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2001-07-09

Anti-Environmental Groups and Corporations Target Tax-Exempt Status of the Rainforest Actionnetwork Billboard

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Nearly 60 million acres of national forest are now in the crosshairs of the Bush Administration, and one of thegroups that fights to preserve them is being targeted by a trio of anti-environmental groups and companies. Thisweekend the Bush administration began looking to rollback of new forest regulations–passed in the waning days ofthe Clinton Administration. The regulations are called the Roadless Initiative, and would help to preserve thenational forests from logging and road construction. Timber giant Boise Cascade Corp., the paper industry andconservative policy rights groups are leading the charge against it.

Last month, the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a conservative think-tank and advocacy group backed by oil andtobacco money, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against the Rainforest Action Network,calling for the group’s tax-exempt status to be revoked. The Institute charges that RAN has violated its status as a501 (c) (3)"educational" organization by engaging in pressure campaigns, boycotts, and direct action againstcorporations and politicians including many of those that opposed the Roadless Initiative.

Frontiers was founded in 1995 by former Sen. Malcolm Wallop, a Wyoming Republican and friend of Vice President DickCheney. Its biggest contributors include Philip Morris Cos., Exxon Mobil Corp. and RJ Reynolds Tobacco.

Frontiers says that RAN is "fundamentally radical, anti-capitalist and lawless" and spotlighted the organizationrecently in a meeting on Capitol Hill on what it called "eco-terrorism."

RAN executes highly visible, aggressive campaigns primarily against logging corporations cutting down old growthforests in North America and around the world. Its tactics have included consumer boycotts and symbolic, media-savvydirect actions. RAN helped the Ruckus Society and other groups in planning the protests at the November 1999 WTOmeeting in Seattle. Most recently RAN has targeted logging giant Boise, Mitsubishi and Occidental Petroleum, amongother multinational corporations.

RAN says that the Frontiers of Freedom Institute is using the tax codes to attack its First Amendment rights and byextension those of other groups whose politics it disagrees with. Some other groups are expressing anxiety about theIRS case. They fear a chilling effect on anti-corporate protests if the Institute’s challenge is successful.

Guests:

  • Chris Hatch, Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network.
  • David Greene, Senior Attorney at the First Amendment Project.
  • George Landrith, Executive Director of the Frontiers of Freedom Institute.

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