An annual ExxonMobil report shows the company routinely giving six-figure sums to Brookings, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and similar institutions.
Not everyone is happy about Unearthed’s recent exposé on ExxonMobil. Shortly after the Greenpeace-attached journalistic outfit published quotes top Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy unknowingly gave to an undercover reporter about the oil giant’s attempts to shape climate policy, Brookings Institution Executive Vice President Darell M. West penned a blog post declaring that “using secret video recordings to embarrass opponents is undermining the health of our already ailing American democracy.” He also likened Unearthed to the right-wing sting operation Project Veritas.
West didn’t mention that Brookings received $100,000 from ExxonMobil last year, according to the oil company’s own disclosures. He also didn’t mention that, in parts of the transcript Unearthed did not publish but which they subsequently provided to The New Republic, Brookings is mentioned explicitly by McCoy as one of two think tanks his company is “actively involved in.”
Brookings isn’t the only policy shop getting ExxonMobil’s cash. Exxon’s annual “Worldwide Giving Report”—released last month—tallies up the company’s “community investments” to “address strategic local priorities where we do business around the world.” These include anti-malaria efforts and STEM education programs along with its funding for groups that provide “Public Information and Policy Research.” This last group includes a few standard right-leaning, business-friendly outfits like the Chamber of Commerce, but also several institutions widely considered to be more politically neutral, whose experts are frequently quoted as outside analysts on everything from infrastructure talks to oil markets. These institutions often feed experts to top posts in the White House and serve as landing pads for ex-administration officials when their parties lose control, weighing in on key policy debates with recommendations for lawmakers.
“Worldwide Giving” reports from previous years show similar figures, with some groups dropping in and out and line items fluctuating. In 2019, for instance, Brookings received $250,000 from ExxonMobil. It got $250,000 in 2018, $240,000 in 2017, and $380,000 in 2016, according to previous “Worldwide Giving” reports compiled by researcher Connor Gibson. As Climate Investigations Center founder Kert Davies explained to me previously, there is no legal obligation for Exxon to reveal these numbers.