State Department email records show that environmental activists who have denied operating as foreign agents in response to congressional inquiries partnered with Obama administration officials to advance climate change policies that were beneficial to China and detrimental to the United States, according to energy policy analysts and attorneys who have reviewed the electronic correspondence.
The World Resources Institute, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit devoted to curtailing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable development, was one of several environmental advocacy groups that received letters from the House Natural Resources Committee in 2018 inquiring about their relationship with China’s government and the impact this relationship has had on their political activism.
The letters, signed by then-Chairman Rob Bishop (R., Utah) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R., Ark.), who chaired the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, also asked the environmental groups if they followed foreign agent registration requirements.
Bishop and Westerman asked WRI in their Sept. 5, 2018 letter addressed to WRI President Andrew Steer to either provide documentation showing that the group had registered as a foreign agent or to explain why it did not see fit to register. Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, “persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity” are required “to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”
The letters detailing potential violations of FARA were also sent to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Earthjustice. To date, none of the green groups that were the subject of the committee’s correspondence have agreed to register and all deny operating as foreign agents.
Bishop and Westerman noted in an Oct. 17, 2018 letter to WRI following up on their initial inquiries that WRI had denied its relationship with the Chinese government impacted its political activism to the point where it would be required to register under FARA. However, the committee had obtained “communications” between WRI and “senior U.S. government officials” that suggest WRI has been operating to influence U.S. policy at behest of Chinese government officials, the letter explained.
The Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C. that favors free market policies in the energy sector, has obtained email records from the U.S. State Department providing further insight into WRI’s actions in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the group filed against the agency this past August.