Putin and anti-fracking activism


Harold Hamm, the multibillionaire oilman who is president of Continental Resources, the company that is the biggest player in North Dakota’s Bakken shale oil patch, raised some eyebrows last week when he said the Russians were financing the anti-fracking movement in the United States.

“Russia’s spent a great deal of money over here to cause a panic in the United States over fracking to stop it, because suddenly their market share [of global oil and natural gas sales] is going away,” Hamm said in an interview with Forbes Media. “There was a lot of money spent in the U.S. to send people into a panic over fracking because they wanted to stop what we were doing. They saw this coming.”

Now where would Hamm have gotten an idea like that?

Possibly after reading a remarkable piece of investigative reporting that was published on Jan. 27 by the Washington Free Beacon, a Washington, D.C.- based conservative website that, needless to say, is hated and despised by liberals.

The piece, written by a reporter named Lachlan Markay, appeared under the headline “Foreign Firm Funding U.S. Green Groups Tied to State-Owned Russian Oil Company.” Reports linking support for anti-fracking activists to Russian government and business interests are not new. Articles doing so appeared in The New York Times on Nov. 30 and in National Review on May 5 last year.

And last, June Anders Fogh Rasmussen, then NATO’s secretary general and a former prime minister of Denmark, said some member states were complaining that the Russians “as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations — environmental organizations working against shale gas — to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

What sets Markay’s report apart is that he did something none of the others did. He followed the money.

What he found was that “a shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and off-shore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimer Putin’s inner circle.”

“One of those executives, Nicholas Hoskins, is a director at a hedge fund management firm that has invested heavily in Russian oil and gas,” Markay found. Hoskins “is also senior counsel at the Bermudan law firm Wakefield Quin and vice president of a Londonbased investment firm [Marcuard Services Limited] whose president until recently chaired the board of the stateowned Russian oil company Rosneft.”

The Wakefield Quin law firm acts as a corporate registered agent, providing office space for its clients, and, for some, managing their “day-to-day affairs.”

Wakefield Quin is at the center of a tangled web of as many of 20 companies and investment funds with ties to the Russian government who are its clients. Many of them list Wakefield Quin’s address on official documents.

Another company that shares the Wakefield Quin address is a firm called Klein Ltd. Hoskins is a director of Klein Ltd. According to documents filed with Bermuda’s registar of companies, Klein Ltd. was incorporated in March 2011 “exclusively for philantrophic purposes,” meaning “no part of the net earnings … inures to the benefit of any private sharehold or individual.”

“The company does not propose to carry on business in Bermuda,” according to the documents.

Where Kline Ltd. gets its money is not known, but where at least some of it has gone is known.

According to Markay, “the only publicly available documentation of any business conducted by Klein Ltd. were two Internal Revenue Service filings by the California-based Sea Change Foundation, which showed that Klein had contributed $23 million to the group in 2010 and 2011. Klein Ltd. was responsible for more than 40 percent of contributions to Sea Change during those years.”

The Sea Change Foundation handed out grants “to some of the nation’s most prominent and politically active environmentalist groups” to the tune of $100 million in 2010 and 2011.

Recipients of Sea Change Foundation grants during those years included the Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters and the Center for American Progress, Markey found. The Sea Change Foundation is run by a man named Nathaniel Simons and his wife. Except for Klein Ltd, they are its only donors.

Simons is a hedge fund millionaire. He also runs a venture capital firm that invests in companies that benefit from environmental and energy policies that Sea Change grantees promote, Markay said.

Simons himself has ties to Klein Ltd. Several Wakefield Quin attorneys are listed as directors of hedge funds that his firm manages, and in which Sea Change has assets, Markay said. Rod Forest, a senior counsel with either the Sea Change Foundation or Simons’ company (the story doesn’t make clear which), was listed on documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a director of two investment funds, Medallion International Ltd. and Meritage Holdings Ltd., in which Sea Change had tens of millions invested while it received money from Klein Ltd.

Simons’ company runs the Meritage Fund. The Medalion Fund is run by Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund management firm run by Simons’ father, Jim Simons, a billionaire and major Democratic Party donor. Both funds listed Wakefield Quin’s Himilton, Bermuda address on SEC filings.

Markay also sketches out links between Wakefield Quin employees and a number of Russian funds and companies.

You can read the full story at: http://freebeacon.com/issues/foreignfirm-funding-u-s-green-groups-tiedto-state-owned-russian-oil-company/ 

To be sure, none of this constitutes smoking gun evidence that Putin is funding American anti-fracking activism, much less that the American environmental groups knew the origin of the money. It is, however, suspicious as hell.

Markay says the activities of Klein Ltd. were described this way in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee report last year: “None of this corporation’s funding is disclosed in any way,” it said. “This is clearly a deceitful way to hide the source of millions of dollars that are active in our system, attempting to effect political change.”

Russian involvement in anti-fracking activism is a story that ought to be getting a lot more attention than it has received up to now, both from the mainstream media and from Congress. The web of relationships Markay found may cause the eyes to glaze over, but the bedrock questions they pose for everyone involved are straight forward and direct: 1) Who’s paying your bills, and 2) What did you know and when did you know it?

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

  • Hans Bjordahl


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  • Mitch