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Government for hire: Washington contracted to green nonprofit

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. (AP)
LISTEN: Wall Street Journal Writer who broke the Inslee climate scandal, Jillian Melchior

The Wall Street Journal’s scrutiny of Washington Governor Jay Insee’s office continues after new details were revealed about policy advisor Reed Schuler.

“Basically, what we found out is that the World Resources Institute, which is a green nonprofit, and the Hewlett Foundation — which has invested massively in the green climate change agenda — is paying his salary; is paying his benefits, and paying his expenses,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jillian Kay Melchior told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “… I think that’s really concerning because this is a guy who holds an influential policy position and he is being paid, not by the taxpayers.”

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“I haven’t seen something like this before,” she said. “Basically, there is a contract that exists between the green group, the World Resources Institute, and Washington state. Washington state is the contractor. It commits to providing a scope of work, activities, and deliverables to advance a green agenda. Both the nonprofit and the state, they are not dictating specific policy outcomes. On the other hand … the State of Washington sends a bill every quarter to cover Mr. Schuler’s salary, his benefits, and expenses. Along with this invoice, it provides the nonprofit a progress report … this man who is paid by a nonprofit, an outside special interest group, is in a policy position. I think that raises a real concern.”

In a recent opinion piece by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board titled “Climate of Unaccountability,” the newspaper chronicles a behind-the-scenes deal between Governor Inslee’s office and The World Resources Institute. Both Inslee and the institute share a mission to address environmental issues, including climate change. But one might assume that governments contract out to organizations such as WRI for expertise and assistance. In this case, the institute has hired Inslee’s public office, paying for Schuler’s salary, according to emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

The institute is a nonprofit with offices around the globe, including Washington DC. Its purpose is to “promote environmental sustainability, economic opportunity, and human health and well-being,” according to its website.

In response to the story by the Wall Street Journal, Governor Inslee’s office provided this statement:

No one should be surprised that the Wall Street Journal editorial page doesn’t support the governor’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution. The page isn’t known for reasoned arguments and in the words of one former WSJ editor, has ‘gone full bats—t’ in its backing of Donald Trump. There’s nothing more to their attacks on sensible climate policy than there was on the paper’s deep, dark dive into the Vince Foster murder conspiracies.

As to the use of philanthropic funds, we are happy that public/private partnerships allow us to fill critical gaps. This is the same mechanism that many news organizations use and, just like the Seattle Times, for example, we “operate independently of our funders” and maintain full control over the work of our staff.

In regards to Reed Schuler, as I said to the Wall Street Journal, he is a Washington state employee who is subject to the same legal and ethical requirements as any other state employee.

The news comes shortly after Inslee’s state of the state speech, where Inslee urged Washington lawmakers to pass a carbon tax.

Beyond the World Resources Institute

Melchior further argues that the deal is concerning because of the Hewlett Foundation’s participation. The foundation promotes progressive politics and provides funding to WRI.

“The Hewitt Foundation is ultimately funding this,” Melchior said. “When I asked Washington state … they just knew that the Hewlett Foundation had given WRI a grant at some point … (in emails) Chris Davis, Mr. Inslee’s climate advisor, talks about how Hewlett is paying for Reed Schuler to work in the shop for 12 months.”

“I think they are not being upfront about Hewlett’s role in this,” she said. “They are saying they don’t know about Hewlett, but we are saying that Hewlett money is passing through WRI, a green nonprofit, an ends up funding a policymaker in the governor’s office. That would raise concerns even if they were being transparent.”

The Wall Street Journal argues that the Hewlett Foundation’s role is suspect in the same manner that the Koch brothers’ meddling in Republican politics draws scrutiny.

Climate of Inslee’s office

The contract between Inslee’s office and the World Resources Institute comes on the heels of additional coverage by the Wall Street Journal revealing the commuting habits of Inslee’s climate advisor Chris Davis, who is commuting to his job in Washington state from Morocco.

“It’s kind of a classic hypocrisy tale,” Melchior told Dori on Thursday. “You’ve got Governor Inslee saying climate change is an existential crisis. He had some rather dramatic tweets the other day saying we only had 59 days to save our children from an endless cycle of crop-killing droughts and rivers spilling over their banks. And one of his top climate advisors is commuting, and not just commuting from anywhere. It’s a carbon-intensive commute because he is commuting from Morocco.”

The details of Davis’ commute from Marrakesh was revealed in a Wall Street Journal editorial titled “The Marrakesh Climate Express.”  The opinion piece was authored by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which includes Melchior and based on emails from the governor’s office obtained by Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Melchior argues that the cost of a couple of Davis’ airplane commutes between Morocco and Washington have cost taxpayers at least $6,000. More than 4,500 lbs of carbon were released into the atmosphere on just one trip from Marrakesh to New York, and then to Washington.

 

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