Socialists Use American Environmentalists To Shake Down U.S. Companies

Socialists Use American Environmentalists To Shake Down U.S. Companies

This week, a U.S. court of appeals said an international legal shakedown of Chevron ‘had been procured through… bribery, coercion, and fraud.’ That won't stop the environmentalists.
Kevin Glass
By

To see the corrupt, desperate heart of the true believers of the modern left-wing movement, we can look at a test case: a group of left-wing activists, environmentalists, lawyers, and foundations hounding an American company, Chevron.

Steven Donziger, a Harvard University-educated lawyer who spent time in private practice, decided to sink his teeth into a class-action lawsuit against Chevron (formerly Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2000) on behalf of a group of people in Ecuador. The current far-left government, led by Rafael Correa, boosted this case, despite the government’s own settlement with the company. In 2011, Donziger scored what he claimed was an ultimate victory when an Ecuadorean court ruled in his favor to the tune of a multibillion-dollar settlement.

Everything has fallen apart for the environmentalists since then. From the start, the Ecuadorean court’s decision was fishy. It was uncovered that it was the result of a massive fraud, with many portions of the judgment written word-for-word by Donziger’s team. The judge who presided over the case admitted to taking massive bribes during the case.

The current Correa regime in Ecuador is a “democratic-socialist” government that, as a part of Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian” alliance in South America, has pursued aggressive leftist policy. Ever since the government was taken over by Venezuela-style socialists, they have shifted into supporting the fraudulent Donziger suit, abandoning any pretense of honoring their own remediation agreement from the 1990s.

‘Mr. Donziger Lied to Me’

The Ecuadoreans have been unable to enforce their judgment, however, as both Texaco and Chevron have not been in Ecuador since the 1990s. So Donziger and the environmentalists took their case international, trying to get enforcement in Brazil, Canada, and elsewhere, to no avail. Their attempt to make the case international backfired in 2014, when an American judge found the weight of the evidence was heavily against Donziger and the Ecuadorean justice system, ruling that a massive fraud had been committed.

After this many of Donziger’s allies fled what they perceived to be a sinking ship, from elite banking interests to rich environmentalists. Burford Capital, a fund that backs lawsuits in exchange for a stake in the outcome, left the case in 2012 as it became clear what was happening. Patton Boggs, a prestigious Washington DC law firm, left the case in 2014 and settled with Chevron for its role in perpetuating the fraud. Key Donziger ally and litigation attorney Joseph Kohn, in testimony about the case after he had dropped out, said “Mr. Donziger lied to me.”

“It made me sick,” said Jeffrey Shinder, a lawyer who worked on the environmentalists’ side for years until he personally discovered the fraud at the heart of the case. “I wanted no part of it.”

This week, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the 2014 ruling against Donziger and the environmentalists, finding that “the Ecuadorian judgment had been procured through, inter alia, defendants’ bribery, coercion, and fraud.”

Despite all this, many environmentalist true believers have continued to support the fraud. Amazon Watch, a left-wing nonprofit that purports to be concerned with South American rainforests, is one of Donziger’s most reliable supporters. Amazon Watch is funded by people like activist billionaire Tom Steyer, millionaire actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and the left-wing MacArthur Foundation.

The Rainforest Action Network is another left-wing dark-money group, has continued to support the fraudsters’ case. In addition to being funded by anonymous donors, they’re supported by groups like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rudolf Steiner Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund — all big-money groups that support left-wing causes across the world.

The Hollywood left have been involved, too. A public relations firm acting on behalf of the Ecuadorean government has brought celebrities like Mia Farrow and Danny Glover to tour what they claim are environmentally damaged areas, ignoring that Ecuador’s own state-run energy company continued operations in those areas for years after the Americans had left. As the legitimate case collapses, Donziger and his allies increasingly rely on these cheap public-relations stunts to cling to whatever they have left.

I’ll Trade Truth for Power

The harassment of this American company in search of a massive payday is not over, despite the overwhelming evidence that it’s precipitated on fraud. The left-wing government of Ecuador has been cooperating with the fraudsters for years and is unlikely to let up. Unable to use the Ecuadoreans to extract his retribution because Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, Donziger has taken his case global, with court cases pending in Canada and Brazil in addition to the American one. Clearly, a case of blatant fraud isn’t going to stop the enviros’ crusade this time.

It is a frightening development that so many of the activists have chosen to make their stand on this case in particular. If they continue to go forward—indeed, if they prevail—this could embolden the activists even further. They’d learn that fraud wins in the end, and that as long as the environmentalists claim some kind of interest against American companies, they have a chance of winning, no matter the merits of their crusade. They would learn that fraud is not something to be avoided, but a weapon to wield in their favor.

The modern activist left-wing movement has bet big on this one case, and some of their allies have abandoned the sinking ship. We can tell who’s willing to exploit fraud for political gain, however, in looking at those that remain: Donziger, Amazon Watch, the Rainforest Action Network, the MacArthur Foundation, and other big left-wing activist groups don’t care about due process. They only care about winning.

Kevin Glass is director of policy and outreach for the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity.

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