More Sparks Fly in PennFuture Scandal

It’s been amusing to watch the defenders of PennFuture “fire” their pop-guns on the editorial pages of the Patriot-News since our report about their hypocritical and possibly illegal lobbying practices was published nearly a month ago. It’s had a longer life and greater effect than we could have dreamed possible, so we obviously struck a nerve.

Despite all the column inches the Patriot-News editors have given PennFuture (including their own editorial), the environmental pressure group struggles to refute the points we raised about them — because they can’t. Instead they have tried to shoot the messenger. They’ve attempted to make the story into one about how they don’t like the way we legally report our tax returns and lobbying rather than defending the indefensible to the IRS.

First there was Dr. James Jones of New Cumberland, who in his letter accused Commonwealth Foundation of an “attack” and an “unfounded smear” of PennFuture. We’ve proven that PennFuture dishonestly reported to the IRS zero dollars spent on grassroots lobbying for four straight years, and PF president Jan Jarrett has admitted it. Jones writes, “The amount spent on the lobby efforts are well within the limit permitted by law and none of the funds for this purpose come from the state.” Yet that is not what we revealed; we said they lied on their IRS filings, which they did. This is typical diversion from a leftist like Jones, who is Harrisburg chapter president of the peacenik group Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Then there is treehugger Sierra Bingham, who also accused us of “smearing,” disliked our criticism of Penn State hockey stick fraudster Michael Mann, and said “the only thing PennFuture has done ‘wrong’ is be effective.” Wrong Sierra! Just ask Jan! When you’re wrong while cheating the rules, it’s even worse.

Next came Jarrett herself, listing all the wonderful things PennFuture does and how proud they are of their work. Funny she didn’t mention how proud they were of their thinly-veiled legal threats against the Amish over their farming practices. Or how proud they were to earn nearly $1 million from alternative energy companies to enable PennFuture’s lobbying on their behalf, without reporting it to the Department of State. And the pride they derived from giving more than $12,000 in gifts to state officials or employees between 2006 and 2009. There is just so much in the PennFuture scandal that Jarrett could have cited as sources of pride, but went unmentioned.

There were other attempts to defend PF in the Patriot-News which followed the same themes, without addressing our report. They are all tactics of the lazy and/or deceitful, which is what got PennFuture into trouble in the first place. Yes, the group is effective because they have a sympathetic media (Jan Murphy being the exception) that refuses to investigate their behavior and activities. And they have huge funding resources, some of which are mysteries to the pubilc (despite posting financial information on their Website). Public perception is that Big Oil (or Big Industry) has an unfair and unethical funding advantage and impure motives, while environmentalists are the under-gunned defenders of a fragile planet. Our report showed the playing field is quite level. PennFuture and her supporters don’t like that truth getting out.

Finally, Jarrett has passed off PennFuture’s zero-dollar reporting on grassroots lobbying to the IRS as a simple, innocent mistake. Yet PennFuture’s Website still has incorrect 990 tax returns posted with those same numbers in the same places, nearly a month after our report was published. She assured the public that corrections would be made immediately. If it was as simple as separating out indirect from direct lobbying expenses and reporting correct numbers, as Jarrett implied, you’d think it would be an easy fix. Could it be they never wanted to reveal this activity to the IRS?