By Harvey Wasserman
The most hopeful, diverse, photogenic, energizing and often hilarious...
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) poses as an independent science-based organization devoted to outing "junk science," but consumer advocates have called it "a consumer front organization for its business backers" that "glove[s] the hand that feeds it."
The majority of ACSH's funds have come from corporations and major foundations, but a new review of its funding sources by The Progressive Inc.'s Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveals that some of the hands that feed the group that bashes people concerned about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemicals used in factory farming, for example, are those of the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, through the Koch family fortune. Koch Industries profits from petroleum products like ammonia fertilizers and other agribusiness-related operations.
In the last year, ACSH has published reports calling fracking "a safe and efficient path to energy independence," despite the hazardous chemical cocktail used in hydraulic fracturing, which spoils millions of gallons of fresh drinking water each year. ACSH's spin also ignores the growing amount of "natural gas" fracked in the U.S. that is exported to foreign countries -- as CMD began documenting in 2010 (and has been at the forefront of exposing the PR deception of national security claims like ACSH's). Now, the New York Times and other outlets are writing about the strong push by energy companies like Exxon for large quantities of liquid natural gas from fracking to be exported to Russia and elsewhere rather than kept for domestic use.
ACSH has also published claims about GMOs that make outrageous statements like "opposition to agricultural progress . . . causes blindness and death worldwide." ACSH has also made patently false and easily disprovable claims such as, "[T]here are no alternative technologies available to plant breeders with which new improved varieties can be created to overcome the current limitations of global agriculture to produce sufficient food, feed, fuel, and fiber on available land."
Traditional plant breeding continues to develop crop varieties that are better adjusted to local conditions, produce more, and have other beneficial traits. Take, for example, the work done by the Organic Seed Partnership, a collaborative effort of Oregon State University, the University of Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, Cornell University, and the Organic Seed Alliance.
Tobacco was the rare consumer health hazard about which ACSH had publicly expressed concern. As a result, some of its funding from the food industry dried up after those companies were acquired by Philip Morris (now the global tobacco company Altria), which took umbrage at ACSH's position against tobacco. "ACSH's warnings about cigarette smoking resulted in the loss of substantial contributions from food manufacturers that had been acquired by tobacco companies," ACSH once stated on its website.
But ACSH has sinced received funding from Altria and at least one manufacturer of electronic cigarette maker called "The Safe Cig."
With the rise of e-cigarettes -- and ACSH's receipt of funding from companies selling them -- ACSH has reversed course. It now advocates that "electronic cigarettes should be made as accessible as cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes should be sold widely and lightly regulated..." In another publication, it expresses the hope that the Food and Drug Administration will continue to "allow... millions of desperate addicted smokers continued access to this lifesaving technology."
E-cig companies have been making the rounds at groups like ACSH as well as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN) in search of third parties to help promote its product and derail regulation.
In addition to such corporate and trade group funders as ExxonMobil, Chevron, the American Petroleum Institute, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, CropLife America, Procter and Gamble, the Personal Care Products Council, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, and McDonald's, ACSH funders have also included the Koch brothers' David H. Koch Foundation and Claude R. Lambe Foundation (which closed in early 2013), the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation. In this partial list of funders (ACSH stopped disclosing its donors early in the 1990s), the second-largest funder is DonorsTrust, which is known for its "murky money maze" of anonymous right-wing funding connected to the Kochs.
ACSH's funding stream overlaps significantly with the web of right-wing think tanks called the State Policy Network (SPN), which CMD has dubbed "stink tanks." For example, the Bodman Foundation, endowed by the investment banking fortune of the late George Bodman, has funded SPN members including New Jersey's Common Sense Institute and the Empire Center for New York State Policy as well as associate members the American Enterprise Institute, the Acton Institute, the Empire Center's parent group the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and the National Center for Policy Analysis. Altria (the global tobacco company), the Armstrong Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, Donors Capital Fund, DonorsTrust, the JM Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Olin Foundation, and Searle Freedom Trust have all funded both ACSH and SPN.
Many of ACSH's funders also have ties to the controversial ALEC, which CMD has called a "corporate bill mill." Special interests such as 3M, Altria, the American Petroleum Institute, Bayer CropScience, the Bradley Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chevron, Coca-Cola, CropLife America, Donors Capital Fund, DonorsTrust, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, ExxonMobil, the JM Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, McDonald's, the Olin Foundation, PhRMA, Procter and Gamble, the Randolph Foundation, and Searle Freedom Trust have all funded both ACSH and ALEC.
See CMD's full review of ACSH's known financial underwriters below:
|Funder||Amount Donated||Funding source||Years|
|Bodman Foundation||$90,000||investment banking||2007-2012|
|American Petroleum Institute||$37,500||petroleum industry||2012|
|Amvac Chemical Corporation||$5,000||2012|
|Bradley Foundation, Lynde and Harry||$270,000||factory automation equipment manufacturer Allen-Bradley||2004-2012|
|Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation||$300,000||2002-2012|
|CropLife America||$25,000||pesticide industry||2004|
|Distilled Spirits Council of the United States||$30,000||2008-2012|
|Dodge Jones Foundation||$25,500||railroad and minerals||2003, 2010|
|Donors Capital Fund||$89,500||anonymous "donor directed" fund||2008-2011|
|DonorsTrust||$534,574.62||anonymous "donor directed" fund||2005-2011|
|Fragrance Materials Association of the United States, Inc.||$20,000||2011|
|Friedmann, Philip M. Family Charitable Trust||$11,900||Recycled Paper Greetings company||2003-2012|
|GE Foundation||$396,000||General Electric (including a small amount of donations matching employees')||2003-2012|
|Gilder Foundation||$5,000||stockbroker Richard Gilder||2005|
|International Formula Council||$10,000||2012|
|JM Foundation||$15,000||Borden Milk Company||1997|
|Kayser Family Foundation||$2,500||2006-2009|
|Kirby, F.M. Foundation||$307,000||Woolworth and Alleghany Companies||1998-2012|
|Koch, David H. Foundation||$6,000||Koch Industries||1986-1987|
|Olin Foundation, John M.||$915,500||Olin Corporation chemical||1985-2004 (foundation closed in 2005)|
|Lambe, Claude R. Foundation||$95,000||Koch Industries||2005-2008 (also contributed $30,000 in 2006 that was returned to the foundation in 2009)|
|Nolan, David P. Foundation||$250||2010|
|Personal Care Products Council||$20,000||personal care products (cosmetics, toiletries, fragrances, etc.) industry||2011-2002|
|Procter and Gamble||$6,000||2012|
|Randolph Foundation||$73,920||Vicks chemical company||2006|
|Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation||$27,500||oil||1998-2001|
|Sarah Scaife Foundation||$205,000||Mellon industrial, oil, aluminum and banking||1985-1991|
|Searle Freedom Trust||$100,000||pharmaceuticals||2007|
|Tepper Family Foundation||$500||2013|
|Texmark Chemicals (David Smith)||$5,000||2012|
|The Safe Cig||$4,100||electronic cigarette manufacturer||2012|
|Tober, Barbara and Donald Foundation||$23,500||2007-2012|
|Triad Foundation||$35,000 ("Gen/fracking")||foundation endowed by media businessman Roy H. Park, formed in 2003 as a spin-off of the Park Foundation||2012|