Filed Under: Organic Activists

EWG: Small Group, Big Bucks

“Among the political chattering classes, there’s a big buzz over a tiny activist organization called the Environmental Working Group [EWG],” columnist Michelle Malkin writes. EWG “is not just a humble ‘non-profit research outfit’… It is a savvy political animal funded by deep-pocketed foundations… and it is engaged in aggressive eco-lobbying… The agenda of the Environmental Working Group and its financial backers is not simply to eliminate public subsidies to agribusiness, but to cripple agribusiness altogether in favor of ‘organic’ alternatives, [and] increased regulation of manufacturers.”

And it’s doing so as a non-profit — which has drawn the attention of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE), which filed a complaint asking the IRS to revoke EWG’s non-profit tax status. CDFE charges that EWG lobbied to alter the 2002 Farm Bill using a $1.6 million grant from the Joyce Foundation, and that EWG, while part of the Tides Foundation, “hid its lobbying political expenditures.” (CDFE called on the Joyce Foundation to rescind the grant today, saying “the Joyce Foundation made a contribution to the Environmental Working Group that appears to be illegal.”)

“EWG began in the 1980s as a ‘project’ of the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation, which operated more than 250 such ‘projects’ under one tax exempt umbrella,” CDFE’s Ron Arnold says. “Tides got most of its money from giant foundations, but you couldn’t tell which ‘project’ it was going to… For years EWG was virtually a secret society, with totally invisible money and no public accountability.”

When EWG came out on its own, “we began to see strange things,” says CDFE. “Like blank spaces on the Form 990 where lobbying expenditures were supposed to go. When we compared that to newspaper accounts of EWG’s lobbying and political action, it didn’t add up.”

Check back at soon for a full expose on the Environmental Working Group.

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