The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: Investing Millions in Climate Activism Globally – and in Alaska

The story of the Outside money behind the Yes campaign for Ballot Measure 1 starts with Outside foundations.  In our last post, we covered the role of the New Venture Fund.  In this update, we’re looking at the Hewlett Foundation.  If the New Venture Fund is the operative, the Hewlett Foundation is the money man.

Of the money that New Venture Fund used to establish Salmon State, the California-based Hewlett Foundation contributed at least $400,000 between2016 and 2017. Known for its extreme eco-activism such as promoting population control as a means of curbing carbon output, the Hewlett Foundation also sent $100,000 in 2017 to the Wild Salmon Center, which is one of the largest out-of-state supporters of the ballot initiative. The Foundation has also made headlines recently when, according to an investigation and documents uncovered by the Wall Street Journal, it was revealed that it was paying the salary of the climate advisor to Washington state Governor Jay Inslee.

The Hewlett Foundation has a long and sordid history of this type of work. In 2014, it was criticized by UK and Canadian government officials for attempting to influence local policymakers by investing in local environmental “front groups” to support their agenda. A newspaper investigation found Hewlett and other foreign donors formed a “green blob” which was influencing environmental policies which increased energy costs for the average consumer. The investigation found the “blob” was organized by the European Climate Foundation (ECF), which is funded by the Hewlett Foundation. The foundation also has a seat on ECF’s board.

While scandal is upsetting, William Hewlett is no stranger to controversy. In fact, just a few years ago, questions were raised about William Hewlett’s dedicated views of population control and use of “environmental issues as a means to curb and ultimately reduce human involvement in the world.” This belief appears to be deeply embedded in the Hewlett Foundation. The Hewlett Foundation’s annual report from 1997 states that “rapid population growth continues to be a significant worldwide problem.”

This may sound troubling, but it’s all in a day’s work for the Hewlett Foundation, which pledged last year to spend $600 million on climate activism between 2018 and 2023.

Some of that money is flooding into our state today, and it’s being used to sell the Alaska voting public a raw deal in the form of Ballot Measure 1.

Outside Money, In-State Influence

The New Venture Fund and Hewlett Foundation are known quantities. They set out to shape state and local policy by dumping millions of dollars into the debate, and they are not alone. The Wild Salmon Center and Moore Foundation, for instance, have been involved in campaigns around the world aimed at halting resource development. The San Francisco-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation alone has contributed more than $6.3 million to the New Venture Fund in support of wild salmon ecosystem conservation in Alaska.

Despite this massive pool of Outside foundation money, supporters of Yes for Salmon are working tirelessly – and somewhat shamelessly – to claim that opposition to Ballot Measure 1 is driven by outside influence. Given what we know about the effort’s funding, it’s quite a bold claim.

And as our future posts will make clear, foundations are only one part of the equation when it comes to Outside money in Alaska. A network of billionaires and climate activists – unified by their opposition to developing natural resources in the Arctic – is also playing a major role.