The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature wouldn’t go along with Governor Tony Evers’ far-left climate change and “environmental justice” initiatives, so the Democrat went around the legislature.
Evers took in hundreds of thousands of dollars in third-party funding from media tycoon Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation, according to a new report from the Institute for Reforming Government’s Center for Investigative Oversight.
The governor is using nearly $400,000 in so-called Climate Leadership Grants from the multi-billion dollar United Nations Fund to staff his Office of Sustainability & Clean Energy (OSCE). He created the big government entity not through legislation but via executive order. The agency has pushed far left climate priorities.
“From the beginning of his governorship, Tony Evers has sought to impose a drastic environmental agenda on Wisconsin. Describing climate change as a ‘grave threat to the health, safety, and economic well-being of people and communities throughout Wisconsin’ and accusing Wisconsinites of ‘ignoring science,’ Governor Evers has committed to making the state ‘carbon-free by 2050,'” the report asserts.
🚨🚨🚨 BREAKING: the @unfoundation is funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the @GovEvers Administration to fund its radical climate agenda. Did executive branch bureaucrats intentionally mislead the Legislature about this scheme to cover it up?🔎🧵👇 pic.twitter.com/trgrRZW1wD
— IRG Center for Investigative Oversight (@IRG_CIO) June 27, 2023
A report issued last fall found Evers Carbon Zero goal would cost Wisconsin energy consumers $250 billion.
But the leftist governor has driven his climate agenda by executive fiat, not legislative authority, as the Center for Investigative Oversight notes.
“Evers doesn’t set policy for the State of Wisconsin. That’s the Legislature’s job. And so far it has repeatedly denied Evers’ requests for millions of dollars to staff and fund a new Office of Environmental Justice and Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy,” the report states.
So Evers found a third-party source to fund his initiatives, in the same way Wisconsin’s largest and Democrat-heavy cities leaned on millions of dollars in “safe election” grants funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and distributed in advance of the 2020 presidential election by a liberal voting activist organization.
The governor’s team, however, has struggled with the truth in explaining third-party funding sources, according to the report.
On March 30, State Representative Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, pointed out in a budget meeting that the Office of Sustainability & Clean Energy listed four employees on its website. Only one Department of Administration (DOA) employee had been allocated to the office.
The Center for Investigative Oversight report includes the transcript of an exchange showing a DOA official providing answers that were “at best highly misleading and at worst false.”
Born: . . . [H]ow many employees work in [OSCE and the Office of Environmental Justice]?
DOA: There is one position allocated to [OSCE]—one permanent position. And currently one position allocated to [OEJ] remaining unfilled at this point.
Born: So there’s only one in each office.
DOA: At this point in time, yes.
Born: Well then the website tells me that [OSCE] lists four names in that office.
DOA: Yes, so I think that there’s a variety of grants that the [OSCE] has received, so we’re funding . . . there’s one position that DOA has allocated to the office but then they have a variety of other funding that they have received through third-party sources that are funding those other positions that you’ve identified on the website.
Born: So these are federally-funded LTEs or something?
DOA: Limited-term employees.
IRG’s Center for Investigative Center for Investigative Oversight filed an open records request and obtained information about the grants from “third-party sources.” Evers’ Department of Administration was forced to disclose that the Office of Sustainability & Clean Energy positions were funded by the private United Nations Foundation in partnership with its affiliated project, the U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA). It did not provide records of any supposed federal grants.
The United States Climate Alliance (U.S. Climate Alliance) is a coalition of governors formed in 2017 who support greenhouse gas reduction policies in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, both in their states and at the federal level, according to nonprofit tracker Influence Watch. The group is a project of the United Nations Foundation, a private nonprofit formed with a 10-year, $1 billion pledge by media mogul Ted Turner in 1997 to support the activities of the United Nations.
“While the alliance is officially bipartisan, as of October 2022 only three of its 24 gubernatorial members were Republicans,” Influencewatch.org notes.
“The alliance started after the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement in 2017. The founding members of the U.S. Climate Alliance were then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), and then-California Gov. Jerry Brown (D).”
The United Nations Foundation, started by Turner in 1998, has received more than $2 billion since its launch, according to IRG report. It bills itself as a “strategic partner to help the UN mobilize the ideas, people and resources it needs to deliver and grow a diverse and durable constituency for collective action.”
UNF’s first grant of $298,000, was signed on June 1, 2020. It was later extended twice in January 2021 and May of 2023 to cover a period through April of 2025. The grant was originally intended to allow the Evers administration to hire a “senior-level” “climate fellow” who would assist in the development of a state energy plan and a “Wisconsin Climate Action Plan.” Said fellow also would “support the work of Governor Evers’ Task Force on Climate Change,” which critics say was inconsequentially led by former Lieutenant Governor and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes.
“The second grant—in the amount of $88,132, signed in June of 2021, and intended to cover a period through September of 2023—funds a ‘climate/clean energy staff person’ who is a ‘senior-level program and policy analyst.’ This person is intended to ‘assist OSCE with their State as a Leader Initiative,’ ‘serv[ing] as the project lead to support the implementation [of] an internal tracking system that will help the state to track state agency data attributable to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals and provid[e] transparency on agency progress,’” the report states.
Evers’ office did not return a call seeking comment.
The oversight report asks two very important questions:
- Did DOA staff intentionally mislead the Joint Committee on Finance?=
- 2. Are the DOA’s actions legal?
“Whatever the merits of Governor Evers’ underlying environmental goals, his decision to sidestep the legislative process and instead rely on the UNF and unilateral action raises several fundamental questions about the legality and propriety of his administration’s activities,” the report asserts.
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Tony Evers” by Campaign of Tony Evers for Governor. CC BY 3.0. Background Photo “Wisconsin State Capitol” by Teemu008. CC BY-SA 2.0.