It often seems as though the left-wing activists who are out to stop fossil fuel energy development get an inordinate amount of attention from the media, far in excess of their actual on-the-ground support in the state.
A recent case-in-point is an online petition launched by the Dakota Resource Council calling for an audit of the State Health Department and the state’s Department of Mineral Resources because they’re supposedly too lax in regulating oil and gas development. Specifically, the environmentalists are upset that these entities often lower fines for oil and gas companies guilty of spills and other violations.
Of course, those lower fines usually come after the company in question has paid to clean up the mess it created out of its own pocket. The lowered fines are an incentive to fix the problem, a fact the environmentalists dishonestly leave out.
Regardless, if the perception we get in the media is correct – that western North Dakota is being destroyed as state leaders cozy up to the fossil fuel industries – you’d expect the DRC’s call for action to get a lot of support.
More than 24 hours after the group pushed the petition out less than 100 people have signed, many of them from far outside of North Dakota:
You’d think the DRC would have gotten at least 100 signatures from their core membership alone.
Or maybe they don’t really have that many members.
One thing to remember is that it’s easy to start a political group. You file pick a name and file some paperwork and start emailing your press releases to reporters who will often dutifully include what you have to say in their reporting without doing much legwork to figure out who you are.
The DRC is a bit of an astroturf group. According to their latest Form 990 (a disclosure non-profit groups are required to file with the IRS, see it below) the group took in $338,155 in revenues in 2013, but just 6.6 percent or $22,365 was from membership dues and fundraising events. The rest was a giant lump some categorized as grants and other revenues.
The amount taken in from membership dues and fundraising events was less than half the $49,800 yearly salary the group’s only disclosed employee – Don Morrison – receives in annual salary.
The DRC describes itself on its website as “a nonprofit, grassroots activist organization.” If that’s true, where are all the membership dues and fundraising revenues?
The DRC is often described as a “landowner group” in the media, but how many landowners are really members when the group gets almost zero dollars from fundraising or membership dues?
Where is the rest of the money coming from? The DRC doesn’t have to disclose it, which is fine, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s probably being funneled into the group by out-of-state environmental interests.
Certainly, if the DRC had a broad base of support here in North Dakota, you’d expect them to get more than $22,365 from membership dues. And it doesn’t even look like the group is even doing any active fundraising.
It all paints the picture of an activist front group for out-of-state interests. Which, again, is fine. But it does undermine the group’s credibility to speak on behalf of North Dakotans.