Two key House members call to investigate Russian 'collusion' with anti-fracking green groups
Charges of "Russian collusion" may have opened Pandora's Box for the environmentalist wing of the Democratic Party and the American left. Republican congressman Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and energy subcommittee chairman Rep. Randy Weber have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, calling:
... on the Trump administration to investigate whether Russia is trying to undermine the U.S. energy industry by funding environmental activism as part of a "propaganda war against fossil fuels."
They lay out the logic of the case:
Russia's goal is to "suppress the widespread adoption of fracking in Europe and the U.S.," according to a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith and energy subcommittee chairman Randy Weber.
"If you connect the dots, it is clear that Russia is funding U.S. environmental groups in an effort to suppress our domestic oil and gas industry, specifically hydraulic fracking," said Mr. Smith, Texas Republican, in a Friday statement.
"They have established an elaborate scheme that funnels money through shell companies in Bermuda," he said. "This scheme may violate federal law and certainly distorts the U.S. energy market. The American people deserve to know the truth and I am confident Secretary Mnuchin will investigate the allegations."
The Republicans said the panel is already conducting oversight into "what appears to be a concerted effort by foreign entities to funnel millions of dollars through various non-profit entities to influence the U.S. energy market."
Certainly Russia has a motive. The widespread adoption of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has fueled an energy boom in the United States that threatens Russian exports of oil and natural gas, which accounted for 68 percent of the country's export revenue in 2013.
The letter pointed to reports that Russian entities may have funneled millions through a Bermuda shell company, Klein Ltd., to the Sea Change Foundation in San Francisco, which has in turn provided grants on anti-fracking groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
Proving such a link is another matter. The letter acknowledged that the "Russian government and complicit parties have executed a political agenda with little or no paper trail."
"By incorporating in Bermuda, Klein is not required to disclose its donors' identities or countries of origin," the letter said.
The left is going to live to regret choosing "collusion with Russia" as theme for its attempt to unseat an elected president. The vulnerabilities are all on its own side, starting with Hillary Clinton's Uranium One deal and the hundred-million-dollar reward reaped by the Clinton Foundation. But that is just the tip of the left's gigantic iceberg.
Russia and the USSR have a lot of history using purportedly independent political movements in foreign countries for their own purposes. The Communist Party of the USA maintained numerous front groups and served as a cat's paw for the Kremlin. The most consequential instance of collusion with leftist political groups was the antiwar movement of the 1960s and '70s, which actually succeeded in forcing U.S. withdrawal and the fall of South Vietnam under the rule of the communist North regime. The role of communist agents was exposed when the Kremlin archives were opened up.
Oil and gas are Russia's only major source of foreign currency and hence its ability to buy foreign goods and project its power beyond its borders. Fracking has devastated oil prices, hence Russia's income from hydrocarbons. Worse is yet to come as U.S. LNG shipments weaken the prices and political leverage Putin can get from his natural gas exports to Europe. He has a clear and direct interest in doing as much as he can to hinder fracking. Donald Trump's enthusiastic support for fracking has always given the lie to the notion that Putin would want to put him in the Oval Office.
If hard evidence can be found of money-laundering and other methods of hiding Russian collusion with major green groups, the political consequences could be profound. While the banking secrecy laws are a huge obstacle to obtaining proof, Mnuchin's Treasury Department has a lot of tools for going after money flows, thanks to the wars on drugs and terror. And the standards of evidence are different between the court of law and the court of public opinion.
It's time to apply Alinsky's Rule Number Four to the left: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules."