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Exposing the Secrets of the Washington Toxics Coalition: The Evergreen State Environmental Group Is a Well-Disguised Front Group for National Anti-Chemical Activists

zAt first glance, Washington Toxics Coalition may seem like little more than a band of happy hippies looking out for Mother Earth – a few environmental do-gooders looking to spur on a larger grassroots environmental movement in the Evergreen State.

A closer look, however, reveals that the outfit is actually part of a secretive, well-funded effort to inundate state lawmakers with questionable data and cookie-cutter legislative proposals intended to attack job creators and generate even more money. The Washington Toxics Coalition ultimately acts as a puppet for the multi-million dollar foundations that fund these state-focused anti-chemical franchises across America.

Despite its best efforts to appear organic, the Coalition is far more AstroTurf than grassroots. Many of Washington Toxics Coalition’ donors are from outside of Washington, the organizations’ biggest contributor is funded by oil money, and few of the groups’ ideas – and little of its research – comes from inside the state.

According to the Coalition’s website, the organization takes credit for outlawing bisphenol A (BPA) from children’s food and beverage containers sold in Washington and creating standards limiting phthalates, lead and cadmium in toys. The group also claims it was behind banning deca-PBDE, a flame retardant.

Few of these ideas were original to the Washington Toxics Coalition. Most of the policy ideas the organization pushes on lawmakers in Olympia start as schemes concocted by the State Alliance for Federal Reform of Policy, known more commonly as “Safer States.”

Safer States, which was created in 2005, is the national ringleader for state-based anti-chemistry activism. The organization serves as the smoke-filled back room where one-size-fits-all legislative proposals are developed and then disseminated to its “partners” in 13 states. These partners, which include Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy, the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Maine, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group and the Washington Toxics Coalition, actually function as Safer State chapters or franchises.

This questionable scheme explains why environmental and anti-chemical legislative proposals in the Maine, Washington, Montana, Vermont, Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, California, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and New York legislatures often appear very similar.

Safer States directs money to its partner organizations, authors research papers released by the state outfits, and provides the anti-chemical groups with lobbying and marketing assistance in order to promote legislation. Perhaps most importantly, Safer States works to ensure organizations such as the Washington Toxics Coalition appear as independent, locally focused and grassroots-oriented as possible.

Just as Washington Toxics Coalition is little more than a cog in a national machine meant to give the anti-chemistry lobby undue influence in state legislatures, Safer States is just one of many organizations created by staffers of the Natural Resources Defense Council to advance environmental extremism throughout the United States.

Safer States; Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families; Healthy Child Healthy World; and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are all NRDC offshoots created with the intent of attacking chemical companies.

Much of the money the Washington Toxics Coalition receives that is not funneled through the NRDC and Safer States comes from two foundations that secretly fund much of the anti-chemical movement in America: The John Merck Fund and the Marisla Foundation.

The John Merck Fund, founded by an heir of the Merck pharmaceutical fortune, annually awards large grants to nearly all of the state affiliates of Safer States. No Safer States partner receives more money from the John Merck Fund than the Washington Toxics Coalition.

Between 2006-2012, the foundation donated more than $1.2 million to the Washington Toxics Coalition, according to IRS documents, including a $160,000 grant in 2012 aimed at “protecting human health and the environment from the impacts of toxic chemicals through advocacy for model state policy reforms.” Clearly, those “model state policy reforms” would then be used as templates for legislation in other states by Safer States.

The Washington Toxics Coalition’s other golden goose is the Marisla Foundation, a Southern California-based environmentally focused foundation with $50 million in the bank. Ironically, the Marisla Foundation was founded by the granddaughter of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty and is funded by profits generated by the Getty Oil Company. Marisla now uses that money to attack the very industry that enabled its existence.

Handouts to the Washington Toxics Coalition from the Marisla Foundation totaled $1.4 million from 2005-2012.

While the Washington Toxics Coalition may want the public to believe that it receives the lion’s share of its funding from concerned Washingtonians and in-state foundations, the reality is that, some years, these two out-of-state foundations comprise well more than half of the outfit’s total funding.

In 2012, for example, the Washington Toxics Coalition generated $687,000 in contributions. The John Merck Fund and the Marisla Foundation were responsible for $495,000 of that total – an eye-popping 72 percent of the Washington Toxics Coalition’s total income, according to documents available from the IRS.

Without massive support from these two out-of-state anti-chemical foundations, the Washington Toxics Coalition would almost certainly not exist.

The next time state lawmakers are lobbied by the Washington Toxics Coalition, they would be wise to remember that the organization does not represent concerned Evergreen State residents. Instead, the organization is a façade for a national clearinghouse of anti-chemical legislative proposals and, ultimately, little more than a front group for two environmental extremist foundations.


Drew Johnson is a columnist at The Washington Times and a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. 

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