PennFuture Corrects IRS Returns, Owns Private Energy Conservation Company

Jan Murphy of the Patriot News features a story on PennFuture’s lobbying. The story reveals two facts that did not appear in our exposé.

First, despite rants calling us lots of nasty names, PennFuture CEO Jan Jarrett admits “mistakes” on their IRS returns each and every year, which they only noticed after our report:

PennFuture’s 990 tax forms for the past three years put lobbying at no more than 2 percent of its total expenses. But after it was pointed out that other financial disclosure forms showed the group’s lobbying expenses as high as 7 percent, Jarrett admitted a mistake had been made and the higher percentage was right.

Second, PennFuture not only receives funding from alternative energy companies, but owns a for-profit energy conservation company:

At the core of the Commonwealth Foundation’s attack is the charge that PennFuture has been “lobbying laundering,” lobbying for laws that will benefit either its donors or PaceControls, a for-profit energy conservation company in which PennFuture holds a 30 percent ownership stake.

“It’s somewhat unusual to have a large stake in a for-profit company when the [nonprofit] is advocating in that area,” Jacobs said. “It starts to look like the [nonprofit] is providing a private benefit to the entity.”

Jarrett counters that PennFuture’s work consists of broad policy efforts that are consistent with its mission.

“We did not, for example, lobby for some language that said 10 percent of all energy conservation measures installed in Pennsylvania must use Pace technology. That would cross the line, and we did not cross it.”

Note that we did not focus on PaceControls in our report – only PennFuture’s energy funders – that link was only identified later by Murphy and her sources. This of course, only strengthens the argument that PennFuture’s lobbying is fueled by self-interest, not for purely public and environmental benefits.

Indeed, PennFuture-owned PaceControls received $250,000 in state grants in 2009. And of course, PaceControl benefits from recently enacted mandates for energy conservation and subsidies/credits for various energy efficiency programs. Yet PennFuture’s claim is that because they don’t lobby explicitly for mandates that benefit their company alone, there’s “nothing to see here.”