DIRTY MONEY – How The Everglades Foundation Funds Shadowy Environmental Groups

    Analyzing the cash flow of these two organizations and how they create a “false front” of environmental concern.


    By Jacob Engels


    Lead by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, the Everglades Foundation has morphed into a cash cow for close to 20 statewide environmental groups, sending them over $6 million dollars in recent years.


    Interestingly enough, these so-called “separate and independent” organizations advocate the same talking points and efforts, sometimes word for word from documents and information circulated by the Everglades Foundation. Sadly these arguments are based in politics – not science.


    Dating back to 2009, the group has funded, at any given time, between 14-20 groups across the state. So, people contribute to the Everglades Foundation, and they in turn, send money to groups across the state.


    In the past few years, the group has gone from sending 20% of its gathered money to outside groups, and now sends close to 45% of it to groups pithily titled “Friends of Florida” and “Defenders of Wildlife”. The groups then facilitate outrage, and deftly manipulate mainstream media at the behest of the foundation, recycling talking points and honing in on U.S. Sugar in particular.


    South Florida news outfit, The Daily Broward, analyzed these contributions and flow of money as “terrifying and twisted.” Below is an excerpt from a recent article highlighting the same concerns we have already set forth.


    “Groups such as the Clean Water Fund of Florida, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sanibel-Captiva Conservations Fund, Tropical Audubon Society, and other advocacy organizations have received a large portion of their annual budget from the Everglades Foundation.


    As for Audubon of Florida and the much-vaunted Everglades Law Center, they appear to be practically wholly owned subsidiaries of the Foundation with almost 75% of their operating budgets consisting of Everglades Foundation contributions. In 2009 alone, Audubon of Florida received 98% of its total revenue from the Everglades Foundation.”


    The Daily Broward went on to detail how the Everglades Foundation is controlling the groups like an octopus, with the 15+ group acting as its “arms”.


    While looking at the other substantial statewide Everglades based organization like the Everglades Trust, it’s clear that there is a distinct overlap between the leadership structure of The Trust and The Foundation. Former Everglades Foundation founder and President Mary Barley, now serves as the President and Treasurer of the Everglades Trust, and still remains heavily involved behind the scenes. Current CEO Erik Eikenberg, a former top operative of political chameleon Charlie Crist, ALSO serves as a board member of the Everglades Trust.


    At least two other high level operatives for the Everglades Foundation are involved with the Everglades Trust or the other way around. Political operators raising money to fund groups that net them six-figure paydays and by way of contributing to the 15+ statewide groups, providing cushy jobs for friends and business partners.


    Why does this matter? Because the echo chamber they seek to create isn’t based in science. The cost of the land and required engineering was over $3 Billion for a reservoir too small to impact water quality in the estuaries or the Everglades. Long term water quality does not depend on storage south of the lake .


    Now the Everglades Trust has it’s paid front men at the Sierra Club beating up the sugar industry over the yearly pre-harvest prescribed burning of sugar cane, even though it does not exceed Federal Air quality standards. In other words, the various groups funded by the Everglades Foundation and Trust, parrot the line put forward by the Foundation… even when their assertions are false.


    After these two well-funded juggernauts failed to force the taxpayers to underwrite almost $1billion dollars in land purchases and another $1billion or two in restoration efforts in the coming years, they attempted to revive the efforts in the special session.


    Backed by commentary and studies by leading scientists and environmental experts, opponents of the land purchase were able to squash the second effort. Now, with failing to procure the wrong land for the wrong reasons, the Everglades Foundation and Everglades Trust are now attacking U.S. Sugar for complying with and following state approved harvesting methods.


    It’s time for Floridians to realize that these groups are less focused on “protecting the environment” and more focused on creating scenarios that allow them to continue collecting contributions to fund luxury office spaces and six-figure consulting contracts.


    Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at info@eastorlandopost.com