Letter: FREE takes issue with description as Big Oil front

I am responding to two of your inaccurate and grossly misleading columns by James Gill criticizing federal circuit Judge Joy Clement.

Mr. Gill challenges her association with the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment. With no factual basis he simply asserts we are “… one of Big Oil’s most active front organizations.” Years of data show he is wrong.

Here is FREE’s funding for 2013:

  • Approximately 96 percent of FREE’s 2013 income came from independent foundations, 0 percent from corporations and 4 percent from individuals.
  • FREE’s five largest 2013 donors were all foundations and gave a total of $140,000. The year 2012 was similar and our 990s are available for the asking. Mr. Gill didn’t.

We describe FREE’s funding on our website, then have this offer: “Please email us at: ofdesk@free-eco.org if you would like to request a copy of FREE’s 990.”

FREE has always disclosed its funding; the great majority is from “dead man” foundations.

In 1985, when founding FREE, I was one of three academic members of the National Petroleum Council. In that capacity, I naturally had many good contacts with energy executives.

In the 1980s, FREE received some funding from companies whose officers I knew well. The record indicates these funds have always been a small minority of our total funding.

FREE has consistently held the anti-corporate subsidies position: It’s prominent on our website: “FREE has consistently fought corporate subsidies (see ‘A Welfare Act for U.S. Oil’ (in the Wall Street Journal) and ‘Spare That Tree’ (in Forbes)) fostering exploitation and strongly advocates such efforts as wolf reintroduction to the federal lands of the West. The intellectually na├»ve confuse FREE’s classical liberal, pro-market process orientation with that advocated by supporters of a subsidized, pro-business position that exploits the environment.”

Judge Ray Randolph, of the D.C. Circuit, has dealt with charges about the propriety of FREE’s programs, charges such as Gill’s. Randolph explicitly discusses FREE’s programs in Litigation, Fall 2002, Volume 29, No. 3, pages 3-6. Judge Randolph also cites In re Aguinda, 241 F.3d 194 (2d Cir. 2001) granting approval of programs such as ours and George Mason University’s. At the time of writing, Judge Randolph was head of the Federal Judicial Ethics Committee.

Mr. Gill did not contact us regarding FREE’s funding or the “lavish Montana junkets” he alleged we offer conference participants.

These are modest indeed, less than $150 per day for all hotel and dining expenses. Participants pay for extras such as fishing or hiking guides.

Mr. Gill unjustly attacks a courageous, loyal and honorable federal judge, Joy Clement. A gentleman would apologize and correct.

John Baden

Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment

Gallatin Gateway, Mont.