Monday, September 22, 2003
Contact: Mike Hardiman
A non-profit watchdog group today filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against Greenpeace, accusing the organization of illegally soliciting and transferring millions of dollars in tax-deductible contributions.
In a report titled “Green Peace, Dirty Money: Tax Violations in the World of Non-Profits,” Public Interest Watch (PIW) accused Greenpeace – one of the world’s most recognizable and visible non-profits – of knowingly and systematically violating United States tax laws.
“At the heart of the matter is the way in which Greenpeace’s complex corporate structure masks its misuse of tax-exempt contributions,” claimed Mike Hardiman, Executive Director of PIW.
“The IRS very clearly differentiates between taxable and tax-exempt contributions, and the ways in which they can be used,” Hardiman said. “Greenpeace has devised a system for diverting tax-exempt funds into non-exempt organizations within its empire and using the money for improper and illegal purposes. It is plainly a case of money laundering.”
The report details how during a three year span, one Greenpeace entity diverted over $24 million in tax-exempt contributions. Such contributions are supposed to be used for charitable, educational or scientific programs, but instead financed advocacy campaigns.
Examples of taxpayer subsidized activities undertaken by Greenpeace include:
- Blockading a naval base in protest of the Iraq war,
- Boarding an oil tanker for a banner hanging,
- Breaking into the central control building of a nuclear power station,
- Padlocking the gates of a government research facility.
Because Greenpeace receives significant donations from large entities such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Turner Foundation, the report also calls into question the accountability of these donors.
“Foundations that make tax-exempt contributions are responsible for verifying that their funds are used appropriately,” Hardiman said. “In the case of contributions to Greenpeace, either the foundations have no idea how their money is being spent, or they are knowingly allowing their funds to be laundered for illegal advocacy and civil disobedience.”
In addition to the IRS investigation, the report calls for a series of remedies, including:
- Greater oversight by grant-making foundations such as Rockefeller and Turner,
- Regulatory and legislative investigations of Greenpeace by Congress,
- Action under California law governing non-profits.
“Greenpeace is cheating the taxpayer by accepting tax-deductible contributions, and then misusing the funds,” Hardiman said. “They are accepting taxpayer subsidized funds for charity and education, and then using it to hang banners on buildings and break into nuclear power stations.”
Hardiman also said PIW was considering filing a lawsuit in California under a provision of the state’s Business and Professions Code, commonly known as a 17200 lawsuit.
“California has a series of statutes designed to protect the public from impropriety on the part of non-profits,” Hardiman said. “And in the case of Greenpeace, we believe its violations of law mean that the state’s Attorney General should take action. And if the AG is not willing, then he should grant “relator status” to PIW so we can.” Relator status can be conferred onto an entity by the AG, and allows it to pursue legal claims in the name of the people of California.
Public Interest Watch (PIW) was established in 2002 in response to the growing misuse of charitable funds by nonprofit organizations and the lack of effort by government agencies to deal with the problem. PIW works to fight charitable trust abuse by exposing individual cases of abuse and advocating for stronger governmental oversight, including requirements for greater financial disclosure by charitable organizations.
PIW is a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization, which means contributions to PIW are not tax-deductible. Initial funding for PIW has been provided by business organizations.