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Greenwashing Capitalism: Conservation’s Cosy Relationship with Corporations

Conservation Watch

By Chris Lang

March 21, 2017

Since the year 2000, there have been many partnerships between conservation organisations and the industrial corporations responsible for destroying nature. Mining companies are particularly popular.

A new paper by William M. Adams published in the Journal of Polical Ecology explores the “surprising closeness and apparent warmth of the relations between biodiversity conservation organisations and corporations”.

The paper is titled, “Sleeping with the enemy? Biodiversity conservation, corporations and the green economy”, and can be downloaded here.

Adams traces the partnerships between conservation organisations and the mining industry to a series of initiatives starting in the 1990s:

1997: Conservation International published Reinventing the well, a report on “minimizing the environmental and social impacts of oil development in the tropics”.

1998: a Global Mining Initiative, “to provide sustainable leadership for the mining and minerals industry in the areas of our economic, social and environmental performance”.

1999: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development began a Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development project.

1999: Rio Tinto started working with Conservation International.

2000: Conservation International published a report on large-scale mining, titled, Lightening the lode.

2001: The International Council on Mining and Metals was formed, “to act as a catalyst for performance improvement in the mining, minerals and metals industry”.

2000–2002:The Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development Project, a research collaboration between the WBCSD and IIED.

Adams argues that,

[C]onservationists are turning a blind eye to their own past and to the working of neoliberal capitalism, showing a remarkable willingness to entertain future risks to biodiversity from the outworking of neoliberalism.

Conservation has been transformed by neoliberalism. Instead of looking at how capitalism uses (and destroys) nature, neoliberal conservation presents capitalism as the way of achieving environmental sustainability.

In their 2012 paper, Bram Büscher, Sian Sullivan, Katja Neves, Jim Igoe and Dan Brockington write that,

[N]eoliberal conservation shifts the focus from how nature is used in and through the expansion of capitalism, to how nature is conserved in and through the expansion of capitalism.

Benefits and consequences

Adams highlights the benefits and the consequences of partnerships between conservation organisations and corporations. There are three benefits:

  1. Power: Conservationists see corporations as having the power to make decisions to either conserve or destroy biodiversity. “Conservationists therefore engage because they want influence.”
  2. Funding: Corporations are key financiers of conservation, from sponsorship of NGO activities, to support for partnership activities, to philanthropic support from individuals in corporations, to linked for-profit enterprises, such as conservation-endorsed commodity chains.
  3. Careers: Corporate executives on NGO Boards allows for career mentoring, and access to networks of corporate contacts. “Corporate support also offers opportunities for career development: all NGOs depend on cash income to develop their programmes, and working in a way that aligns your programme with the interests and activities of corporations is a good way to keep your job and grow your program.”

An obvious problem with conservationists partnering with corporations is what Adams calls the “fundamental nature of capitalism”.

Capitalism is parasitic on nature, in that it “continuously gnaws away at the resources base that sustains it”, as Geographer David Pepper puts it in his 1993 book, Eco-Socialism: From deep ecology to social justice.

Corporations need to make only slight changes to their corporate strategies. But for the conservation organisations working with corporations, the ideological and organisational changes are significant. Biting the hand that feeds, by criticising corporate partners, is out of the question.

And conservation organisations that work closely with corporations start to look more like corporations themselves. Mark Tercek, the President and CEO of , previously worked at Goldman Sachs, rising to Managing Director and Partner.

Adams points out that corporate partnerships “do not in any obvious way ‘work’ for conservation, in terms of systematically addressing the fundamental drivers of biodiversity loss”.

Adams writes that the partnership between conservation organisations and corporations is a Faustian bargain, “a deal with the devil to acquire power in exchange for the soul”. Adams adds,

If conservation is Faust, the power it wins by its bargain with capitalism is inevitably trivial and transient: ultimately, in the face of capitalism’s destruction of nature, conservation will lose.

And he concludes that,

The reframing of nature as natural capital and the reinvention of conservation as the management of capital flows through market-based instruments, might make a close engagement between neoliberal conservation and corporations look unproblematic. Such a relationship offers the lure of financial resources and power. But conservationists considering getting into bed with corporations should remember the tale of Faust’s bargain. The story takes many forms, but in none of them does the pact turn out well.

 

[Conservation Watch is run by Chris Lang (conserwatch@gmail.com). The views expressed on Conservation Watch do not necessarily reflect the formal positions of any organisations or individuals, except when this is clearly stated. Conservation Watch is funded by the Rainforest Foundation UK.]

Why it is Time to Move On from MoveOn.org and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Black Agenda Report

February 21, 2017

by Danny Haiphong

The revolution will not be subsidized — but well-funded facsimiles of “movements” dominate the political landscape of the U.S. “Left.” MoveOn.org “prides itself for exposing the corporate ties of the Republicans but is perfectly content with the corporate ties of the Democratic Party.” And Black Lives Matter “drew significant interest from a consortium of non-profits after receiving millions from the Ford Foundation and Google in 2015 and 2016.”

The non-profit industrial complex has become an omnipresent feature of US society. Soon after college, it became increasingly clear to me that non-profits made up the majority of employment and activist opportunities for college-educated youth. My first employment opportunity came within the private non-profit LIFT, which partnered with a number of monopoly corporations to provide social service assistance on a volunteer basis. Like Teach for America, LIFT utilized college volunteers with little to no training and gave post-graduate students AmeriCorps stipends to supervise volunteers in place of professional social workers. After three months of grueling hours and little pay, it was time to leave LIFT and try something new.The next stop was a Community Action Program (CAP). CAP agencies have their roots in the first wave of non-profits as legal entities in the United States. They sprouted from federal funds administered by the War on Poverty programs of the Lyndon Johnson era. These agencies provided essential anti-poverty services and were often run by community members themselves. However, the purpose behind CAP agencies was far from benevolent. Johnson and his ruling class masters sought to subvert and break the independent character of the Black liberation and anti-imperialist movements of the period by turning “tax-eaters” (Black Americans) into “tax-payers.” The underlying motivation of non-profits to turn revolutionary movements into lucrative career opportunities has existed since their inception.

This is not to say that non-profits have not gone through significant changes since the War on Poverty. In the last forty years of neo-liberal capitalist crisis, CAP agencies have become nearly non-existent due to a shortage of federal funds. Housing programs have suffered chronic underfunding as a result of consistent reductions in the size of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), beginning in the Reagan era. HUD was stripped of 77 percent of its budget authority from 1978-1983. The CAP agency that I worked for eventually shut its doors due to a default in a private bank loan in 2014. The loan was taken out to keep the agency viable in the midst of dwindling federal and state funds. Hundreds of homeless individuals and families lost vital housing assistance and thousands more lost access to emergency transportation, food, and legal services.

The demise of CAP agencies stems from the shift in federal responsibilities to the private non-profit sector as part of the US capitalist state’s drive to maximize the profits of the ruling class in the neo-liberal era. This can be seen in the massive scab labor force produced by Teach for America, bankrolled by Goldman Sachs. It is also apparent in the correlation between the increase of non-profits in the arena of homelessness and the reduction of available public housing units in cities across the country. Non-profits give corporate donors an avenue to receive additional tax-free privileges with an added public relations boost. Much of the money donated is returned two-fold through tax breaks and further speculation in the housing, education, and healthcare sectors increasingly made possible by an environment of privatization.

Non-profits have also been deployed by their ruling class funders to privatize social movements. An array of tax-exempt organizations has arisen to channel popular resistance into acceptable means of protest. During Occupy Wall Street, the non-governmental organization (NGO) CANVAS took center stage at many of the New York City rallies. The Black Lives Matter movement drew significant interest from a consortium of non-profits after receiving millions from the Ford Foundation and Google in 2015 and 2016. These interventions have blunted the messaging and activities of organizations sucked into the non-profit industry while leaving genuine activists without the resources to sustain consistent political activity.

The influence of the non-profit industrial complex is evident in the protests against President Donald Trump. The non-profit MoveOn.org has taken on a leadership role in the protests. This author attended a local sanctuary city rally where every sign carried by protesters possessed the “MoveOn.org” label. It is clear that the folks at MoveOn.Org have been playing a key role in the resistance against Trump. But who is behind the MoveOn.org brand and whose interests does the organization serve?

A cursory look into the organization’s finances indicates that MoveOn.org is a loyal servant of the Democratic Party. The organization’s finances from 2015 include large donations of over 250,000 from the organization “J Street” and billionaire Cari Tuna. J Street is a Zionist organization dedicated to developing liberal acceptance to the settler occupation of Palestine among college students. Tuna’s fortunes derive from her marital partnership with co-founder of Facebook Dustin Moskovitz. Tuna spends most of her time as a “philanthropist.” Her donations include a hefty 20 million dollars to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, which was distributed among a consortium of Clinton affiliated PACs. In addition, MoveOn.org is also financed by billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Soros, despite the conspiratorial machinations regarding his political influence, is well-known around the world as a sponsor of “color revolutions” dedicated to the overthrow of governments that resist the penetration of US monopoly capitalism.

Non-profits are ultimately bound by the interests of their funders. MoveOn.org is no different. The organization’s Democratic Party funding sources have one goal and one goal only: to regain Democratic Party control of all three branches of governance in Washington. First, they hope to remove Trump in order to credit the organization with a temporary, albeit symbolic, victory for the Democrats. The next step is to win control of Congress in 2018. The interests of those supplying funds to non-profits like MoveOn.org are not aligned with the interests of oppressed and working people regardless of how the organization is advertised.

In fact, because big corporate donors control the terms and conditions of “social movement” non-profits, any social movements led by these institutions represent a threat to the independent political power of exploited and oppressed people. MoveOn.org’s mission to transfer power back to the Democratic Party is a familiar act, one that is repeated whenever the Republican Party regains Presidential and Congressional control of the state. Their big corporate donors possess zero interest in stopping the bipartisan crimes carried out by Washington. No petitions have been filed by the folks at MoveOn.org for reparations to nations, such as Libya and Syria, which were completely destroyed by the Democratic Party. MoveOn.org prides itself for exposing the corporate ties of the Republicans but is perfectly content with the corporate ties of the Democratic Party.

ObamaMoveOn

The Democratic Party is the party of Wall Street and war. Obama’s two-term Presidency clarified the Democratic Party’s commitment to US imperialism. MoveOn.org had nothing to say about Wall Street’s cumbersome donations to the Obama campaign or how the Democratic Party facilitated the largest wealth transfer to the 1 percent in US history. MoveOn.org didn’t condemn Obama’s war on whistle blowers nor did it advocate for single payer healthcare when the Democratic Party held majorities in Congress. Neither Obama’s “Grand Bargain” to cut Social Security and Medicare nor his national assault on public education compelled MoveOn.org to take any action against its Democratic Party sugar daddies.

The case of the non-profit MoveOn.org provides an in-depth look into the broader function of non-profit industrial complex. While some individual non-profits administer vital services to the poor and working class, the non-profit industrial complex as a whole possesses a parasitic agenda. That agenda is to break the independent character of working class mobilization and organization, not develop it. Non-profits do this by turning resistance into a career opportunity managed and funded by the 1 percent. The development of an independent, working class-centered movement will require a mass rejection of non-profit funds and structures. Let us remember this as MoveOn.org continues to mobilize its base against the increasingly unstable Trump Administration.

[Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990(at)gmail.com]

Further Reading:

Inducing Consent: MoveOn.org

Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part II

The Bankers at the Helm of the ‘Natural Capital’ Sector

January 26, 2017

by Michael Swifte

 

bankers-at-the-helm

Let’s put a spotlight on four bankers who positioned themselves in the ‘natural capital’ sector around the time of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Let’s have a look at some of their networks.

The reason these bankers have positions at the intersection of big finance and the conservation sector is because of their intimate knowledge of financial instruments and what some call “financial innovation”. They follow the edict ‘measure it and you can manage it’. They are the perfect addition to decades of work – as part of the sustainable development agenda – aimed at quantifying the economic value of nature in order to exploit it as collateral to underwrite the new economy.

Banker 1

fullerton_pes_small

John Fullerton is a former managing director at JPMorgan, he founded the Capital Institute in 2010, in 2014 he became a member of the Club of Rome, he has written a book called Regenerative Capitalism.

“No doubt the shift in finance will require both carrots and sticks, and perhaps some clubs.” [Source]

The first of Fullerton’s key networked individuals is Gus Speth who consults to the Capital Institute, he sits on the US Advisory Board of 350.org and the New Economy Coalition board and is good buddies with the godfather of ‘ecosystem services’ Bob Costanza. He has a long history supporting sustainable development projects and has some seriously heavy hitting networks. He founded two conservation organisations with which he was actively engaged up until 2o12, both organisations continue to support ‘natural capital’ projects among other diabolical efforts.

The second networked individual is Hunter Lovins, an award winning author and environmentalist who heads up Natural Capital Solutions and is an advisor to the Capital Institute. She is a long term cheer leader for green capitalism, climate capitalism, and sustainable development.

Banker 2

tercek_pes_small

Mark Tercek was a managing director at Goldman Sachs and became the CEO of The Nature Conservancy in 2008, he has written a book called Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

“This reminds me of my Wall Street days. I mean, all the new markets—the high yield markets, different convertible markets, this is how they all start.” [Source]

One of Tercek’s networked individuals is conservation biologist Gretchen Daily, the person Hank Paulson sent him to meet when he accepted the leadership of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Daily co-founded the Natural Capital Project in 2005 with the help of  WWF, TNC and the University of Minnesota.

Another prominent figure in TNC is Peter Kareiva, senior science advisor to Mark Tercek and co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, he is also the former chief scientist of TNC and its former vice president.

Taylor Ricketts is also a co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, at the time of founding he was the director of conservation science at WWF. He’s now the director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics which was founded by Bob Costanza.

Banker 3

tall-paulson-misconstrued

Hank Paulson is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, he was US treasury secretary during the GFC, he’s a former chair of the TNC board and the driving force behind the 2008 bail out bill. In 2011 he launched the Paulson Institute which is focussed on China, he has written a memoir called On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System.

Even before he was made treasury secretary by George W Bush, Paulson had an interest in conservation finance and greening big business. He was a founding partner of Al Gore and David Blood’s, Generation Investment Management which operates the “sustainable capitalism” focussed Generation Foundation. He has worked with Gus Speth’s World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop environmental policy for Goldman Sachs. In 2004 he facilitated the donation from Goldman Sachs of 680,000 acres of wilderness in southern Chile to the Wildlife Conservation Society and in 2002-04 he and his wife Wendy donated $608,000 to the League of Conservation Voters. He has also worked with the second largest conservation organisation on the planet Conservation International.

“The environment and the economy have been totally misconstrued as incompatible,”[Source]

 

“[…] It is is clear that a system of market-based conservation finance is vital to the future of environmental conservation.” [Source]

Banker 4

pavan-maxresdefault

Pavan Sukhdev is a former managing director and head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets business in India, he was the study leader of the G8+5  project, he founded the Green Accounting for Indian States Project, he co-founded and chairs an NGO in India called the Conservation Action Trust, he headed up the United Nations Environment Program – Green Economy Initiative which was launched in 2008, he has written a book called  Corporation 2020: Transforming Business For Tomorrow’s World 

Sukdev’s work cuts across more than a dozen UN agencies and scores of international agencies and initiatives. Here are just some of them: IUCN, ILO, WHO, UNESCO, IPBES, WEF, IMF, OECD. Every kind of commodity and economic activity has been covered through his work.

“We use nature because she’s valuable, but we lose nature because she’s free.” [Source]

There are only a one or two degrees of separation between these bankers and the environmental movements with which we are very familiar. Looking at key networked individuals connected to the representatives of the financial elites – bankers – helps to highlight the silences and privately held pragmatic positions of many an environmental pundit. “Leaders” of our popular environmental social movements don’t want to be seen or heard supporting the privatisation of the commons, but they remain silent in the face of a growing surge towards collateralization of the earth. Perhaps they too believe that using nature to capitalise the consumer economy is preferable to the toxic derivatives that precipitated the GFC. Either way the underlying motivation – for anyone who might feel that ecosystem services thinking is useful for the earth – is the desire for the continuation of our consumer economy.

 

nature-bar-code

The DAPL Fantasy

milieu

December 6, 2016

By Jay Taber

 

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Above: “There are about 150,000 miles of oil pipelines and more than 1.5 million miles of natural gas pipelines in the United States.” [Source]

 

“I have been working with indigenous leaders for decades and arguing that indigenous nations must take the initiative to take back that which is and always has been theirs: land, resources and freedom to move… Asking for rights from those who have no interest in recognizing those rights is a defeated policy. Taking back your land and resources they stole, as Chief George Manuel urged, is the only alternative to self-destruction.”– Center for World Indigenous Studies chair Rudolph C. Ryser

 

When reality is too much to bear, we turn to fantasies to keep from losing our mind. When fantasies become our reality, we are liable to believe just about anything.

One fantasy currently circulating online is that Obama halted DAPL because he has strong emotional ties to American Indians. While he has helped tribes with issues like domestic violence and education, his strong financial ties to oil industry investors like Goldman Sachs have created a nightmare for many tribes across the country.

standing-rock-obama-2

Above: US President Barack Obama (C) talks with Chairman of the Standing Rock Soiux Tribal Nation David Archambault II (L) during the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, June 13, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON

Standing Rock could have been avoided, had Obama not approved fracking millions of acres of Bakken Shale in North Dakota. The pipelines and bomb trains emanating from that disastrous decision alone will haunt us for generations. In the Gulf of Mexico, Obama’s executive order waiving environmental restrictions on risky deep-sea oil drilling resulted in the largest oil spill in history.

standing-rock-youth-barack-obama-talks-with-youth-from-the-standing-rock-ehkad0

Above: “US President Barack Obama talks with youth from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Oval Office of the White House, 2014”

While it is a relief that the stand-off at Standing Rock avoided a showdown, by delaying the pipeline over Christmas, the fact that it progressed to this point without interference from the White House suggests Obama’s interest is in his perceived legacy, since Trump is almost certain to forge ahead with its completion in January.

Meanwhile, oil industry members of the Native American Affairs Coalition advising President Trump propose making Indian Reservations private property. As noted at Reuter’s, “The plan dovetails with Trump’s larger aim of slashing regulation to boost energy production.”

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

Further reading:

Moment of Truth

Pentecostals Not Welcome

Leonardo DiCaprio, the Malaysian Money Scandal and His “Unusual” Foundation

Hollywood Reporter

August 17, 2016

By Gary Baum

According to the Justice Department, certain donations to the Oscar winner’s charity came directly from a multibillion-dollar embezzlement drama in Southeast Asia.

On the evening of July 20, under a tent at a vineyard in St. Tropez brimming to his specifications with booze, billionaires and babes, Leonardo DiCaprio was preparing to host one of the glitziest charitable events of the year: the third annual fundraiser for his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Earlier that same day, under far less glamorous auspices half a world away, the U.S. Department of Justice was filing a complaint with the U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles that suggested the recent Oscar winner is a bit player in the planet’s largest embezzlement case, totaling more than $3 billion siphoned from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund called 1MDB.

While the complaint does not target DiCaprio — he’s referred to twice in the 136-page document and only as “Hollywood Actor 1” — the scandal shines an unfamiliar light on the charitable foundation of the most powerful actor in Hollywood thanks to the way the LDF has benefited directly from DiCaprio’s relationship with key figures in the saga. And much like the gala in St. Tropez, with its expressions of one-percenter excess ostensibly in support of saving the environment (guests helicoptering in to dine on whole sea bass after watching a short film about the dangers of overfishing), a closer look at the LDF itself raises questions about its ties to the 1MDB players as well as the lack of transparency often required (or offered in this case) for the specific structure the actor has chosen for his endeavor.


From left: Constance Jablonski, Joan Smalls, Doutzen Kroes, Lily Donaldson and Anja Rubik were photographed just before the July 20 Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation gala in St. Tropez.

Set up not as a nonprofit but instead as a donor-advised fund (DAF) attached to the California Community Foundation, which is a nonprofit, the LDF therefore is not required to file itemized public disclosures about its own revenue, expenditures and disbursements. “It’s difficult to characterize the giving of the DiCaprio Foundation because its status as part of the CCF makes it impossible to look at its finances,” industry trade journal Inside Philanthropy noted in 2015.

Despite repeated efforts, DiCaprio, 41, the LDF and the CCF all declined to fully answer fundamental questions related to transparency and accountability of the foundation — a decision that disappoints charity experts consulted by THR. “Everything might be perfectly fine, but we don’t know,” says Aaron Dorfman, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, of the LDF.

Among the questions asked: Who pays for the LDF’s six-member staff (the CCF is not allowed to cover the expense) as well as underwrites the events and other operating costs? What’s the total overhead, and how much of the money raised goes into operations versus charitable grants?


DiCaprio (right) with LDF global finance chairman Gatsby at the 2014 gala.

Also, is the LDF’s global finance chairman, Milutin Gatsby — a Serb likely originally known as Gijic — operating under a pseudonym? (Yes, Gatsby-and-Gatsby jokes were on the lips of just about everyone at the St. Tropez event.) The LDF wouldn’t make Gatsby available for comment.

(It also is unclear whether the DOJ will try to recoup 1MDB assets donated to the LDF. The Justice Department would not comment, other than to say this is an ongoing investigation. THR has learned, however, that charities are not off-limits in such asset-seizure cases.)

Multiple attendees who spoke to THR describe the annual LDF galas as freewheeling bacchanals in which wives feel outnumbered by suspiciously predisposed Slavic women in bustiers and couples openly cavort in the bathroom stalls. At the July 20 event in St. Tropez, where tickets started at $11,778 (10,500 euros) DiCaprio greeted a roomful of approximately 500 partygoers, including oligarchs (Dmitry Rybolovlev), supermodels (Naomi Campbell) and plenty of fellow A-listers, among them Bono, Charlize Theron, Tobey Maguire, Robert De Niro, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Arnold Schwarzenegger.


From left: Kroes, Saudi producer Mohammed Al Turki, Smalls and Alessandra Ambrosio at the LDF gala.

Notably absent this year was Jho Low, 35, the bespectacled Malaysian businessman and party boy at the center of the 1MDB scandal who, at least as early as 2010, became a regular drinking buddy of DiCaprio’s (the biggest star on a roster of Low’s celebrity friends that includes Paris Hilton, Jamie Foxx and Alicia Keys). Low, notorious for stunts like sending 23 bottles of Cristal to Lindsay Lohan for her 23rd birthday at the club 1OAK in Las Vegas in 2009, is alleged in the DOJ complaint to have used roughly $1 billion in 1MDB funds for a personal shopping spree. This included the acquisition of a $31 million penthouse in Manhattan’s Time Warner Center, once occupied by Jay Z and Beyonce, and a $39 million Hollywood Hills mansion a few doors down from DiCaprio.

Low, who graduated from Wharton School of Business in 2005, in 2009 was brought into the inner circle of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as an adviser on a precursor to the 1MDB wealth fund. Despite only earning the bit-part title of “Malaysian Official 1” in the Justice Department complaint, Razak is the key figure at the heart of the scandal. But it’s Razak’s stepson Riza Aziz who provides the link to both Low and DiCaprio. It was Low who introduced Aziz to Joey McFarland, previously Hilton’s party booker, and together they set up Red Granite Pictures. Red Granite eventually would surprise Hollywood insiders by landing the rights to DiCaprio’s passion project The Wolf of Wall Street. The DOJ complaint alleges, however, that the financing for the film came from a $238 million pot of money siphoned from the 1MDB fund. (Red Granite maintains it is cooperating with all inquiries; the company still has an office above DiCaprio’s own Appian Way in a Sunset Strip midrise opposite Soho House West Hollywood.)


The DOJ alleges Low paid for Vincent van Gogh’s La Maison de Vincent a Arles using money from the 1MDB fund and an account in Singapore. It was seized by Swiss authorities July 21.

The 1MDB saga has been Hollywood-tinged from the start. Tim Leissner, the Goldman Sachs banker who brokered the deal that set everything in motion, is Kimora Lee Simmons’ husband. (He since has left the firm.) Low was given a “special thanks” in the film’s credits and hailed as a “collaborator” in DiCaprio’s 2014 Golden Globes acceptance speech. The Malaysian returned the favor in grand fashion with splashy bromantic gifts — in one instance, according to the DOJ, he and the Red Granite execs brought DiCaprio along on an $11 million gambling bender in Las Vegas; in another, they reportedly laid out $600,000 to gift him Marlon Brando’s best actor Oscar statuette for On the Waterfront. (DiCaprio — who has a notable habit of buddying up with smooth dudes who end up in federal prison for money crimes, from late investment adviser Dana Giacchetto to art dealer Helly Nahmad — still was several prestige roles away from finally claiming his own.)

They also made donations to DiCaprio’s foundation. At the actor’s birthday party in 2013, Low and McFarland were among those who reportedly helped raise more than $3 million for the charity by buying marked-up bottles of champagne. Earlier that year, diverted 1MDB funds were alleged by the DOJ complaint to have been used by Low to purchase a pair of artworks (for a total of $1.1 million) by Ed Ruscha and Mark Ryden at a Christie’s auction benefiting the LDF (one of many buys during a spending spree that shook the art world). And at the glittering St. Tropez auction held in 2015, with the likes of David Geffen, Paul Allen, Tom Barrack and Harvey Weinstein in attendance, Low offered the LDF a sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein, 1982’s Brushstroke, valued at roughly $700,000. But Low wasn’t there to see it go under the hammer; instead, he is believed to have fled to Taiwan — which has no extradition treaty with the U.S. — as the net of international investigators began closing in.


Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke sculpture

According to the LDF, the July 20 gala raised more than $45 million in funds for global conservation efforts. Yet the organization would provide no documentation to THR to support these and other claims. Due to its unorthodox structure, the LDF is not obligated to disclose any specifics about its donations and repeatedly has been critiqued in recent years by Inside Philanthropy for its opacity as a prominent celebrity charity. (By comparison, the most recently available 990 IRS nonprofit filing from, for instance, Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, runs 101 pages to account for an entity handling just over $10 million in assets.)

The LDF did provide a statement from its recently hired CEO, Terry Tamminen. He contends that grants of more than $30 million already have been made so far this year and calls the LDF “an incredibly efficient, highly effective philanthropic organization that, through its relationship to the California Community Foundation, is supporting credible organizations that are carrying out some of the most important work on the planet.” In its own statement, the CCF’s senior counsel, Carol Bradford, explains that it “strives to preserve the wishes of our many donors, which can often include anonymity or privacy in their giving choices.”

The LDF wasn’t always a donor-advised fund. For its first decade, it was a small nonprofit run by DiCaprio’s mother, Irmelin, distributing $1.6 million in 2008, its final year before dissolving its status to join the CCF. (DiCaprio’s father, George, and noted economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, rounded out the board.)


Low snapped up a Bombardier private jet for $35.3 million.

DAFs increasingly have become preferred giving vehicles in the U.S., largely due to their immediate charitable tax deductions, negligible startup costs and the fact that they’re not subject to the same annual payout requirements as a private foundation. According to a 2015 report published by the National Philanthropic Trust, the number of accounts launched between 2010 and 2014 jumped 29 percent, bringing the total to 238,293. While the most prominent entrant during this period was Mark Zuckerberg’s $2.5 billion charitable effort in 2014, set up at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and greeted with public criticism over its structure, the NPT says the average account size is $300,000. In a fact sheet the LDF provided to THR, its decision to become a DAF is positioned as one of practicality and efficiency — that the well-regarded, century-old CCF (which manages nearly 1,600 charitable entities totaling $1.5 billion in assets) could assist with due diligence regarding grantees as well as expertly handle backend financial and administrative functions pertaining to donations processing. (The CCF also handles funds for a few other Hollywood figures, including Eva Longoria and, as it happens, Foxx.)

In general, DAFs’ rising popularity, which experts explain also is bolstered by the paucity of red tape in the sector, has brought skepticism. The IRS, according to its web page about the category, now is examining cases (though none are specifically named) of DAFs that “appear to be established for the purpose of generating questionable charitable deductions, and providing impermissible economic benefits to donors and their families (including tax-sheltered investment income for the donors) and management fees for promoters.” (THR has no evidence that the LDF is using the DAF structure in such a way.)


Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills was bought by a company called Wynton in January 2010, using funds traceable to Low’s bank account, which the DOJ says were misappropriated from the 1MDB development fund.

Philanthropy authorities say the LDF, with its possibly subsidized staff and lavish events — as well as, crucially, its international solicitation apparatus — is a relative anomaly among community foundation DAFs, which typically are far more simple: A donor provides his own money and then advises where it should be spent. “It’s unusual,” says Ann Skeet, a director at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, which examines ethics in businesses and nonprofits. Adds Ray Madoff, head of The Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good at Boston College Law School, “Typically, Leonardo DiCaprio would gift his own assets to his donor-advised fund rather than using it as a fundraising vehicle.”

That one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood — whom United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2014 designated as a U.N. Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on climate change — has been sainted by his professional and social circles for his globe-trotting do-gooding may have permitted him to operate with comparatively little scrutiny so far. Notes Daniel Borochoff, president of Chicago-based CharityWatch: “[DAFs’] structure allows them to shirk accountability. They aren’t obligated to tell you, as a donor, anything. [DiCaprio’s] able to fundraise with one because he’s such a huge international celebrity. If you were an unknown, it would be a lot harder because people would quickly start asking questions.”

Alex Ritman contributed to this report.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

 

Further Reading:

October 7, 2016: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio dared to debate Malaysian corruption in London

October 15, 2016: Leonardo DiCaprio urged to quit as UN climate advocate over 1MDB links

October 16, 2016: Swiss activists barred from London premiere after telling DiCaprio to repay 1MDB funds

October 18, 2016: Leonardo DiCaprio to pay back dodgy Malaysian funds

 

 

NGO’s Are Bad Mkay

consciousness activism

July 10, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations are funded by profit-driven corporations that destroy the planet and the lives of poor and indigenous peoples.

The United Nations likewise cannot be trusted because they also cooperate with multinational mega-corporations that perpetrate systemic violence in the name of predatory capitalism.

A) True

B) False

UNITED-NATIONS-4

 

Who Shapes the United Nations Agenda?

“The global institutional machinery of the so-called United Nations is designed to destroy the sovereign will of the peoples. That is where a bureaucracy works in the service of capital and imperialism. We, the peoples of the world, do not accept that international organizations should appropriate to themselves the right of invasion and intervention. The UN has no morality to impose. We, the peoples of the world, do not accept this elitist institutionality of the bureaucrats of the empire.

 

It was in the bowels of the UN that the privatizing green economy originated, which we understand as the black economy of death; from those entrails originate the recipes for privatization and interventionism. The UN seems to be the Organization for the Rich and Powerful Countries; perhaps it should be named the INO, Imperialist Nations Organization. That UN we do not want, we disown it.

 

That neoliberal bureaucracy, the bureaucracy of the green economy and privatization, the bureaucracy that promotes structural adjustments, those functionaries of capital and ideologists of domination and poverty, act with the patriarchal and colonial conviction that the peoples and developing countries are incapable and stupid and that to emerge from poverty we must faithfully follow their development recipes.” — Evo Morales’ historic speech at the Isla del Sol

***

First Phase Digital

“Premier of the Republic of the Congo at Press Conference Premier Patrice Lumumba, of the Republic of the Congo, photographed at a press conference he held at U.N. Headquarters earlier today. Conferring briefly with the Premier is Ambassador Mongi Slim, of Tunisia.” 25 July 1960, United Nations, New York (UN Archives)

Aachen/Berlin/Bonn/New York, November 2015

Excerpts from the paper Philanthropic Power and Development – Who shapes the agenda? by authors Jens Martens and Karolin Seitz

Final Phase Digital

Photo:”President Salvador Allende of Chile paid an official visit to United Nations Headquarters and addressed the General Assembly. He conferred with the Assembly President and the Secretary-General, and also held a press conference. Here, President Allende is seen at his press conference. Seated next to him are Colodomiro Almeyda (left), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, and Genichi Akatani (right), Assistant Secretary-General, UN Office of Public Information. 04 December 1972, United Nations, New York (UN Archives)

“On 5 June 2013 a remarkable event took place in the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations (UN) in New York City. Over 150 invited guests met for the second annual Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit. The event was opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, attended by celebrated philanthropists, such as Bill Gates, Bono and Warren Buffett, and sponsored by Credit Suisse. According to Forbes magazine the attendees, who represented “close to half a trillion of the world’s wealth, discussed how they can use their wealth, fame and entrepreneurial talent to eradicate poverty.” As follow up to this summit Forbes released a Special Philanthropy Issue under the headline “Entrepreneurs can save the world.” The event at UN Headquarters was a symbol for the rapidly growing role of philanthropists and their foundations in global development policy and practice.”

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“A large share of the UN Foundation’s revenues from other donors came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Between 1999 and 2014 Gates gave US$231 million in grants to the UN Foundation, mainly for projects in the areas of health and agriculture.”

UNITED NATIONS GATES

In order to broaden its funding base, the UN Foundation has actively explored ways to raise funds directly from governments.In the last decade the UN Foundation received direct funding from a number of governments or governmental agencies, inter alia the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Department for International Development of the Government of the UK (DFID), the European Commission, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

UNITED NATIONS 5

In addition to individual governments, the UN Foundation is now actively exploring opportunities for building so-called “anchor partnerships” with multinational corporations and corporate philanthropic foundations as an important element of its longterm sustainability strategy. This intention caused concerns in some parts of the UN because of the potential reputation risk involved. The UN Foundation lists currently (July 2015) 23 corporate partners, such as Exxon Mobile, Shell, Goldman Sachs, and the Bank of America.

UNITED NATIONS 4
According to the UN Secretary-General the relationship agreement between the UN and the UN Foundation has been reviewed and amended to ensure that it reflects this evolution of the Foundation’s mission and approach. The new agreement was signed in October 2014. But instead of providing a solid basis for effective and transparent governance, the new agreement seems to reinforce the exclusivity of this relationship and the preferential treatment of the UN Foundation by the UN Secretariat. The drafting of the most recent agreement took place behind closed doors without any intergovernmental oversight or transparency, and in contrast to the two earlier agreements, has not been made public.

United Nations 3

 

 

 

Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department

International Business Times

May 26, 2015

By David Sirota and Andrew Perez

 

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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments had given millions to the Clinton Foundation.

+++

Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region’s fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Department’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family.

But now, in late 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the “U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.”

These were not the only relationships bridging leaders of the two nations. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 — contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.

American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012.

The State Department formally approved these arms sales even as many of the deals enhanced the military power of countries ruled by authoritarian regimes whose human rights abuses had been criticized by the department. Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton also accused some of these countries of failing to marshal a serious and sustained campaign to confront terrorism. In a December 2009 State Department cable published by Wikileaks, Clinton complained of “an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” She declared that “Qatar’s overall level of CT cooperation with the U.S. is considered the worst in the region.” She said the Kuwaiti government was “less inclined to take action against Kuwait-based financiers and facilitators plotting attacks.” She noted that “UAE-based donors have provided financial support to a variety of terrorist groups.” All of these countries donated to the Clinton Foundation and received increased weapons export authorizations from the Clinton-run State Department.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Clinton Foundation did not respond to questions from the IBTimes.

In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.

Winning Friends, Influencing Clintons

Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Department clearance to buy American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions — a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy. But nothing prevents them from contributing to a philanthropic foundation controlled by policymakers.

Just before Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation signed an agreement generally obligating it to disclose to the State Department increases in contributions from its existing foreign government donors and any new foreign government donors. Those increases were to be reviewed by an official at the State Department and “as appropriate” the White House counsel’s office. According to available disclosures, officials at the State Department and White House raised no issues about potential conflicts related to arms sales.

During Hillary Clinton’s 2009 Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., urged the Clinton Foundation to “forswear” accepting contributions from governments abroad. “Foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state,” he said. The Clintons did not take Lugar’s advice. In light of the weapons deals flowing to Clinton Foundation donors, advocates for limits on the influence of money on government action now argue that Lugar was prescient in his concerns.

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

National security experts assert that the overlap between the list of Clinton Foundation donors and those with business before the the State Department presents a troubling conflict of interest.

While governments and defense contractors may not have made donations to the Clinton Foundation exclusively to influence arms deals, they were clearly “looking to build up deposits in the ‘favor bank’ and to be well thought of,” said Gregory Suchan, a 34-year State Department veteran who helped lead the agency’s oversight of arms transfers under the Bush administration.

As Hillary Clinton presses a campaign for the presidency, she has confronted sustained scrutiny into her family’s personal and philanthropic dealings, along with questions about whether their private business interests have colored her exercise of public authority. As IBTimes previously reported, Clinton switched from opposing an American free trade agreement with Colombia to supporting it after a Canadian energy and mining magnate with interests in that South American country contributed to the Clinton Foundation. IBTimes’ review of the Clintons’ annual financial disclosures also revealed that 13 companies lobbying the State Department paid Bill Clinton $2.5 million in speaking fees while Hillary Clinton headed the agency.

Questions about the nexus of arms sales and Clinton Foundation donors stem from the State Department’s role in reviewing the export of American-made weapons. The agency is charged with both licensing direct commercial sales by U.S. defense contractors to foreign governments and also approving Pentagon-brokered sales to those governments. Those powers are enshrined in a federal law that specifically designates the secretary of state as “responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales” of arms, military hardware and services to foreign countries. In that role, Hillary Clinton was empowered to approve or reject deals for a broad range of reasons, from national security considerations to human rights concerns.

The State Department does not disclose which individual companies are involved in direct commercial sales, but its disclosure documents reveal that countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation saw a combined $75 billion increase in authorized commercial military sales under the three full fiscal years Clinton served, as compared to the first three full fiscal years of Bush’s second term.

The Clinton Foundation has not released an exact timetable of its donations, making it impossible to know whether money from foreign governments and defense contractors came into the organization before or after Hillary Clinton approved weapons deals that involved their interests. But news reports document that at least seven foreign governments that received State Department clearance for American arms did donate to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary: Algeria, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Thailand, Norway and Australia.

Sales Flowed Despite Human Rights Concerns

Under a presidential policy directive signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the State Department is supposed to specifically take human rights records into account when deciding whether to approve licenses enabling foreign governments to purchase military equipment and services from American companies. Despite this, Hillary Clinton’s State Department increased approvals of such sales to nations that her agency sharply criticized for systematic human rights abuses.

In its 2010 Human Rights Report, Clinton’s State Department inveighed against Algeria’s government for imposing “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association” tolerating “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption,” and a “lack of judicial independence.” The report said the Algerian government “used security grounds to constrain freedom of expression and movement.”

That year, the Algerian government donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation and its lobbyists met with the State Department officials who oversee enforcement of human rights policies. Clinton’s State Department the next year approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country. The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as “toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment” after the State Department did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year.

During Clinton’s tenure, the State Department authorized at least $2.4 billion of direct military hardware and services sales to Algeria — nearly triple such authorizations over the last full fiscal years during the Bush administration. The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria’s donation until this year — a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration.

The monarchy in Qatar had similarly been chastised by the State Department for a raft of human rights abuses. But that country donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was running the State Department. During the three full budgetary years of her tenure, Qatar saw a 14-fold increase in State Department authorizations for direct commercial sales of military equipment and services, as compared to the same time period in Bush’s second term. The department also approved the Pentagon’s separate $750 million sale of multi-mission helicopters to Qatar. That deal would additionally employ as contractors three companies that have all supported the Clinton Foundation over the years: United Technologies, Lockheed Martin and General Electric.

Clinton foundation donor countries that the State Department criticized for human rights violations and that received weapons export authorizations did not respond to IBTimes’ questions.

That group of arms manufacturers — along with Clinton Foundation donors Boeing, Honeywell, Hawker Beechcraft and their affiliates — were together listed as contractors in 114 such deals while Clinton was secretary of state. NBC put Chelsea Clinton on its payroll as a network correspondent in November 2011, when it was still 49 percent owned by General Electric. A spokesperson for General Electric did not respond to questions from IBTimes.

Clinton Article Screenshot 1

The other companies all asserted that their donations had nothing to do with the arms export deals.

“Our contributions have aligned with our longstanding philanthropic commitments,” said Honeywell spokesperson Rob Ferris.

“Even The Appearance Of A Conflict”

During her Senate confirmation proceedings in 2009, Hillary Clinton declared that she and her husband were “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of Secretary of State.” She pledged “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the Secretary of State” and said that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

Even so, Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625,000 at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department on weapons issues.

In 2011, for example, the former president was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual awards gala, which was held at the home of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Ben Affleck spoke at the event, which featured a musical performance by Grammy-award winner Michael Bolton. The gala was emceed by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Boeing was listed as a sponsor of the event, as were the embassies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The speaking fee from the Kuwait America Foundation to Bill Clinton was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary Clinton’s State Department was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the Department of Defense announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693 million deal, cleared by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill Clinton another $250,000 speaking fee.

“Boeing has sponsored this major travel event, the Global Business Travel Association, for several years, regardless of its invited speakers,” Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesperson, told IBTimes. Johndroe said Boeing’s support for the Clinton Foundation was “a transparent act of compassion and an investment aimed at aiding the long-term interests and hopes of the Haitian people” following a devastating earthquake.

Boeing was one of three companies that helped deliver money personally to Bill Clinton while benefiting from weapons authorizations issued by Hillary Clinton’s State Department. The others were Lockheed and the financial giant Goldman Sachs.

Lockheed is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, which paid Bill Clinton $250,000 to speak at an event in 2010. Three days before the speech, Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved two weapons export deals in which Lockheed was listed as the prime contractor. Over the course of 2010, Lockheed was a contractor on 17 Pentagon-brokered deals that won approval from the State Department. Lockheed told IBTimes that its support for the Clinton Foundation started in 2010, while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

“Lockheed Martin has periodically supported one individual membership in the Clinton Global Initiative since 2010,” said company spokesperson Katherine Trinidad. “Membership benefits included attendance at CGI annual meetings, where we participated in working groups focused on STEM, workforce development and advanced manufacturing.”

In April 2011, Goldman Sachs paid Bill Clinton $200,000 to speak to “approximately 250 high level clients and investors” in New York, according to State Department records obtained by Judicial Watch. Two months later, the State Department approved a $675 million foreign military sale involving Hawker Beechcraft — a company that was then part-owned by Goldman Sachs. As part of the deal, Hawker Beechcraft would provide support to the government of Iraq to maintain a fleet of aircraft used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Goldman Sachs has also contributed at least $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to donation records.

“There is absolutely no connection among all the points that you have raised regarding our firm,” said Andrew Williams, a spokesperson for Goldman Sachs.

Federal records show that ethics staffers at the State Department approved the payments to Bill Clinton from Goldman Sachs, and the Lockheed- and Boeing-sponsored groups without objection, even though the firms had major stakes in the agency’s weapons export decisions.

Stephen Walt, a Harvard University professor of international affairs, told IBTimes that the intertwining financial relationships between the Clintons, defense contractors and foreign governments seeking weapons approvals is “a vivid example of a very big problem — the degree to which conflicts of interest have become endemic.”

“It has troubled me all along that the Clinton Foundation was not being more scrupulous about who it would take money from and who it wouldn’t,” he said. “American foreign policy is better served if people responsible for it are not even remotely suspected of having these conflicts of interest. When George Marshall was secretary of state, nobody was worried about whether or not he would be distracted by donations to a foundation or to himself. This wasn’t an issue. And that was probably better.”

Clinton Article Screenshot 2

UPDATE (7:38pm, 5/26/15): In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office told IBTimes: “Taiwan’s 2003 donation was for the fund to build the Clinton Presidential Library. This was way before Mrs. Clinton was made the U.S. Secretary of State. We have neither knowledge nor comments concerning other issues.”

 

[David Sirota is International Business Times’ senior editor for investigations. He is also a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a bestselling author. He lives in Denver, Colorado and covers the intersection of money, politics and finance.]

[Andrew Perez is a National Political Reporter at the International Business Times.]

 

 

COP21: Privatization Strategy

Center for World of Indigenous Studies

December 13, 2015

by Jay Taber

cop21-showtime1

 

World Business Council for Sustainable Development is part of a Wall Street strategy to dislodge the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations, and prevent enforceable rules governing the operations of multinational corporations.

A partner of WBCSD is Ceres (Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies), whose funders are associated with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Ceres and 350 are funded in part by Tides, whose largest donor is NoVo–Warren Buffet’s private foundation.

Today, WBCSD launched another initiative to privatize ecosystems — Natural Infrastructure for Business — and to capitalize on the Breakthrough Energy Coalition boondoggle hyped by the financial elite at COP21.

The privatization of public process and policy — which led to economic collapse in the US, and bank bailouts from the U.S. Treasury that eviscerated the general welfare — is now being enacted at the UN.

The Clean Energy Ponzi Scheme and the ‘new economy’ — false hope marketed for the financial elite by Havas, Avaaz and 350 — now has its sights set on privatizing the planet.

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber (O’Neal) derives from the most prominent tribe in Irish history, nEoghan Ua Niall, the chief family in Northern Ireland between the 4th and the 17th centuries. Jay’s ancestors were some of the last great leaders of Gaelic Ireland. His grandmother’s grandfather’s grandfather emigrated from Belfast to South Carolina in 1768. Jay is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

How Wall Street Is Cashing In on Climate Catastrophe

Come hell or high water, the finance industry will make a killing

In These Times

November 9, 2015

By Kate Aronoff

 

cat bonds

If you’re looking to invest in the cat bond market, the odds are good that even a major storm won’t cut into your returns.Bigger and more expensive storms are brewing. One study found that as much as $507 billion worth of U.S. coastal property could be underwater by 2100. With $416 billion in assets at risk, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development labels Miami as the city that could face the most property damage worldwide as a result of rising tides. Hurricane Katrina already claimed $48.7 billion in insured losses; Hurricane Sandy caused $18.75 billion worth.

Governments, meanwhile, are doing little to prepare. As we head into this year’s climate talks in Paris, prospects seem dim for a comprehensive plan to scale back emissions to the extent required to prevent catastrophic warming. In the United States, Department of Energy scientist Tom Wilbanks has called this country’s crumbling infrastructure, which is woefully ill-equipped to cope with even moderate climate impacts, “a national crisis.” On top of that, our federal disaster response mechanisms remain sluggish, still underfunded and encumbered by the bureaucratic mismanagement that characterized the responses to Katrina and Sandy.

But thanks to Wall Street’s ability to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, one disaster management tool is starting to gain traction.

The “catastrophe bond,” devised in the aftermath of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, is a form of “reinsurance.” Reinsurance protects insurance companies in case they can’t pay out—for example, after a flurry of simultaneous claims following a catastrophic event. Stung by Katrina and Sandy, in the last decade insurance companies and eager investors have fueled an average annual growth of as much as 25 percent in what is known as the “cat bond” market, with a record $8 billion sold to investors in 2014 alone. These financial instruments are also being floated as a solution for the risk incurred by public-sector entities that range from the debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program to impoverished countries that could face bankruptcy should a massive storm hit.

There’s just one hitch: Cat bonds are fundamentally financial instruments, hawked by Wall Street firms and global reinsurance companies that have no duty to the public.

A cat bond is born

Here’s how cat bonds work: Say an insurance company in Florida is looking to buy an extra layer of insurance for itself in case of a particularly severe hurricane season. It might draft up a contract with a reinsurer that—in return for a hefty fee—will set up a special-purpose vehicle (SPV), a legal entity created specifically to manage cat bond transactions. The SPV then sells cat bonds to investors, whose principal goes into a fund, typically housed in offshore tax havens like Bermuda. These bonds offer investors, who are generally larger institutional players like hedge or pension funds, the promise of steady returns. Payouts come from the insurance company’s premiums, plus any interest that accrues on the investment principal. Should the cat bond “trigger”—in this case, if a “once in a lifetime” hurricane tears through Florida—investors lose their money and the insurance company uses the cat fund to pay claims. Otherwise, investors can claim back their principal at the end of the bond’s term.

In theory, cat bonds are high-risk, high-reward investments that also provide insurers an alternative to traditional reinsurance, which has been around for over a century. In reality, as “speculative” products go, they make a fairly safe bet for investors—which, ironically, is what can make them a risky prospect for insurance companies. As Tom Keatinge, former managing director of JPMorgan Chase’s insurance capital management team, told Bloomberg Business, “For a cat bond to trigger, you need a bull’s-eye to be hit instead of a general shot in the right direction.” In creating the bond, teams of derivatives experts and geoscientists sift through piles of data on past storms and emergent weather patterns in order to model and predict the exact chances that an event will cause a certain amount of damage to a certain place within a certain time period. Only after a catastrophe causes a certain amount of damage or crosses a certain meteorological threshold will the bond be triggered.

As of 2012, just eight of the 232 cat bonds issued since 1996 had paid out. Only one was triggered during 2005’s brutal hurricane season, which caused more than $100 billion in damages. Insurance consulting firm Lane Financial LLC reports that, in sum, investors have lost just $682 million of the $51 billion in cat bonds they purchased in the same period. Using computer modeling, one insurance firm estimates that the probability a storm will be large enough to trigger a payout to insurers is just 2.89 percent. If you’re looking to invest in the cat bond market, the odds are good that even a major storm won’t cut into your returns.

Recently, however, Hurricane Patricia has given some investors a reason to sweat. Investors are anxiously awaiting news on the fate of a $100 million cat bond—MultiCat Mexico Ltd.—structured for the Mexican government in 2012 by Goldman Sachs and the world’s largest reinsurers, Munich Re and Swiss Re, with the help of the World Bank. Whether or not the $100 million will be deposited into Mexico’s disaster fund depends on whether atmospheric pressure within Patricia ever dropped below 920 millibars. The lower a hurricane’s atmospheric pressure, the stronger its force.

As Patricia-level storms become more common, the question of who controls relief funding post-disaster will become increasingly weighty.

None of these concerns have stopped cat bond proponents from extolling their virtues. In July, Goldman Sachs boasted of having structured $14 billion in cat bonds since 2006 as part of its “long-standing commitment to harness markets and deploy capital to scale-up clean energy technologies and facilitate the transition to a low-carbon energy future.” The World Bank, the United Nations and the Union of Concerned Scientists have all heralded cat bonds as a way to leverage private capital markets to protect against climate catastrophe. In 2014, the World Bank created a $30 million cat bond to cover the risk of tropical cyclones and earthquakes in 16 countries, including Haiti.

In the United States, corporations are hyping cat bonds as a private-market solution to the National Flood Insurance Program’s $24 billion debt (caused almost entirely by Katrina and Sandy). The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies testified before Congress last year that “ceding a portion of the NFIP’s risk to the private sector through reinsurance and catastrophe bonds could reduce taxpayer exposure to future debt.”

Though framed as a convenient, market-friendly means to help governments and insurance companies cope with disaster, cat bonds are no substitute for public sector investment in resiliency and robust federal disaster relief. And judging from these products’ short history, we should be vigilant as to whether the private sector’s “innovative” catbond solution to climate disaster truly serves the public good, or is another way to increase private profits.

[Kate Aronoff is an organizer and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. While in school, she worked extensively with the fossil fuel divestment movement on the local and national level, co-founding Swarthmore Mountain Justice and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network (DSN). She is currently working to build a student power network across Pennsylvania.]