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A “New Era” In Elite Foundation Abuse

Wm. Penn’s $100 Million “Delaware Watershed Initiative” Is A National Model

Yale Environment Duped Into Publishing Foundation Propaganda

20  Ways Elite Foundations Corrupt Public Policy

A Jersey friend just sent me an article from YaleEnvironment360 pompously titled:

These folks actually think they’ve created a “new era” – is there a better example of arrogant, delusional, hubris?

What that Yale story really illustrates is no “promising new era”, but an egregious abuse of power by the elite William Penn Foundation – virtually a national model for how an elite Foundation can throw a LOT of money around – like over $100 million – and hijack not only the issues & policy agenda, but the advocacy work of environmental groups and the media too.

But it’s not until the end of the story that we read this disclaimer:

Reporting for this article was supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

The William Penn Foundation is also a “Major Funder” of NJ Spotlight, the primary outlet that publishes reporter Jon Hurdle’s work (a fact that goes unmentioned in Hurdle’s bio.)

[Update: in fairness, here is NJ Spotlight’s Code of Ethics: (emphasis mine)

We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support.

I think the evidence suggests otherwise – I have documented  a pattern of sources, news issues/topics, and narratives that so closely fit Wm. Penn Foundation and Dodge Foundation funders that could not be random. ~~~ end update]

Mr. Hurdle writes a lot of stories about the Delaware River. The William Penn Foundation also funds many of the sources used in Mr. Hurdle’s stories and those stories reflect Penn’s narrative, rhetoric, and corporate style.

A William Penn Foundation staffer is given a prominent quote in this Yale story they paid for.

So, we now have a Foundation using millions of dollars to define the issues, control the environmental community’s campaign strategy & tactics on those issues, exclude differing views, and even control the media’s story selection, narrative, and sourcing.

After reading the piece, I went on somewhat of a Twitter rant, which included a thread of 20 abuses by the Penn Foundation, as follows (I’ll begin with the last one):

I wonder if the folks at Yale Environment know what they got sucked into by agreeing to publish this William Penn Foundation paid for Neoliberal propaganda? See this thread for 20 abuses they’ve normalized.

William Penn Foundation distributed over $100 million to environmental groups for Delaware Watershed Initiative https://williampennfoundation.org/delaware-river-watershed-initiative

They now have bought press too.

Penn is ideologically Neoliberal: anti-government and anti-regulation, while pro-market, voluntary & private actions

The Delaware River is national model for Foundation abuse:

1) use $ to buy environmental group cover

2) use $ to select issues, strategy, advocacy agenda, & tactics

3) co-opt, defund, & take credit for work of locals

4) marginalize “radicals”

5) divert from government, regulations, and corporate power

6) promote ineffective, feel good, symbolic gestures that protect the Status Quo while allowing wealthy white people to feel righteous

7) undermine more effective government regulatory mandates

8) protect corporate interest$ & politicians (criticism of Democrats is taboo, while exaggerated praise of Dems is SOP)

9) deny scope & minimize the severity of problems

10) exaggerate success of Foundation window dressing

11) self promote

12) self deal and keep the money an influence among class collaborators

13) ignore real EJ, but promote EJ sympathies

14) create distrust and conflict within the public interest community

15) use money to buy press coverage & issues covered

16) use money to shape press coverage & content of coverage

17) use $ to assure that Penn Foundation funded groups are the “go to” news sources

18) use $ to make sure those sources mislead the public & promote Penn’s vision.

19) Use Penn program agenda to provide cover for government leaders and allow agency heads to dodge accountability for failed regulatory programs.

This happens by diverting focus away from government regulation & exaggerating success of individual voluntary market based actions.

20) control the behavior of funded groups so that they threaten no economic, corporate, or political interests, while marginalizing and even defunding real grassroots activists & “radical” policy advocates.

Who will tell the people about these abuses?

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