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ALERT: high-level right wing campaign targets RAN, other peaceful groups

Rainforest Action Network, a very effective progressive nonprofit on the forefront of the battle against neo-liberal capitalism, is being attacked by a high-level right wing anti-environmentalist campaign that includes politicians like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and corporations like Boise Cascade.

If RAN goes down, it will mark open season on radical progressive advocacy and activism.
Please read this message from RAN and to what you can to help.

----- Original Message -----
From: Patrick Reinsborough
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2001 11:36 AM
Subject: RAN targeted by right wing anti-environmentalist campaign TAKE ACTION!

Although this post does not pertain specifically to the U'wa we thought people supporting the U'wa would want to know about this issue since it has implications not only for RAN's work but the work of all activist organizations who use non-violent direct action in the work for social and environmental justice. Additionally although it appears that the attack is orchestrated by timber giant Boise Cascade, the role of other corporations like Occidental Petroleum is certainly not out of the question.

In this Post -
1. ACTION ALERT! Defend the right to protest! Stop Boise Cascade!
2. Rainforest Action Network Press Release
3. SF Chronicle : June 21 Attack on tax status of environmental group
4. Wall Street Journal : June 21 Conservatives Seek IRS Inquiry On Environmental Group's Status.



As part of a propaganda campaign funding directly by global forest destroyer Boise Cascade (and who knows who else - RAN has lots of corporate enemies)two right wing think tanks have launched an orchestrated campaign against RAN. These two groups, Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise run by anti-enviro PR king Ron Arnold and Frontiers of Freedom Institute(FF)founded by retired Senator Malcolm "strip mine" Wallop are notoriously anti-environmental front groups for the timber and oil industries. The campaign began last fall with the launch of an attack site www.ranamuck.org, has involved contacting Boise Cascade customers and RAN funders and even a June 13th Congressional forum entitled "Eco-Terrorism and Extremism" in which Arnold and others attempted to link RAN with property destruction and the "Earth Liberation Front". Now Frontiers of Freedom has filed a petition to the IRS requesting that RAN's tax-exempt 501c3 status be revoked.

The Congressional forum involved attacks on lots of environmental groups but particularly highlighted RAN. To quote FF's press release "Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the non-profit think tank, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, will spotlight the Rainforest Action Network as an attack group not an environmental group. He will present RAN's anti-capitalist and anti-corporate agenda of force, intimidation and unlawful actions. Arnold will also show suspicious links between RAN's rhetoric and Earth Liberation Front acts." Other speakers at the forum included Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) and FBI experts.

These accusations are ridiculous - RAN is dedicated to exclusively non-violent means and does not engage in nor advocate property destruction. This campaign is a desperate attempt by pro-logging factions to discredit RAN and undermine the successful work of the grassroots forest protection movement. It is the frantic gasps of the timber industry who has sunk to misinformation and smear campaigns to hide their wholesale liquidation of the world's remaining forests.

Frontiers of Freedom makes it clear this is a test case and if successful they will challenge the tax-exempt status of other environmental and social justice groups. They are attacking the basic rights of citizens to engage in free speech and peaceful protest. We must unite to let Boise Cascade know that we will not let them get away with this blatant effort to silence the voices of forest defenders.

PLEASE VISIT http://www.ran.org/info_center/aa/boiseattacks.html TO TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT ALL OF OUR FREE SPEECH RIGHTS. Send a letter to Boise and tell them that instead of trying to silence non-violent forest advocates their should use their money to transform their destructive forest operations.

Congratulations everyone! These attacks are coming about because of the successful work of the entire grassroots forest defense movement to challenge the power of massive corporations to destroy the Earth. That means they're scared. And why are they scared? Because we're winning! Grassroots non-violent direct action campaigns are succeeding in protecting forests! However let's all be vigilant. These types of attacks are serious and they are meant to scare activists away from our work of publicly and non-violently defending the forests. Show them you've got nothing to hide by keeping up all the great work everyone!

"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come" - Victor Hugo

#2 Press release from Rainforest Action Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 20, 2001 CONTACT: Shannon Wright, 415-398-4404 or Erin Malec, 415-255-1946

Logging Giant Boise Cascade and Anti-Environment Activists on the Attack Against Rainforest Action Network

Free Speech and World's Remaining Old Growth Forests Threatened by Boise Cascade

Wise Use Movement's Ron Arnold and Frontiers of Freedom Institute Have Petitioned IRS, Begun Political and Media Campaigns __________________________________

San Francisco - Anti-environmental activists stepped up the campaign against Rainforest Action Network (RAN) by requesting that the Internal Revenue Service repeal RAN's non-profit status. The campaign may be the extension of efforts by Boise Cascade - the embattled logging giant responsible for clear-cutting National Forests in the U.S. - to smear RAN for its successful campaign protecting forests by reducing consumer demand for products made from old-growth wood. Recently Boise sent threatening letters to many of RAN's funders.

RAN's work pressuring Home Depot and other lumber chains to stop buying wood made from old-growth forests led to a deal brokered by the Canadian government to save a huge swath of the "Great Bear" rainforest. It was one of the largest temperate rainforest conservation deals in history. Recently RAN has been running a high-profile campaign urging Boise Cascade to cease its clear-cut logging on public forests in the U.S. Boise Cascade was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the historic ban on new road building in National Forests.

"The timber industry is attacking not just RAN, but the First Amendment itself," said Chris Hatch, RAN's Executive Director. "Boise Cascade is attacking RAN because we have exposed its destruction of the world's last remaining old growth rainforests. As for the anti-environment activists, they are trying to scare our funders. Let there be no doubt: the work to protect our forests will not only continue, but escalate."

"If it were up to these folks, they would have taken away Martin Luther King's church's status," commented Drummond Pike, Presidents of the Tides Foundation. "As a funder, there can be no greater affirmation that I am funding the right outfit as to see the old growth logging industry so desperate and sinking to dirty tricks."

"This is a major abuse of the IRS process and an attack on the free speech rights of Rainforest Action Network," said Jim Wheaton, a Senior Attorney with the First Amendment Project (FAP), a non-profit, public interest law firm that defends individuals, civic organizations, journalists and media organizations involved in petition and free speech cases. "There's no basis for the claims these anti-environmental activists are making. The IRS laws are designed to protect against felony abuse - not misdemeanor trespass offenses committed in a campaign to expose forest destruction."

"This appears to be a desperate attempt by Boise Cascade - which lost $35.5 million during the first quarter of this year - to blame RAN for its problems," added Hatch. "The fact of the matter is that ordinary citizens are rejecting Boise's clear cut destruction of the world's remaining old-growth forests. A recent L.A. Times poll found that nine out of ten Americans believe protections for wilderness is important, and six out of ten support a halt to road building in National Forests."

Two right wing activist groups are behind an orchestrated campaign against RAN. The "Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise," headed by anti-environmentalist for-hire Ron Arnold, and the "Frontiers of Freedom Institute," founded by retired Wyoming Senator Malcolm Wallop. Ron Arnold's attack website, ranamuck.org, contains much of the same information, including quotations, cited by Boise Cascade in a series of intimidating letters it sent to environmental foundations. Already defensive, Arnold claims on his site that his attack on RAN "is not a question of stifling their free speech rights."

Ron Arnold is a well-known anti-environmental activist. Here are a few of the statements he has made to the media: ? "We want to destroy environmentalists by taking away their money and their members" (New York Times, Dec 19, 1991) ? "We are sick to death of environmentalism and so we will destroy it." (Boston Globe, Jan 13, 1992)

On June 13, Wallop organized a forum on "Eco-Terrorism and Extremism" whose sole purpose appears to have been to smear RAN by falsely linking it with groups associated with property destruction and arson. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) spoke at the event.

A press release issued by Frontiers of Freedom said that "Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the non-profit think tank, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, will spotlight the Rainforest Action Network as an attack group not an environmental group. He will present RAN's anti-capitalist and anti-corporate agenda of force, intimidation and unlawful actions. Arnold will also show suspicious links between RAN's rhetoric and Earth Liberation Front acts."

"RAN is a strictly non-violent organization. We don't advocate or engage in property destruction of any kind," said Shannon Wright, RAN's Communications Director. "RAN has a track record of working productively to transform major corporations such as Home Depot, Lowe's and other Fortune 500 companies that have stopped buying wood products made from the world's remaining old-growth forests."


For more information about Boise Cascade's links to the current campaign against RAN check out : http://www.ran.org/ran_campaigns/old_growth/isboisebehind.html

#3 San Francisco Chronicle

Attack on tax status of environment group Conservatives ask IRS for new ruling

Glen Martin, Chronicle Environment Writer

Thursday, June 21, 2001

In a move that could hobble environmental protests, a conservative lobbying organization has petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to rescind nonprofit status for a San Francisco environmental group.

Environmentalists say a positive ruling by the IRS would have a chilling effect on nonprofit organizations that sometimes engage in lobbying or protests.

The unusual action by the Frontiers of Freedom Institute in Arlington, Va., against Rainforest Action Network (RAN) could represent a new strategy by conservative groups alarmed by recent large-scale protests against world trade and multinational corporations.

Rainforest Action Network specializes in public campaigns against companies the group believes are involved in the destructive logging of old-growth forests or selling products from such forests.

The Frontiers of Freedom Institute has requested that the IRS revoke the 501(c)(3) status of Rainforest Action. Such status means that an organization is tax-exempt and that all contributions made to it are tax deductible.

"They basically contend that because some members of Rainforest Action have participated in misdemeanor trespass (during protests), they are engaged in criminal behavior, and that (RAN) therefore deserves to be stripped of nonprofit status," said Michael Shellenberger, a spokesman for the environmental group.

The IRS can revoke 501(c)(3) status if it determines an organization spends too much money on lobbying -- generally, more than 20 percent of revenues -- or if members engage in criminal activity.

"It's a canard," Shellenberger said of the institute's contentions. "The kind of activity that would require revocation of 501(c)(3) is felonious activity -- embezzlement and the like."

Jason Wright, a spokesman for the institute, confirmed that his organization had made the request to the IRS but declined to comment further to The Chronicle, saying the story had been promised exclusively to another publication.

In March, the Frontiers of Freedom Institute issued a press release condemning Rainforest Action Network for protests held at the headquarters of Boise Cascade, a forest products company based in Boise, Idaho.

George Landrith, the institute's executive director, called Rainforest Action Network "fundamentally radical, anti-capitalist and lawless."

"American companies are the most responsible forest resource developers in the world," Landrith said. "In contrast, RAN's approach to forest resource development would cost thousands of jobs, reduce choices for consumers and achieve little environmental good."

Boise Cascade has been a primary target of Rainforest Action because of its logging activities in old-growth coniferous forests in British Columbia.

Boise Cascade spokeswoman Susan Walton said her company was not affiliated with Frontiers of Freedom.

"But we are certainly aware that some organizations are beginning to question the status of groups like RAN as charitable institutions due to their lawless activities," Walton said. "We have found (RAN) to be a group of reckless, lawless and radical activists."

Walton said three RAN members had been arrested in Boise in April for rappeling off a building during protests against the company.

"And three others were arrested in October of last year when they illegally entered our building," she said. "We're just thankful no one was hurt."

Walton said Boise Cascade had met several times with RAN staff members to discuss logging issues and would do so again, "but the first item on the agenda will have to be a correction of the mistruths they have spread on this company."

Shellenberger said Rainforest Action would survive no matter what the IRS decided. "(Frontiers of Freedom) is trying to scare our supporters, but they won't be scared," he said. "Ultimately, this will help us raise money."

But other environmental leaders deplore the development. "It's outrageous," said Carl Pope, director of the Sierra Club. "By the standard Frontiers of Freedom is trying to apply, the NAACP and other civil rights groups would have lost their tax exemptions because members participated in protests.

"I think this could have a very chilling effect on many organizations. If it goes through, we'll have very strong evidence that the Bush administration has politicized the IRS."

#4 June 21, 2001

Wall Street Journal

Conservatives Seek IRS Inquiry On Environmental Group's Status


A conservative nonprofit group backed by tobacco and oil companies is asking the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the tax-exempt status it granted Rainforest Action Network, an environmental group known for high-pressure campaigns to change corporate behavior.

The move could accelerate a war of the nonprofits, with activist groups on the right and left challenging the tax exemptions of opponents. Frontiers of Freedom, which calls itself the "antithesis" of the environmental movement, says it will challenge other environmental groups if its effort is successful.

In a letter to the IRS earlier this week, Frontiers contends that Rainforest Action is violating federal law by using tax-deductible donations to fund its advocacy campaigns. Under IRS rules, the funds are supposed to go toward "public education," but Frontiers contends that such past activities as attempting to prevent a ship from leaving port and blocking the entrance to the San Francisco offices of Mitsubishi Bank don't qualify.

Rainforest Action defends its activities. "We believe that when laws are unjust they can be broken in a symbolic way," says Executive Director Christopher Hatch. He adds that the group received a letter from the IRS in 1997 saying that it had been audited and that it continued to qualify for its tax exemption. He also says that less than 1% of the group's budget goes to picketing and other activities where laws could be broken. The group's other activities include research and more conventional forms of education on environmental issues.

The Rainforest case could boil down to how the IRS defines educational. And that isn't clear, lawyers say. Under the tax code enforced by the IRS, tax-exempt groups that support politicians or do substantial lobbying for specific legislation don't qualify for tax-deductible donations. But educational nonprofits that don't engage in activity related to partisan political campaigns can qualify for tax-deductible contributions. In addition to Rainforest Action, the latter group -- known as 501(c)(3)s for the section of the code that covers them -- includes charities and churches as well as such groups as the Trust for Public Land, the Audubon Society and the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

To determine whether groups qualify, the IRS examines the methods the organizations use to develop and present their views. Groups must present a factual foundation for their positions, and their presentations should avoid "substantial use" of disparaging and inflammatory terms, the code says. In a ruling in 1975, near the end of the Vietnam War, the IRS disqualified groups whose primary activity was sponsoring demonstrations at which participants were urged to block vehicles or pedestrians, prevent the movement of supplies or disrupt the work of government.

The Rainforest Action case "locates the issue squarely in an area where it's very indeterminate" as to where the IRS stands, says Frances Hill, a University of Miami law professor, who notes that the agency's most recent rulings on charities and political activism are nearly 20 years old.

Some lawyers who specialize in tax-exempt organizations see no problem with Rainforest Action's activities. Bruce R. Hopkins, an attorney in Kansas City, Mo., points to the IRS's 1979 review of the Infant Formula Action Coalition, a group he represented that conducted a national boycott of companies that marketed infant formula in developing countries. After an initial rejection, the IRS granted the group's request for charity status -- in effect, saying a group could organize a boycott to carry out an educational objective.

But Marcus Owens, a former director of the exempt organizations division at the IRS, sees some merit in Frontiers' point of view. "Just because you're educational doesn't mean you can achieve your educational goal any way you choose," he says. "If indeed the organization is encouraging and conceivably directing its members to violate the law, then there's a potential problem."

Frontiers, which says it began looking into Rainforest's activities last fall, was founded in 1995 by former Sen. Malcolm Wallop, a Wyoming Republican and friend of Vice President Dick Cheney. Its biggest contributors include Philip Morris Cos., Exxon Mobil Corp. and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. It has two components: a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4), which is tax exempt but can't accept tax-deductible donations. It says it uses grass-roots activity, congressional lobbying, publications, media appearances and coalition-building to further its own goals.

George Landrith, the group's executive director, says Frontiers chose Rainforest Action for a test case because it stood out in a review of "the workings of groups that don't agree with us" about property-rights issues. "As a practical matter, if this had come up a year ago I wouldn't have expected the IRS to have done much about it," Mr. Landrith says. "But our hope is that the current administration will expect the law to be abided by."

During the Clinton administration, the nonpartisan Americans United for Separation of Church and State complained to the IRS about the political activities of certain churches in 25 separate instances. Americans United says it knows of only one group that had its charitable status yanked as a result: Branch Ministries, which had run newspaper ads encouraging Christians not to vote for Mr. Clinton.

Some lawyers say the strategy of challenging tax-exempt status could be used more often, especially if the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill -- which would ban "soft-money" contributions from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals to national political parties -- becomes law and donors start channeling their money through advocacy nonprofits.

It's unclear how the IRS will react. "We evaluate the comments that come in to us based on the merits they have and the substance they contain," says IRS spokesman Don Roberts.

But even if the IRS disagrees with Frontiers, "reporting political enemies to the IRS is an attractive tactic because it forces the enemy to spend resources and sleepless nights," says Jeffery Yablon, a tax lawyer specializing in exempt organizations at Shaw Pittman in Washington who has represented a wide range of clients. "Adverse publicity is an added bonus, particularly if it scares away donors."


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