Capitol Hill Oversight of World Resources Institute's Work With China - Climate Litigation Watch

Capitol Hill Oversight of World Resources Institute’s Work With China

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources has sent an oversight letter — its second — to the green pressure group the World Resources Institute, exposed earlier this year as also being a pass=through contractor for providing donor-financed staff for elected officials. The Committee seek further information regarding the role WRI played in assisting China to develop the post-Obama “climate” world in Washington, DC.

In its October 17, 2018 letter, the Committee wrote, inter alia (citations omitted):

[T]he Committee is in possession of certain documents that call into question the candor of WRI’s responses.

In a September 22, 2018 letter to the Committee, WRI denied that its relationship with the Chinese government impacts its political activities within the United States. WRI claimed that “FARA simply is not implicated in any way by the work of WRI. “2 WRI also asserted that it “does not act on behalf of … any foreign governments or principals.”

Communications from WRI to senior U.S. government officials, obtained by the Committee, however, indicate WRI actions on behalf of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People’s Republic of China (MEE)…

One email of concern dated April 15, 2015, was sent by the then-Global Director of WRI’s Climate Program to U.S. State Department officials. It reads in relevant part:

’We have been approached by the NCSC in China to pursue a dialogue (potentially track 2) that would bring together top experts from the US and China’…

As WRI tellingly put matters, in the same email initiating this inquiry to the Obama State Department:

We think the interest stems from the Chinese recognition that this Administration is coming to an end soonish and their desire to open up channels in DC that are additional to the ones that are working well now. As you will see, they are also interested in longer-term ideas that one could imagine being discussed with the next Administration (depending of course on who it might be).

The referenced email obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is at the root of a followup lawsuit filed by Government Oversight & Accountability (of which CLW is a project).

As the Committee notes (citations omitted):

The email concludes with a request for U.S. officials to collaborate with WRI and Chinese officials, and also references communications with another U.S. official, who may have been an Obama White House Senior Policy Advisor at the time.

It is difficult to reconcile WRI’s representations to the Committee that it “unambiguously has not and does not act on behalf of or in the interests of any foreign principal,” with the April 15, 2015 email and other documents. Similarly, WRI’s refusal to provide documents and information responsive to the Committee’s inquiries raise additional concerns regarding WRI’s candor.

Other emails we have show the Obama State Department leapt at the invitation to help WRI help China, arranging team-wide conference calls and other followup. Unfortunately, the prior administration redacted most of the correspondence in full. One obvious question is why the current State Department — assuming the Trump Administration has in fact placed new people in charge of FOIA productions — would continue hiding this involvement of great public interest.

By its litigation, GAO hopes to learn if the abuses will continue under new management. House oversight has picked up on this, and GAO’s effort to force transparency on these machinations, and are pressing further. It apparently feels it is facing something of a stonewall (a feeling GAO certainly is familiar with), and requested certain described documents no later than October 22, 2018.

The green pressure groups have assembled white-collar defense legal and political teams. Fending off further inquiry is obviously a priority of the climate industry. As such, one can easily see the scrapping of this investigation into  these relationships to be a priority of the new leadership if control of Congress shifts.

In either event, GAO’s litigation on behalf of the Institute for Energy Research continues apace toward document production.

Link to WRI China Documents