The Fund Declines to Comply with Request from Members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted on: June 1, 2016
NEW YORK, N.Y. – The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) has declined to provide documents requested by 13 Republican members of the 39-member House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (HCSST), in a letter sent on May 18, 2016. The letter was sent to the Fund and seven other nonprofit organizations, some of whom are grantees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and 17 state attorneys general, who have launched investigations into whether Exxon Mobil misled the public and investors about climate risk and its potential impact on its business. In a letter sent to the HCSST today, attorneys for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund have declined to comply with the request, invoking the Fund’s First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association.
“The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, like many philanthropies, supports work to address the root causes of some of the world’s most urgent and persistent problems, including climate change,” said Stephen Heintz, the Fund’s president. “Since the mid-1980s, we have been proud to collaborate with partners in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to increase public and policymaker understanding of climate change, develop alternative public policies, and encourage the rapid shift to a clean energy economy. As part of this body of work, the RBF has supported efforts to encourage private companies to assess how climate change risks may impact their future business. There is no ‘collusion’ as asserted in the letter from the 13 members of Congress—only open and routine cooperation between funders and their grantees,” Heintz said.
As a steward of the public trust, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund is committed to sharing information to promote understanding of its mission and to advance the work of its grantees. The RBF values transparency, openness, and accountability, and provides information about every grant awarded since 2003 on its website, along with details about its program strategies, governance, operations, and finances.
However, the letter from the members of Congress goes well beyond the norms of transparency and openness and violates basic Constitutional rights. In their response to the committee members, attorneys representing the Fund asserted that “the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has a fundamental right to keep private the particular communications sought by the Committee members. The letter seeks internal documents and communications relating to the support for litigation provided by foundations and public charities. Support of litigation is a form of expression and association that is protected by the First Amendment.”
Sustainable development has long been a grantmaking priority of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Over the past five years, the Fund has given approximately $60 million to work related to combating climate change, representing 41% of its overall grantmaking for the period. Grants support efforts to build public and policymaker understanding and support for actions to address the threat of climate change; build a clean energy economy at the federal, state, and local levels; and reduce reliance on carbon intensive energy sources. In 2014, the Fund announced its plans to divest from fossil fuels and align its endowment with private sector solutions to climate change, including investments in renewable energy resources and energy efficiency.
“The climate crisis is the most urgent challenge of this century, with profound consequences for our planet and the very vitality of human civilization,” Heintz said. “We will continue to support those nonprofit organizations we believe are leading the way to a sustainable and just, low-carbon future.”
About the Rockefeller Brothers Fund
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is a private, family foundation whose mission is to advance social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.
It was created in 1940 by the sons of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller—John 3rd, Nelson, Winthrop, Laurance, and David—as a vehicle by which they could share advice and research on charitable activities and coordinate their philanthropic efforts to better effect. Abby “Babs” Rockefeller Mauzé, their eldest child and only daughter, joined the RBF’s board in 1954.
The Fund has six grantmaking programs that reflect the board and staff’s assessment of the challenges facing today’s increasingly interdependent world. Three thematic programs support work in the United States and at the global level: Democratic Practice, Sustainable Development, and Peacebuilding; and two pivotal place programs address these themes in specific contexts: Southern China and the Western Balkans. The Charles E. Culpeper Arts & Culture program, focused on New York, nurtures a vibrant and inclusive arts community in the Fund’s home city.
For press inquiries, please contact:
Katarina Yee, Communications Manager
Rockefeller Brothers Fund