Leonardo DiCaprio funneled grants through a black money group to fund climate nuisance lawsuits

Leonardo DiCaprio’s nonprofit foundation gave grants to a black money group which, in turn, funneled money to a law firm carrying out climate nuisance lawsuits across the country, according to emails reviewed by Fox News Digital.

Correspondence between Dan Emmett, a major philanthropist, and Ann Carlson – climate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – in 2017 revealed that the two were working with law firm Sher Edling to raise funds for his efforts to sue oil companies for alleged climate change deception on behalf of states and local governments, according to emails obtained by the watchdog group Government Accountability & Oversight (GAO) and shared with Fox News Digital .

In their emails, Emmett and Carlson discuss how Chuck Savitt, Director of Strategic Client Relations at Sher Edling, sought Emmett’s support and had previously received support from Terry Tamminen in his role as CEO of the Foundation. Leonardo DiCaprio, a title he held between 2016 and 2019. When the emails were exchanged, Carlson, who is now a senior Biden administration official, served as co-director of the UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment, the advisory board that Emmett still chairs.

« Chuck Savitt, who leads this new organization behind the lawsuits, has sought our support, » Emmett wrote to Carlson on July 22, 2017. « Terry Tamminen, in his new role at the DiCaprio Foundation, has been a key supporter. »

Emmett also forwarded a message Savitt sent him three days earlier, on July 19, 2022, asking for his support, records show. Savitt mentioned in that email that Sher Edling’s first lawsuits were filed with the support of the Collective Action Fund for Accountability, Resilience and Adaptation, a fund managed at the time by the group of Black Money Resources Legacy Fund (RLF).

« I wanted to let you know that we filed the first three lawsuits supported by the Class Action Fund on Monday, » Savitt had told Emmett. « These precedent-setting cases call on 37 of the world’s leading fossil fuel companies to take responsibility for the devastating damage that rising sea levels – caused by their greenhouse gas emissions – are causing to coastal communities. »

Savitt also offered to arrange a meeting between Emmett and Vic Sher, a partner of Sher Edling.

The email correspondence took place two months before the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation publicly announced that it would be giving $20 million in grants to various climate and conservation-related causes. The group’s announcement, which has since been deleted but remains archived, included a grant to the RLF « to support precedent-setting legal actions to hold big corporations in the fossil fuel industry accountable », closely mirroring the language of Savitt.

“These grantees are active on the ground, protecting our oceans, forests and endangered species for future generations – and tackling the urgent and existential challenges of climate change,” DiCaprio said at the time.

Tamminen added that the organization believes it must « do everything we can now, before it’s too late. » The ad did not mention Sher Edling.

In February 2018, months after the initial email exchange, Emmett told Carlson she could mention to other potential donors that he and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation were now « serious supporters » of the litigation in Sher Edling course. The suggestion came after Carlson asked her if she should ask New York philanthropist Andy Sabin to support the effort.

« You can tell him that Terry’s organization and I are both serious supporters, that you are an advisor, that the science is there, that it could do more for the environment than anything else if she succeeds, » Emmett said in the email. Carlson.

In addition to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and the Emmett Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the JPB Foundation have contributed to the Class Action Fund since 2017.

Sher Edling’s website says the firm is specifically dedicated to representing « states, cities, public agencies, and corporations in high-impact, high-value environmental cases. » Since his first cases in July 2017 – filed on behalf of a city and two counties in California – Sher Edling has sued major oil companies on behalf of Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New York, Washington DC, from San Francisco, Baltimore and Honolulu. and several local governments across the country, alleging the companies misled the public about climate change.

Most of the cases are pending with two, involving San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., on appeal to a federal panel.

« Clearly, the donors have created – including DiCaprio – several alleged arm’s length relationships, » Chris Horner, an attorney who represented the GAO in the email case, told Fox News Digital in an interview.

« This model used a few relays, through which DiCaprio and, it seems, Dan Emmett and others could run things, including DiCaprio’s foundation and the Resources Legacy Fund, and they are not considered funding the ‘assault,’ Horner added.

Overall, the RLF paid more than $5.2 million to Sher Edling between 2017 and 2020, according to the group’s tax returns over that period. The organization does not disclose its donors and declined to confirm who it had previously received money from to fund Sher Edling’s litigation.

The actor is known for his active efforts to raise awareness about climate change.
Getty Images for Turner

« From 2017 to 2020, Sher Edling received grants from RLF to pursue charitable activities to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the accuracy of the information they released to consumers and the public about the role their products have played in climate change, » an RLF spokesperson said. Mark Kleinman told Fox News Digital in an email.

“RLF receives support from many funding entities, and its board and staff make all decisions about where funding goes,” the spokesperson continued.

Experts have previously raised concerns about Sher Edling’s source of funding for its climate litigation.

Michael Krauss, professor of law emeritus at George Mason University, noted in a 2020 Forbes article the arrangement in which Sher Edling receives payment from the localities he represents if his cases are successful while receiving funding from corporations. tax exempt. groups, thereby eliminating some of the risks associated with handling such cases.

« Can a non-profit organization channel donations to a for-profit law firm that has already determined some other form of compensation? » Kraus wrote. “Can a law firm, which could get fabulously rich on a contingent basis, ethically accept funding that is paid out whether the client wins or not?

“If legislation through litigation is bad, what about legislation through litigation subsidized by taxpayers through charitable donations? We don’t have all the answers to these questions yet,” he continued. « I think we deserve them. »

Emmett, Tamminen, Sabin and Earth Alliance, an organization that encompassed the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 2019, did not respond to requests for comment.


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