Robertson's links to powerful foreign funders demands full transparency

Post by Vivian Krause in

29 comments

tides-cash
Another shipment from across the border arrives at the Tides Canada offices

Vivian Krause is an expert on the complex subject of charitable foundation money flowing into British Columbia for a variety of activist causes. CityCaucus.com recently featured a report based upon her unlikely encounter with David Suzuki. Our weekend report on Mayor Gregor Robertson's trip to New York prompted her to open up the books on Robertson's biggest backers – Joel Solomon and Carol Newell. The following article from her blog is re-printed here with Krause's permission.

Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson says that he wants our city to re-think the transit of oil tankers through our waters. In light of the horrific oil spill in the Gulf, surely every port city should be re-check plans and preparations for mitigating inevitable risks. No matter how well-prepared we are, accidents still happen. So if Mayor Gregor Robertson has Canada's interests at heart, that's great. On the other hand, if the Mayor's recent move is partially to please the U.S. funders of his entourage, Vancouver voters have the right to know.

As far as I can tell, one of the biggest contributors to Mayor Robertson's campaign is Joel Solomon. According to the Vancouver Sun's Donor Database, Solomon's company, Renewal Partners, contributed about $70,629 to the mayor's campaign.

Solomon is the vice-chair of Tides Canada Foundation and for at least 10 years, Solomon has also been a director of the U.S.-based Tides Foundation, the parent organization of Tides Canada Foundation. Mike Magee, Mayor Gregor Robertson's Chief of Staff, has been an advisor to Tides Canada Foundation since 2005. (See Tides Canada's 2005 Annual Report, page 8).

According to Strategic Communications Inc., it is one of the major clients of Renewal Partners, Solomon's company. The Vancouver Sun reports that Strategic Communications Inc. was also a major source of campaign financing for Mayor Robertson's campaign. In fact, Strategic Communications contributed $83,314. Thus, two organizations close to Tides Canada Foundation contributed about $153,000 to the mayor's campaign. Obviously the folks at the leadership of Tides Canada have quite an interest in Vancouver politics. My calculations suggest that a handful of huge U.S. foundations have granted at least to $US 43.7 Million to Tides Canada Foundation. For quite some time, I've been asking Tides Canada about how it re-grants U.S. funds to B.C. organizations. So far, no answers. (See also: To whom was $US 43.7 Million re-granted?)

The "Big Four" U.S. foundations that have granted $US 43.7 Million to Tides Canada have about $US 21 BILLION in assets and grant about $US 1.2 BILLION each year. These folks have deep pockets.

Tides Foundation, the U.S. "sister" of Tides Canada, has been criticized for obscuring the origins of its funds. "In practice, Tides behaves less like a philanthropy than a money-laundering enterprise, taking money from other foundations and spending it as the donor requires," writes the U.S. Center for Consumer Freedom. "Called 'donor-advised giving,' this pass-through funding vehicle provides public-relations insulation for the money's original donors. By using Tides to funnel its capital, a large public charity can indirectly fund a project with which it would prefer not to be directly identified in public."

According to the U.S. Center for Consumer Freedom, the Tides Foundation was created primarily by the Pew Charitable Trusts ("Pew") which originated from the wealth of the heirs of Sun Oil Co. Between the mid 1990s and 2005, Pew granted $US 140 Million to the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center, says the U.S. Center.

One of the projects that has been funded by Pew is Alexandra Morton's campaign against salmon farming. This was funded as part of Pew's program for Salmon Aquaculture "Reform." In fact, the press release for Morton's Get Out Migration protest was issued out of Sointula, B.C. but the phone number given was for Pew in Washington, D.C.. Scaring consumers away from farmed salmon helps to prop up the market for "wild" salmon, most of which is Alaskan. Since the campaign against farmed salmon, the value of Alaskan salmon has TRIPLED. This has been really helpful in Alaska where the fishermen are the largest block of votes. Not only the livelihood and the lifestyle of fishermen depends on market demand for wild fish, the economic and political stability of Alaska does too.

As it appears to me, one of the biggest contributors to Tides Canada Foundation is the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation ("Hewlett"). Hewlett is huge. As of 2008, the Hewlett foundation had about $US 6.3 BILLION in assets, down from $US 9.3 Billion the year before. Since 1999, Hewlett has given away about $US 2.4 Billion. In 2009, the average Hewlett grant was about $400,000.

Canada has been the recipient of more Hewlett funds than to any other country except the U.S. While Hewlett granted $65.2 Million to Canadian organizations (some of which was re-granted for international work), $12.2 Million was granted to South Africa, $10 Million to India, $2.5 Million to Uganda, and $905,000 to China. Of all the countries in the world that could benefit from Hewlett's financial resources and expertise, why spend so much in Canada compared to other places that are far more needy?

According to my calculations, Hewlett grants for work in British Columbia total $US 20.3 Million. Of that, about $7.1 Million was to "reform" the development of oil and gas resources. In comparison, the amount that Hewlett granted "for civil society to participate in developing a transparent system for managing Ghana's oil wealth," was $US 120,000.

As far as I can tell, Hewlett began to "address" the development of oil and gas resources in British Columbia, in 2004. That year, Hewlett made a grant for $US70,000 to Tides Canada for developing “a strategic plan.” In 2005, Hewlett granted $US 250,000 for the creation of a small grants by Tides Canada. This enables Tides Canada to re-grant U.S. funds to B.C. organizations in the name of Tides Canada.

In 2007, Hewlett granted $US 1.5 Million to Tides Canada Foundation "for the Oil and Gas Fund project." The same year, Hewlett also granted $US125,000 to Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defense Fund), "for reducing the environmental impacts of oil and gas development in Northern Canada." In 2008, Ecojustice got $US 150,000 for the same thing.

In 2008, Hewlett granted $US 3 Million to Tides Canada "for reducing the environmental impacts of oil and gas development in Northern Canada." And in 2009, Hewlett granted a further $US 2 Million. However, this was granted through Tides Foundation (USA), not through Tides Canada Foundation. Hewlett also granted $US 50,000 for Tides Canada “to develop a business plan for the organization.”

Hewlett also granted at least $US 7 Million to the Natural Resources Defense Council - which Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Chief of Staff, Michael Magee, visited in April of 2010.

So, lets review: Joel Solomon, one of the biggest election campaign financiers of Vancouver's Mayor, is simultaneously a long-time director of the Tides Foundation, a deep-pocketed American organization that has received at least $US 140 Million from the Pew Charitable Trusts, another huge American foundation created with funds from U.S. oil interests. And Tides Canada Foundation - of which Solomon is the Vice-Chair, has been paid at least $US 7 Million to "address" Canada's oil and gas.

Considering Solomon's substantial election donations to Vancouver's Mayor, one would hope that Tides Canada would be fully transparent about the organizations to whom Tides Canada has re-granted $US 43.7 Million from U.S. sources.

- post by Vivian Krause. A detail that Krause didn't mention is that Gregor Robertson was on the Board of Directors for the Tides Canada Foundation before entering politics as an NDP MLA. For more graphs and scanned documents see the original post at Fair-Questions.com. Krause's supplemental posts to this article are also posted on her blog:

29 Comments

Know Your Writer - Vivien Krause; fish farm industry pr person and lobbyist, anti-environmentalist, conspiracy theorist.

Do you really think you can change Gregor Robertson's behaviour? He is well above the criticism from the common folk.

@ Ian: So let me get this straight. When you can’t handle the message, it’s important to attack the messenger.
The important thing here is the magnitude of foreign (American) funding that is being funneled into foundations with the goal of damaging Canadian industry and loss of jobs. First logging, then fish farms, now oil and gas. Never mind, we can always rely on tourism... Maybe start a big business like Hollyhock, then apply for Charitable status so we don’t have to pay taxes on it.
The fact that these same foundations are financially backing “Mayor Moonbeam” is a huge concern. And if everything is so legit, where’s the transparency?
Great research, Vivien.

I am still dumbfounded as to why so many Americans have an interest in Gregor Robertson and Vancouver politics. What on earth would possess them to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into a ken doll mayor who has his strings pulled by his chief of staff Mike McGee? Why would these foreigners care so much about the outcome of Vancouver civic elections? Vivian you have done some great research and I think you are trying to piece everything together. Keep up your good work and I hope you get to the bottom of this.

Perhaps they are using Robertson as a stepping stone.

They were able to propel him into civic politics, the next step would be provincial where their lobbying tactics would be more beneficial.

Let's face it, for anyone who has heard Robertson speak, he is far from riveting and does not come across as the sharpest tool in the tool box.

He may be easy to control/lead with 'promises'.

And why is the mortgage on the house he lives registered with a US company?

Gregor actually started as NDP MLA Fairview, but bailed half way through his term, leaving the BC taxpayer to pick up the tab to replace him.

Great job Vivian.

I suspect these groups are looking for a breeding ground to test some left wing social engineering - for profit. Vivien has done a good job of identifying the source of funds - what are these people getting for return on their investment?

I can handle the message and I disagree with it. I also see that it's coming from an "interested" party, which wasn't disclosed in the article.

Here's the disagreement: the fact that someone donates to your campaign and is involved in a non-profit foundation that handles and is connected with US Foundations doesn't add up to anything but that. Here's an analogy - the fact that a number of BC Liberal and NPA donors sit on right wing boards that fund extremists like the Fraser Institute doesn't add up to a conspiracy. That's a left wing fantasy. Vivian Krause is simply plying the right wing version.

And I have to say, pointing out environmental degradation and rule breaking does not add up to killing BC industry. Just ask the folks who are now dealing with the BP catastrophe.

Hi George:

Yes, I do know the Robertson was an NDP MLA prior to hopping ship.

As I understand he was a rather ineffective MLA and far from well-known or well recognized as an MLA.

There has been chatter amongst the 'Visionistas' about Robertson running for Premier.

Didn't Robertson go to school in the USA? Is his wife not American? Oooooh...the plot thickens. The next thing we'll find out is that Robertson's company Happy Planet was bought out by Americans. Where does this all go next?

Robertson's only hope for re-election is the if the professional protesters, cycling nuts, and greenpeacers come out to vote. He never realized he would be jumping into deep waters (well above his head) when he stepped into his new office at City Hall. You simply cannot effectively run a city when all you're about is photo ops, chicken feed and bike lanes. There's so much business that is literally being left unattended right now it's scarey.

Replace "Gregor Robertson" with "Sam Sullivan" and see how differently this scenario would play out among those here saying "no big deal." The torches and pitchforks would be out in full force in front of City Hall if this kind of money and foreign influence was behind an NPA Mayor.

If you think that trying to make Vancouver a global leader in the emerging green economy, improving industry practices that affect the environment, and sitting on boards with people who moved here from other countries is suspicious and unethical then this is a great article. Otherwise, if you think that environmental defense orgs and other non-profits have just as much legal right to invest and transfer funds in a globalized marketplace like the transnational corporations who dwarf them in size, then this 'article' is a prime example of the small mindedness that appeals to BC 'conservatives' who proudly wrap themselves in it under the guise of critical thinking. When international business from China, and the US transfers money here to the Province it's an investment, but when a non-profit group does the same in the interest of our environment it becomes a conspiracy? Has Vivian read the roll call on provincial campaign donations? What's worse? Having a leader in City Hall who wants to make us the Greenest and most livable city in the world? Or a premier in Victoria whose largest donors are the mining lobby, the forestry lobby and the automobile lobby? In a globalized economy (political-economy, and a globalized political-ecology to parallel it) what should we be worried about more? Where the money comes from or what it hopes to achieve? In the Case of Tides, Solomon and Robertson, I can't see anything that seems maligned or not in the interest of this city or this province as it takes the long term health and interest of the environment and residents into consideration first, unlike these transnational mining, aquaculture and other corporations who offload hundreds of millions in externalities to BC taxpayers and influence policy to their benefit. Let’s not forget the recent CSIS comments too about foreign business influence in our Province. At this point, from the left right and centre, foreign interests are pumping money into our political system for all kinds of reasons. I applaud Vivian on pointing out the obvious and for demonstrating that people who don’t care about our environment aren’t the only ones trying to influence environmental policy in this Province, thank goodness.

In the end what's Krause saying? Robertson potentially wants to block oil tankers from going through our port because he is ultimately paid through Solomon by a giant US oil interest? Isn't that a blatant contradiction? This article is loaded with implications but no real clarity. Vancouver is one of the nicest cities in the world? Who wouldn't want to take an interest in it. Chinese, American, Emirates, Europeans, I'm just glad Solomon and Tides support a vision of an environmentally and economically sustainable green city that will compete, and lead, in a world economy. Those evil bastards.

I worked as a scrutineer at the polling station at Carnegie Centre.

You would be astounded as to how COPE and Vision operated on election day.

Did you know you are considered 'disabled' if you are an addict and jonsing for a fix. That you can have someone help you complete your ballot - someone they will help you find that more than likely works for one activist group or another....or perhaps is manning the tent outside trying to pull people in to vote.

Did you know that if you don't have a mailing address or home address you can use that of either Pivot or Carnegie?

Did you know that some of the shelters that deal with addicts etc. were 'educating' their participants on who to vote for in advance - giving them check lists?

As a first timer - it was very 'educational' as to how the electoral system can be manipulated.

@ Ian: “pointing out environmental degradation and rule breaking”? Right. So, all these American foundations are funneling millions of US$ into campaigns that shut down Canadian industries all because “they care”. Isn’t it interesting that Canadian jobs suffer while American jobs benefit. Where have we seen this before?

“the fact that someone donates to your campaign and is involved in a non-profit foundation that handles and is connected with US Foundations doesn't add up to anything but that”.
Really? And why are they financing Gregor Robertson? Why are they spending so much money on Canadian politics? I know... Wait for it... It’s because “they care”.

It's enough to make everyone feel so warm and fuzzy all over.

Joan, review your logic. There is a missing step that leads you to make an unfounded charge.

US foundations don't support Robertson. There is no link. Solomon has his own money and is entitled to make his own donations, just like Terry Hui makes donations to the NPA etc...

And if you think industry was shut down by foundations think again. There is no evidence for that.

There is evidence of environmental groups seeking better protection of BC's environment. You apparently think that's wrong. The vast majority of British Columbians don't. They take pride in our beautiful province and want to keep it beautiful.

and working for John Duncan, MP Vancouver Island North

Hans, making Vancouver a leader in the green economy will have as much impact on the environment as the ridiculous sign proclaiming Vancouver a nuclear weapons free zone has on world peace. At least the sign is an inexpensive meaningless gesture.

The issue of the environment, and global warming in particular, is an international issue that has to be dealt with at the Federal level. It's bad enough the Provincial government is muddying the waters with the Carbon Tax. I suggest that both levels of government (Provincial and City) should leave the issue to the Federal Government.

Chris, Vivian no longer works for MP Duncan and was only with his office for a short period.

Who doesn’t take pride in British Columbia and want to keep it beautiful? It is very tiresome constantly hearing a few sanctimonious people claim to be the only true keepers of BC’s altruistic good.

If everything is as benign as you would like us to believe, then let them prove it. Let them give straight answers as to how all these millions and millions of dollars are being used. You know, transparency?

I’m sure our environment is what they really care about and not ultimate control of our natural resources.

Hi Ian, Terry Hui and Concord have given far more to Vision than to the NPA, and bailed out their campaign debt from 2005 as well. We don't know who has bailed out their $250,000 campaign debt from 2008 because they're not disclosing even though required by the law to do so and despite their promises to disclose before getting elected.

Earth to Joan, earth to Joan... Oh, never mind.

And Sean. You're fairly new to the NPA, right? Talk amongst your folk to find out how much Concord has given over the years.

The NPA would be well served to take care of their own house, or they will never see themselves back in the director's chair at this rate.

With the recent revelations about Russian moles posing as middle-class American policy advisors and foreign control of Municipal and Provincial (but not, thankfully, Federal)politicians it's difficult to know who or what to believe anymore.
(see the 1988 Columbia release "Little Nikita" starring Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix as an FBI agent and the headstrong teenage son of Russian spies. No, not Boris and Natasha, Richard and Elizabeth Grant. Their cover is as the owners of a nursery.Not a bad little movie, I give it 4 stars.)

Hey, Concord's payback is coming soon - all that land around the 'Viaducts'.

Why spend $300K (revised by Meggs from the $695K when people started asking questions about how a 'study' could cost that much) when we all know what the outcome will be?

Why bother, they will just push it through regardless.

When you can’t handle the message, it’s important to attack the messenger.

A legit criticism. Here's a substantive response.

Life imitating cinematic art. "...their cover is as THE OWNERS OF A NURSERY". A nursery.
Does the name Bill "Quasimodo" Vander Zalm ring a bell?
We have proof that he takes secret cash payoffs from foreign billionaires. Taiwan, Moscow, who really cares as long as it's used American hundreds.
Next he plans to recall the Premier and Cabinet because they didn't say anything about higher taxes during the last election. Then the Lt-Gov makes Carole James Premier and the NDP hands control of the legislature to the Kremlin. Brilliant!

It is unfortunate that Alexandra Morton cannot be transparent regarding the mega $$ she gets from all these US foundations for her alleged "research " Interesting that the Pew Charitable Trust is funded with oil money but then again Ms Morton's uncle Louis Marx Jr is after all an oil venture capitalist isn't he. Strange bedfellows for a so called environmentalist.

So you don't think all those American funders have an interest in another of Vivian best research projects that being the aquaculture industry. American interests have destroyed most of our resource based industries. You don't find it odd the environmentalist Alexandra Morton is getting funding from a foundation that gets it's money from oil interests ? Talk about hypocrisey !! Why are American interest groups so interested in canadian industry and politics other than to try and control markets etc.

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