CMD Submits Evidence of ExxonMobil Funding ALEC’s Climate Change Denial to California Attorney General

The Center for Media and Democracy, a national watchdog group exposing corporate influence on democracy, has submitted evidence to California Attorney General Kamala Harris showing how ExxonMobil has promoted climate change denial through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). CMD believes this information is relevant to her office's investigation into whether ExxonMobil deceived its shareholders and the public about the impact that burning fossil fuels has on climate change.

"ExxonMobil has bankrolled ALEC for decades and has a seat on ALEC's corporate board, as ALEC has plied legislators with disinformation and denial about climate change and pushed legislation and resolutions to block crucial federal and state efforts to address the climate crisis," said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice under both Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Janet Reno.

CMD has identified at least $1,730,200 in funding from ExxonMobil to ALEC between 1998 and 2014, based on publicly available disclosures, although the actual total is likely higher. CMD has documented Exxon funding for ALEC at least as early as 1981.

This funding makes ExxonMobil one of ALEC's biggest financial supporters as ALEC has promoted legislation, resolutions, presentations, and publications seeking to stop efforts to address climate change, and has indoctrinated thousands of state legislators with the idea that "a great deal of scientific uncertainty" surrounds the science of climate change and that carbon emissions "may even be beneficial."

"With ExxonMobil's support, ALEC has promoted the fiction that there is 'scientific uncertainty' about the causes of climate change in order to thwart policies aimed at addressing the reality that unchecked carbon emissions pose significant risks," noted Brendan Fischer, CMD's General Counsel.

CMD's letter documented the Exxon-ALEC history, including that:

  • ALEC is described as a key component of a 1998 Exxon-backed plan to mislead the public about climate science. ALEC is one of five organizations listed as "potential fund allocators" in a leaked "Global Climate Communications Action Plan" developed by Exxon and other fossil fuel companies to promote the notion of "scientific uncertainty" about climate change and to thwart the Kyoto Protocol and other efforts to limit CO2.
  • ExxonMobil earmarked $428,500 to ALEC for work on "climate change" between 2003 and 2005. During this period, ALEC promoted resolutions, reports, publications, and model legislation promoting the idea that "a great deal of scientific uncertainty" surrounds the science of climate change, and branding state efforts to regulate greenhouse gases as "Sons of Kyoto."
  • ExxonMobil misled shareholders about the nature of its ALEC "climate change" grants. In 2005, ExxonMobil told shareholders it gave ALEC a grant for an "Energy Sustainability Project" and for "General Operating Support." Yet ExxonMobil's tax filings describe those same grants as "Energy Sustainability Project (Climate Change)" and for "Climate Change Environmental Outreach."
  • ExxonMobil continues to bankroll ALEC's climate denial efforts. In 2014, ExxonMobil sponsored ALEC's Annual Meeting and disclosed $61,500 in funding to ALEC, in addition to sitting on ALEC's corporate board. At ALEC's ExxonMobil-sponsored Annual Meeting that year, presenters told state legislators " There is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change," "There is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in attempting to do so," and "The likely benefits of man¬made global warming exceed the likely costs."

In 2013, ExxonMobil disclosed $49,000 in funding to ALEC and sat on the ALEC board, and ALEC re-approved a bill declaring that human activity "may lead to deleterious, neutral, or possibly beneficial climatic changes" and that "a great deal of scientific uncertainty surrounds the nature of these prospective changes." That same year, ALEC also adopted a "Resolution in Opposition to a Carbon Tax."

CMD submitted a similar letter to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last year. CMD has published numerous articles about ALEC and co-created in 2015. CMD's research about ALEC and on climate issues has also been cited by numerous publications including The Guardian, Showtime's Years of Living Dangerously, and more.

Read CMD's submission to California Attorney General here.


The author listed as "PRwatch Editors" is for reports attributable to CMD's editors or guest authors.