The name Rockefeller has a special place in cultural lore. Over the years its been linked to everything from American ingenuity and industriousness to unbridled greed; from unimaginable wealth to unrivaled philanthropic work. But one thing the Rockefeller name's never really been associated with is anti-business activism. How could it?
John. D. Rockefeller was the most successful American businessman of all time. Scratch that: he was probably the most successful businessman anywhere of all time. With a sprawling oil and industrial empire, his net worth peaked at an astonishing $700 billion in today's dollars. No entrepreneur has ever made as much. Not even close. Bill Gates is worth, by comparison, $59 billion. Warren Buffett: $39 billion. Rockefeller's monopoly over American business was so dominant and powerful that the U.S. government stepped in and actually made him break it up and sell it off.
But his fortune lives on, and today, believe it or not, his heirs are spending it attacking business. That's easy for them: they already have their wealth. They don't need the opportunities and prosperity that a robust business climate brings. You know how it goes: A developer is someone who wants to build a house in the woods. An environmentalist is someone who already has a house in the woods.
The Rockefeller heirs already have their houses, likely lots of them, and yachts, and planes, and fleets of luxury automobiles -- and so, naturally, they've decided to become environmentalists. Not just your average bicycle-riding, toilet-paper composting, solar-powered-shower environmentalists. That would require that they be the ones making sacrifices. Instead, they've got a network of eco-lobbyists to fight against Canadian businesses. It seems they want us to be the ones making the sacrifices to make them feel less guilty about being heirs to a billion-dollar oil fortune.
In 2008, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund called together a gaggle of Canadian charities -- groups, remember, that are supported by our government through special tax-break subsidies -- to plan a coordinated attack on Canada's oil industry. We know about it not because these groups have let us in on their plans. They're never as transparent as the publicly-traded, heavily regulated oil companies they've devoted themselves to attacking. We know about it because someone leaked a 48-page PowerPoint presentation from the meeting.
Thanks to work from Vancouver researcher Vivian Krause, as well as the OurDecision.ca awareness campaign launched in January by EthicalOil.org, and the increased willingness lately of the Prime Minister and the Natural Resource Minister to speak out, Canadians have in the last few weeks woken up to the reality that foreign groups are using their power and wealth to infiltrate and hijack our regulatory processes using front groups here in Canada. But the Rockefeller Brothers meeting shows that this has been the plan for years. And a well-funded plan, at that: The New York strategists would spend tens of millions of dollars to fund their attack on Canadian industry.
The presentation makes no bones about what the groups were colluding to do: "Stop" pipeline and refinery development connected to the oil sands; to impose a "moratorium" on oil sands production; to "leverage" the controversy over Canada's oil sands to lobby for changes in government policy; to "raise the financial risks" by making it increasingly perilous for investors to put capital into Canadian industry, and for banks to back it; and to instigate lawsuits, not over any specific, legitimate legal grievance, but as a nuisance to deliberately mess up and slow down industry plans. If Canadians discovered a document outlining the Chinese government's secret plans to freeze our economic development by funding nuisance lawsuits and scaring off investors, it would be an international incident. When American foreign billionaires plan to do it, anti-oil charities line up to get a piece of the cash.
The presentation is a call to arms, and so, naturally, it drips with propaganda. It exaggerates the environmental impact of our oil development. It ignores the strict regulation and laws that require companies to return whatever land they disturb in Alberta back to their natural state. It calls Canadian oil a "globally significant threat," as if we were Iran producing nuclear weapons with our oil revenues, and not, in reality, using it to fund schools and hospitals and social programs for people in need.
But all that wild spin and fabrication was hardly necessary. Eric Swanson from the Dogwood Initiative, who took $60,000 in foreign money (but not from Rockefeller) in exchange for bogging down the public hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, designed to take oil from Alberta to B.C., admits he'll take money from anybody who's willing to pay him. (Sources for money here, here and here). The Rockefellers didn't need to convince Swanson (who was not at the meeting), or the lobbyists gathered at that New York meeting, to attack Canada's industry and economy. They just needed to start writing some big, fat cheques. And that's exactly what they've been doing, buying influence that harms Canada's economy since 2008. Four years after the Rockefeller Brothers fund launched their plot that harms Canada, it's about time that Canadians woke up to the threat.