255,434,901 290,598,831 346,374,478 356,580,728 347,898,620 339,530,787 2,383,816,593
Investment income 8,041,360 8,065,244 11,013,699 14,453,948 18,211,627 8,006,560 6,422,108 9,124,324 83,338,870
Other income 62,499,988 15,116,867 13,448,749 13,527,438 17,016,328 19,133,814 20,520,292 29,665,724 190,929,200
Total income 463,975,315 470,057,006 552,404,704 599,750,523 667,291,101 714,577,497 822,340,494 865,489,557 5,155,886,197
All organizations
Total income 640,232,308 664,841,981 771,503,732 838,025,061 955,205,124 1,011,389,352 1,146,416,117 1,197,605,134 7,225,218,809
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to CCCM organizations. Figure 1shows the overall amount and percentage distribution of
foundation funding of CCCM organizations. The single largest funders are the combined
foundations Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund. Over the 20032010 period, they provided
more than $78 million in funding to CCCM organizations. The other major funders are the
combined Scaife and Koch Affiliated Foundations, and the Bradley, Howard, Pope, Searle and
Templeton foundations, all giving more than $20 million from 20032010.
Of special interest in this regard is that Donors Trust and Donors Capital are both donor
directedfoundations. In this type of foundation, individuals or other foundations contribute
money to the donor directed foundation, and it then makes grants based on the stated
preferences of the original contributor. This process ensures that the intent of the contributor
is met while also hiding that contributors identity. Because contributions to a donor directed
foundation are not required to be made public, their existence provides a way for individuals or
corporations to make anonymous contributions. In effect, these two philanthropic foundations
form a black box that conceals the identity of contributors to various CCCM organizations.
The second step in understanding the role of foundation funding in CCCM organizations
was to examine the overall distribution of funding among different CCCM organizations.
Figure 2illustrates the overall sum of foundation funding received by the 69 CCCM organi-
zations listed in the Foundation Center Date Base. As this figure shows, conservative think
tanks were the largest recipients of foundation support. These think tanks, including the
Fig. 1 Total foundation funding distribution - 2003 to 2010 U.S. climate change countermovement
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American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, are among the
best known conservative think tanks in the United States. The American Enterprise Institute
received 16 % of the total grants made to organizations that are active in the CCCM. The
Heritage Foundation was a close second, receiving 14 %. The majority of foundation funding
goes to multiple focus conservative think tanks. As previous analyses have shown (Jacques
et al. 2008; Dunlap and Jacques 2013), these multiple focus think tanks are highly active in the
This distribution of funding shows that both conservative foundations and the recipient
organizations are core actors in the larger conservative movement. The foundations that play a
major role in funding the CCCM are all well-known and prominent conservative funders
(Stefanic and Delgado 1996). Thus it is clear that the most prominent funding foundations and
the organizations receiving this funding are identical to those constituting the larger conser-
vative movement, indicating that the CCCM is a subsidiary movement of the larger conser-
vative movement, as numerous analyses have argued previously (McCright and Dunlap 2000,
2003; Dunlap and McCright 2011; Jacques et al. 2008, and Oreskes and Conway 2010).
These findings are significant because funding has important impacts on organizations. The
level of financial support provided by private foundations and individual patrons exerts a
powerful influence on the capabilities of non-profit organizations, whether conservative or
progressive (Walker 1991). Private foundations gain their influence over social movement
organizations through their financial power and constitute a system of power and influence.
This limits the range of organizational forms and goals for movement organizations (McCarthy
et al. 1991:6970). Movement organizations depend on foundations for programmatic ideas,
occasional technical support, and the sense of legitimacy and prestige that comes with
foundation grants. Well-funded organizations gain the attention of policymakers simply by
virtue of the recognition they have received from national grant makers (Snow 1992:65).In
Fig. 2 Total foundation recipient income distribution - 2003 to 2010 U.S. climate change countermovement
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addition, foundations are not passive actors, but carefully select from the grant proposals they
receive. Foundations have increasingly taken a more activist role in the development of social
movement organizations, including forming their own organizations (Ylvisaker 1987:363). For
example, the Cato Institute was founded by the Koch Brothers, and continues to receive
funding from the Koch affiliated foundations. Additionally, foundations can sometimes gain
additional influence over the organizations they fund through direct participation on the board
of directors (Colwell 1993: 105).
Thus, external funding creates a dynamic that can be seen as financial steering of social
movement organizations. Accordingly, the funding links illustrate the power relationships
within a social movement, or in this case, counter-movement. Conservative foundations have
long played a major role in the development of conservative ideas (Hoplin and Robinson 2008:
1533). Anheier and Daly (2005: 159) note that: Foundations are among the most indepen-
dent institutions of modern society. They are not subject to market forces or consumer
preferences, nor do they have a membership or some electorate to oversee decisions and
performance.This legal status has allowed conservative foundations to take a very active role
in the creation and maintenance of think tanks and advocacy organizations that, in turn, play a
major role in the CCCM (Minkoff and Agnone 2010:367,NCRP1997).
3 Network analysis of funding relationships
Given the prominent role of foundations in funding the CCCM, the final question addressed is:
How do the CCCM organizations and foundations interact to form a cohesive movement? The
use of network analysis can lend a number of insights to this question. Network analysis is
predicated on the belief that social ties exert a powerful influence over organizational activities
(Knoke 1990). By channeling resources, communications, influence, and legitimacy, social
networks create shared identities and collective interests, and thus promote the acceptance of a
common field frame within a social movement (Knoke and Yang 2008: 6). As the exchange of
information increases, organizations form stable relationships with other organizations based
on their knowledge of the specific competencies and reliability of one another. These relation-
ships solidify over time, and future behavioral actions become regularized and routinized,
forming a stable social network (Gulati and Gargiulo 1999: 1440). Thus the network of
interactions creates a shared set of beliefs and expectations that creates and maintains a
collective effort to advocate for a specific field frame (Fuchs 2001:272275).
The ability to control funding within the network is a crucial component of influence and
power (Brass 1992). Organizational positions are stratified according to funding relationships.
Most inter-organizational networks are made up of a core group of centrally located organi-
zations that controls the majority of resources (Cook and Whitmeyer 1992). Research shows
that centrality creates legitimacy, influence and access to important resources (Knoke 1990).
Thus network analysis can capture the structures that underpin the dynamics of the relations
between foundations and movement organizations.
Utilizing the foundation funding information on CCCM organizations, a network analysis
was conducted utilizing UCINET (Borgatti et al. 2002). The overall dimensions of the network
between foundations and CCCM organizations for the 2003 to 2010 period are shown in
Table S10(Supplementary Material, page 113). This table shows the overall size of the
network by year based on the number of organizations and foundations engaged in funding
relationships. It is important to note that there is only one unified network between foundations
and CCCM organizations. There are no specific factions or isolated groups. Thus this network
is well defined and continuous. Additionally, this network has been remarkably stable over the
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20032010 period. The number of foundations and organizations varied less than 5 % over the
entire time frame, and the network density showed no significant variance. This finding is
indicative of a network of well-established and stable social interactions.
To further examine the development of the funding network, the percentage of overall
funding by each foundation was calculated by year. This fraction, technically known as relative
node strength, measures the overall influence of any specific foundation within the network,
based on the assumption that a foundations influence in the funding network is a function of
its overall grant-making levels. Table S-11 (Supplementary Material, page 114) shows the
relative node strength for those foundations that provided more than 1 % of the funding across
the time period 20032010. An examination of the relative node strength shows that the Brady
Education Foundations giving occurred only in 2003. ExxonMobil Foundation giving peaked
at 4.7 % of total foundation funding of CCCM organizations in 2003 and declined to zero by
2008. Donor Trust/Capital increased dramatically from only 3.3 % in 2003 to 23.7 % in 2010.
Several foundations maintained a relatively stable level of influence within the overall
network, including the Bradly, Scaife, Pope and Dunn foundations. What is striking is the
remarkable growth of Donors Trust/Donors Capital as the central component in the overall
Five individual trends in foundation giving are displayed in Fig. 3. As this graph shows, the
overall percentage contribution of Donors Trust/Capital rapidly increased from 2007 to 2010.
At the same time, the Koch Affiliated Foundations, which peaked at 9 % in 2006, declined to
2 %. The ExxonMobil Foundation effectively stopped publicly funding CCCM organizations
in 2007. Additionally, funding by the Scaife Affiliated Foundations, the second largest funder
of CCCM organizations, also declined from 14 % in 2003 to just under 6 % in 2010. Finally,
Bradley Foundation funding slightly declined over this time period. The rapid increase in the
percentage of funding of the CCCM by Donors Trust/Capital and the decline in both Koch and
ExxonMobil corresponds to the initiation of campaigns by the Union of Concerned Scientists
and Greenpeace publicizing and criticizing both ExxonMobil and Koch Corporations as
funders of climate denial. Although the correspondence is suggestive of an effort to conceal
funding of the CCCM by these foundations, it is impossible to determine for certain whether or
not ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations continue to fund CCCM organizations via Donors
Trust/Capital or direct corporate contributions. However, it is important to note that a Koch run
foundation, the Knowledge and Progress Fund, initiated a pattern of making large grants to
Donors Trust in 2008.
The influence of each foundation within the network is reflected in its relative node
degree, which is the percentage of the overall number of ties to organizations with which the
foundation is involved. Basically, this is a measure of the number of organizations
funded by a specific foundation as a percentage of the total number of funding links in
the entire network. Here the logic stipulates that the more ties to different organizations a
foundation has, the more power that the foundation exerts in directing the overall
activities of the network. Data on the relative node degree for each major foundation
is provided in Table S-12 (See Supplementary Material page 115). An examination of
these data presents a slightly different picture of influence within the overall network.
The rapid increase in the relative node strength of Donors is muted; its relative node
degree increases only slightly over the time period 2006 to 2010. Many of the other
foundations maintain a relatively stable node degree. This trend indicates that the
increased influence of Donors Trust/Capital within the network as reflected by its
growing share of overall funding was accomplished by increasing the amount of each
grant, and not by increasing the number of grants. Nonetheless, it is abundantly clear that
Donors Trust/Capital has risen to become the predominant funder of the CCCM.
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The overall structure of the network for 2010 is shown below in Fig. 4, which provides a
sociogram of the network structure. To simplify the sociogram, only those foundations that
contributed 1 % or more of the total foundation funding for that year are shown. These twenty-
two foundations provided 77.4 % of the total funding. In Fig. 4, foundations are designated as
diamonds, and recipient CCCM organizations as circles. The overall size of the symbol
represents the total flow of foundation funding by each foundation and the total amount of
Fig. 3 Selected foundation node strength - by year - 2003 to 2010 U.S. climate change countermovement
Fig. 4 Sociogram of CCCM organizations by funding foundation - 2010
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funding received by each CCCM organization respectively. The width of the connecting lines
between the foundations and the organizations represents the overall funding amount of that
particular link.
An examination of this sociogram reveals the overwhelming dominance of Donors Trust/
Donors Capital in the overall network. It occupies a central position in the network: Out of the
51 CCCM organizations that received foundation funding from the top 22 foundations, Donors
funded 35, or nearly 70 % of them. The other leading funders include the affiliated Scaife and
Koch Foundations, as well as the Bradley, Pope, and Searle foundations. The pattern of
recipients of funding shows that the traditional conservative think tanks receive the largest
sums of foundation funding. Especially prominent are the Hoover Institute, the American
Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute. Additionally, an unusually
large amount of funding was provided to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. This was
due to a large grant of $7.7 million dollars from Donors Trust.
The overall finding of this network analysis of the funding patterns shows that both the
organizations that receive the funding and the foundations that provide the funds are core
components of the larger conservative movement. The organizational structure of the CCCM
is thus fundamentally identical to that of the overall conservative movement, making it
legitimate to view the former as a component of the latter. This lends increased empirical
verification to previous analyses of the CCCM (McCright and Dunlap 2000).
The debate over climate change involves a political and cultural dispute contest over the
appropriate field frame that governs energy policy. The CCCM efforts focus on maintaining a
field frame that justifies unlimited use of fossil fuels by attempting to delegitmate the science that
supports the necessity of mandatory limits on carbon emissions. To accomplish this goal in the
face of massive scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change has meant the development
of an active campaign to manipulate and mislead the public over the nature of climate science and
the threat posed by climate change. This counter-movement involves a large number of organi-
zations, including conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative
foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians.
It is without question that conservative foundations play a major role in the creation and
maintenance of the CCCM. All of the available information illustrates strong links between these
foundations and organizations in the CCCM, even despite efforts such as the creation of Donors
Trust/Capital to conceal these funding flows. The largest and most consistent funders of organiza-
tions orchestrating efforts to defeat efforts to mitigate climate change are a number of well-known
conservative foundations. These foundations promote neoliberal free-market ideas in many realms,
and have extended their funding of conservative causes to encompass climate change.
The available data indicates that the Koch and ExxonMobil Foundations have recently
pulled back from publicly funding CCCM organizations. From 2003 to 2007, the Koch
Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were heavily involved in funding
CCCM organizations. But since 2008, they are no longer making publicly traceable contribu-
tions to CCCM organizations. Instead, funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources.
Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to CCCM
organizations by Donors Trust/Capital has risen dramatically.
A large portion of funding for CCCM organizations is untraceable. Despite extensive data
compilation and analyses, only a fraction of the contributions to CCCM organizations can be
specifically accounted for from public records. The sizable amount of undisclosed funding, or
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dark moneyinvolved in the CCCM obscures the resource mobilization practices of the
CCCM. However, enough information is available to document that a number of major
conservative foundations have clearly played a crucial role in the development and mainte-
nance of the CCCM.
With delay and obfuscation as their goals, the U.S. CCCM has been quite successful in
recent decades. However, the key actors in this cultural and political conflict are not just the
expertswho appear in the media spotlight. The roots of climate-change denial go deeper,
because individualsefforts have been bankrolled and directed by organizations that receive
sustained support from foundations and funders known for their overall commitments to
conservative causes. Thus to fully understand the opposition to climate change legislation,
we need to focus on the institutionalized efforts that have built and maintain this organized
campaign. Just as in a theatrical show, there are stars in the spotlight. In the drama of climate
change, these are often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians, such as
Senator James Inhofe. However, they are only the most visible and transparent parts of a larger
production. Supporting this effort are directors, script writers, and, most importantly, a series of
producers, in the form of conservative foundations. Clarifying the institutional dynamics of the
CCCM can aid our understanding of how anthropogenic climate change has been turned into a
controversy rather than a scientific fact in the U.S.
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