In recent weeks, the violent action of eco-activists has entered museums around the world, including the National Gallery (London), the Vatican Art Museum, Kelvingrove Museum (Glasgow), Barberini Museum (Potsdam), and The Hague’s museum. While there has been widespread criticism of the attacks, some media outlets (including Salon, Vox and Wired) have supported the violence.
The leading group in this action is Just Stop Oil, which claims to be “a coalition of groups working together to ensure that the government commits to ending all new licenses and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.” Investigation reveals Just Stop Oil – and linked organisations Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and others – is backed by billionaires, tax-exempt charities and international corporations.
Bankrolled by the Gettys
Just Stop Oil states it is partially funded by the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF), founded by Aileen Getty, granddaughter of oil tycoon John Paul Getty. The Getty Family, collectively, has an estimated wealth of around £3.9B. Getty personally put a foundational sum of £900,000 into CEF.
CEF acts as an umbrella organisation which distributes funds to eco-activist groups worldwide. CEF is a 501(c)(3) organisation incorporated in Delaware on 18 June 2019, which means it is exempt from federal income tax. Trusts, foundations and charities use this status for non-profit purposes. Although CEF features a ticker-tape list of small individual donors, most of its money comes from large donations. The executive director of the CEF is Margaret Klein Salamon.
Just Stop Oil says that direct action is needed now because the environmental situation is so extreme that it must enact “non-violent civil resistance”. Getty herself asked, “Don’t we have a responsibility to take every means of trying to protect life on Earth?”
The self-professed aims of these organisations and their millionaire backers are to bypass politics and implement radical measures upon the world’s population without democratic consultation.
With two members of the Aileen Getty Foundation on the board of CEF (with one of them appointed President), it seems that the millionairess essentially directs the organisation.
Tracking the CEF’s funds is tricky. Accounts show the CEF’s money comes through shell companies. Its top donors are Marin Community Foundation, Earthsense Foundation and Schwab Charitable Fund – vaguely defined organisations committed to environmental action, which do not generate the money they disburse. Tracing money back through these foundations and funds turns into an endless chain that (deliberately or otherwise) obscures the ultimate origin of the money that supports eco-activism.
In the following Twitter thread, the Climate Emergency Fund issued a statement in response to criticism directed towards Ms Getty.
In my research for my book Artivism, I discovered that Just Stop Oil’s sister organisation Extinction Rebellion was bankrolled by the Gettys, Kennedys and billionaire families. Rory Kennedy (daughter of Robert F. Kennedy) is on the board of the CEF. Although incorporated in Delaware, CEF is based in Beverly Hills, California, home of Hollywood magnates and film stars. Senior figures at CEF are members of the film-making and publishing elite.
Wealthy donors to Extinction Rebellion include organisations such as Lush Cosmetics and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. Charitable foundations have tax-exempt status and are regulated by the Charities Commission of England (CCE). Despite an explicit prohibition on charities engaging in political campaigning, arts charities frequently break these rules. When I challenged the regulatory body, the CCE, about political activity by arts bodies and provided evidence to that effect, it refused to act. It seems that when the CCE broadly agrees with the political aims of an organisation, it is reluctant to punish that organisation.
Whatever Just Stop Oil may say, their eye-catching disruption, the evidence is there. They are funded by millionaires, quasi-charities and shadowy foundations, not grassroots activism.
The Aileen Getty Foundation has been contacted for comment.