Chesapeake Energy Sends Mixed Signals on Future Mega-Million Gifts to Environmental Radicals
CEO Aubrey McClendon Called $26 Million Gift to Sierra Club a Great Investment
But as Observers Wonder if Chesapeake Inadvertently Funded 'Beyond Natural Gas,' Company Insiders Privately Signal the Era of Backing the Environmental Left is Over
Sierra Club Asked to Disclose Donors to 'Beyond Natural Gas'
Oklahoma City, OK / Washington, D.C. - In response to a grilling by National Center for Public Policy Research President David Ridenour at his company's annual shareholder meeting today, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon defended his decision to give the anti-energy Sierra Club $26 million in gifts to fund a "Beyond Coal" campaign attack on the coal industry.
The Sierra Club then announced a companion campaign, "Beyond Natural Gas."
Chesapeake Energy is the nation's second-largest natural gas producer.
"I asked Mr. McClendon if in retrospect it was a mistake to provide this funding," said Ridenour. "He said no. He said the natural gas industry is in a battle with coal for market share and over the past year over a hundred coal-fired power plants have been stopped, so he considered the $26 million a great investment. He then went on to trash coal as being 'dirty.'"
Ridenour also asked McClendon what accounting procedures he had required when donating the $26 million so that Chesapeake could be sure that the funds donated for "Beyond Coal" were used exclusively for "Beyond Coal," and are not now being used for "Beyond Natural Gas."
"In Mr. McClendon's response to the question about how the money was spent, he said he hoped that it had been spent for 'Beyond Coal,'" Ridenour reported. "As a non-profit executive myself, I know that well-managed corporate grant programs typically have stipulations that all grant funds will be used for the purpose for which they were donated, and all remaining grant funds will be returned to the corporation. Based on Mr. McClendon's reply, there is no indication that this standard was upheld in this case, so, based on what Mr. McClendon said today, it is unclear whether Chesapeake Energy funds were available for the Sierra Club's use for 'Beyond Natural Gas.'"
"Mr. McClendon's presentation included discussion of how important natural gas is because over 99 percent of it comes from North America, and it is energy that isn't from the Mideast," Ridenour added. "And yet, when he was defending his donations to the Sierra Club, he bragged about how successful they'd been in shutting down hundreds of coal-fired power plant projects - and coal is a domestic energy source."
"I can't help thinking that Aubrey McClendon had been Neville Chamberlain, he not only would have told Hitler, 'go ahead and take the Sudetenland,' but he also would have paid for some tanks."
Despite McClendon's confidence in the rightness of his approach, company insiders Ridenour is meeting with confidentially while in Oklahoma City have led Ridenour to believe that future gifts to radical environmental groups will not be forthcoming from Chesapeake.
"Mr. McClendon is happy he gave money to the left to attack the fossil fuel industry," said Ridenour, "but I know for a fact this opinion is not held company-wide."
"Mr. McClendon largely ignored my question, 'By funding "Beyond Coal," did you not unnecessarily pick a fight with another fossil fuel industry that now will have every incentive to fund "Beyond Natural Gas"?,'" Ridenour added. "It would be darkly amusing if the coal industry did turn out to be funding 'Beyond Natural Gas,' and DID have a stipulation in its grant contract limiting the use of the gift to fighting Mr. McClendon's industry."
Ridenour continued, "Since the Sierra Club has been used as a corporate tool in the past, there is no reason to believe that it isn't being used as one now, so we call upon it to fully disclose who is underwriting 'Beyond Natural Gas.' If the Sierra Club won't say who is funding its anti-natural gas campaign, we probably can assume there is a conflict of interest in there somewhere."
"As a representative of a Chesapeake shareholder and an employee of another shareholder, I'm not thrilled that Mr. McClendon gave money to an activist group dedicated to the company's destruction," Ridenour concluded, "but I'm even less happy as an American. Energy independence is important to national security, and low-cost energy is important to American jobs and prosperity. We shouldn't be fighting things that are good for us."
David Ridenour's questions for Mr. McClendon, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.
An earlier National Center press release about this shareholder meeting can be found here.
Ridenour is attending the meeting as the official representative of an individual Chesapeake shareholder. The National Center for Public Policy Research is also a Chesapeake shareholder.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank established in 1982. It is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters. In 2011 it received over 350,000 individual donations. Two percent of its revenue comes from corporate sources. Contributions to it are tax-deductible.