Leonardo DiCaprio’s charitable foundation made grants to a dark money group, which in turn funneled money to a law firm spearheading climate harassment lawsuits nationwide, emails verified by Fox News Digital show.
Correspondence in 2017 between Dan Emmett, a major philanthropist, and Ann Carlson — a climate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) — revealed that the two worked with the law firm Sher Edling to raise money for their efforts to sue oil companies over allegations of climate change deception on behalf of state and local governments, according to the emails obtained by monitoring group Government Accountability & Oversight (GAO) and shared with Fox News Digital.
In their emails, Emmett and Carlson discuss how Chuck Savitt, Sher Edling’s director of strategic client relations, had sought Emmett’s support and had already received support from Terry Tamminen in his role as CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a position he held between 2016 and 2016 2019 When the emails were exchanged, Carlson, who is now a senior official in the Biden administration, was serving 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 has been a key supporter in his new role at the DiCaprio Foundation.”
Emmett also forwarded a message Savitt sent him three days earlier on July 19, 2022, requesting his support, according to the records. Savitt mentioned in that email that Sher Edling’s first lawsuits were filed with support from the Collective Action Fund for Accountability, Resilience and Adaptation, a fund then managed by the Dark Money Group Resources Legacy Fund (RLF).
“I wanted you to know that on Monday we filed the first three lawsuits supported by the Collective Action Fund,” Savitt had told Emmett. “These precedents call on 37 of the world’s leading fossil fuel companies to take responsibility for the devastating damage that sea level rise — caused by their greenhouse gas emissions — is inflicting on coastal communities.”
Savitt also offered to set up a meeting between Emmett and Vic Sher, a partner at Sher Edling.
The email correspondence came two months before the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation made a public announcement that it would donate $20 million in grants to various climate and conservation projects. The group’s announcement, which has since been deleted but remains archived, included a grant to the RLF “in support of precedent-setting legal action to hold large corporations in the fossil fuel industry liable,” accurately reflecting Savitt’s language.
“These grantees are active on the ground, protecting our oceans, forests and endangered species for future generations — and addressing the urgent, existential challenges of climate change,” DiCaprio said at the time.
Tamminen added that the organization believes it “must do as much as it can now before it’s too late.” Sher Edling was not mentioned in the announcement.
In February 2018, months after the initial email exchange, Emmett Carlson said she could mention to other potential donors that he and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation are now “serious supporters” of Sher Edling’s ongoing lawsuit. The proposal came after Carlson asked 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’re an advisor, that the science is there, that if it succeeds, it could do more for the environment than anything,” 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 also made contributions to the Collective Action Fund since 2017.
Sher Edling’s website states that the firm is specifically committed to representing “states, cities, public entities and corporations in high-impact, high-value environmentally relevant cases.” Since the first cases in July 2017 — filed on behalf of one city and two counties in California — Sher Edling has sued major oil companies on behalf of Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Baltimore, Honolulu and several local governments across the country claiming the companies have misled the public about climate change.
Most of the cases are ongoing, with two involving San Francisco and Oakland, Calfornia, pending appeal before a federal panel.
“Obviously, the donors — including DiCaprio — created multiple alleged gun lengths,” Chris Horner, an attorney representing GAO in the email case, told Fox News Digital in an interview.
“This model used a few pass-throughs that DiCaprio and it appears Dan Emmett and others were able to direct through, including the DiCaprio Foundation and the Resources Legacy Fund, and they are not considered to have funded the attack,” added Horner added.
In total, RLF contributed more than $5.2 million to Sher Edling between 2017 and 2020, according to the group’s tax returns for the period. The organization does not disclose its donors and declined to confirm from whom it previously received money to help fund Sher Edling’s lawsuit.
“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 provide to consumers and the public about their products’ role in causing climate change spread,” RLF spokesman Mark Kleinman told Fox News Digital in an email.
“RLF receives support from many funding bodies, and its board and staff make all decisions about where the funds go,” the spokesperson continued.
Experts have previously raised concerns about the source of Sher Edling’s funding for his climate lawsuit.
Michael Krauss, law professor emeritus at George Mason University, mentioned in a 2020 Forbes article the arrangement whereby Sher Edling receives a payout from the places he represents if his cases are successful, while also receiving tax-exempt funds Groups, thereby eliminating some of the risk associated with taking on such cases.
“Can a non-profit organization direct donations to a for-profit law firm that has already established another form of compensation?” Krause wrote. “May a law firm that could be fabulously enriched on a contingent basis ethically accept funding that will be paid whether the client gets his way or not?”
“If litigation legislation is bad, what about litigation legislation that is subsidized by taxpayers through charitable donations? We don’t have all the answers to those questions yet,” he continued. “I think we deserve it.”
Emmett, Tamminen, Sabin and the Earth Alliance, an organization that amalgamated the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 2019, did not respond to requests for comment.
https://nypost.com/2022/08/15/leonardo-dicaprio-funneled-grants-through-dark-money-group-to-fund-climate-nuisance-lawsuits/ Leonardo DiCaprio funneled grants through a dark money group to fund climate harassment lawsuits