I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that
you're afraid, you're afraid of us, you're afraid of change. I
don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this
is going to end. I came here to tell you it's going to begin.
I'm going to hang up this phone and then I'm going to show these
people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them
a world without you, a world with out [your] rules and controls,
without [your] borders and boundaries, a world where anything
is possible. -- Neo, from The Matrix
(A 1999 film by Warner Bros., which also holds a seat
on NRDC's board)
Environmentalism on the Take
Integrity of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Challenged on Development of the Ballona Wetlands of Los Angeles;
NRDC Trustees and Funders Linked to Wetland Developers
by Bernardo Issel
PO Box 53238, Washington D.C. 20009
(202) 318-1106 -- voice mail/fax
That special interests corrupt the political process is practically
a cliche. A new report, Environmentalism on the Take, from
Nonprofit Watch charges that a leading environmental group has
succumbed to the same subversion. The Natural Resources Defense
Council(NRDC) objects to the influence of polluters' campaign
contributions, yet the organization has tailored its own environmental
policy to protect the business interests of its contributors and
For the last decade, grassroots environmentalists in Los Angeles
have engaged in a heated battle to protect the Ballona Wetlands
and surrounding open space from a massive development named Playa
Vista. On this matter, NRDC has staked out a position of "neutrality."
Meanwhile, several of NRDC's trustees are linked to the developers
of the wetlands, and NRDC has accepted financial support from
NRDC's refusal to oppose the controversial Playa Vista development
is understandable in light of the following conflicts of interest.
Frederick Schwarz, NRDC's chairman
since 1992, is a senior partner in the law firm of Cravath, Swaine
& Moore, whose clients include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter, and DreamWorks SKG. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley
are the leading investors in Playa Capital, a real estate consortium
planning to construct Playa Vista, a "mini-city" on
two-thirds of the Ballona site.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter is listed
in NRDC's 1999 annual report as providing "$1,000 or more"
to the NRDC through "purchase of tables or gifts in kind
to NRDC benefits in San Francisco." By underwriting an NRDC
fundraiser, Morgan Stanley implicitly endorses, if not rewards,
the organization's silence on the Ballona controversy. Meanwhile,
lawyers for Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have sent threatening
letters to grassroots activists attempting to distribute information
about toxic gas risks at Ballona.
DreamWorks SKG, the Hollywood partnership
of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, had
planned a studio at the Ballona site, but withdrew in 1999. IRS
records from the foundation of DreamWorks partner David Geffen
show that the foundation gave NRDC $75,000 from 1994-'96. According
to NRDC annual reports, the Geffen Foundation also contributed
over $10,000 in 1999 and made donations to the group in other
years as well. Furthermore, two NRDC trustees, one a former chair
of the group, belong to the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton
& Garrison that represents Mr. Geffen.
Yet another attorney serves on NRDC's
board under the shadow of conflict of interest. Frederick A.
Terry, Jr.'s law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, has represented
Goldman Sachs, a developer of the Playa Vista.
Joel Reynolds, a senior staffer in
the Los Angeles office of NRDC, previously worked for a group
that had reached a settlement with the Ballona developers. He
has told activists that the terms of the settlement restrain
him from actively opposing the development; strangely, however,
he has represented NRDC at meetings regarding Ballona and spoken
out on the matter in recent years, professing NRDC's "neutrality"
and giving indications of tacit support.
NRDC trustee Robert Redford had pursued
a movie deal with DreamWorks a year before DreamWorks withdrew
from the Playa Vista project. Furthermore, NRDC has other strong
ties to the upper echelon of Hollywood that would make it all
the more awkward for the group to challenge a major studio.
NRDC's neutrality regarding the Ballona Wetlands is selective
at best. With multiple clear conflicts of interest, NRDC should
have conspicuously recused itself from the controversy, publicly
explaining its conflicts of interest rather than adopting a stance
Environmental writer Mark Hertsgaard describes the Ballona
Wetlands as "a 1,087-acre oasis of greenery and wildlife...
a Central Park sitting right under [L.A.'s] nose, waiting to be
noticed." Despite its intrinsic value to smoggy, park-starved
Los Angeles, Ballona is slated to be one of the biggest real estate
developments in the city's history with help from NRDC's
The Ballona case is not an isolated issue of conflict of interest
for NRDC; through its leadership NRDC is interlocked with major
corporations at odds with environmentalists. Cravath, Swaine &
Moore, the law firm of NRDC's chairman, has represented the major
U.S. financial backers of the controversial Three Gorges Dam in
China a project opposed by many environmental and humanitarian
groups about which NRDC has done little. Cravath also represents
Royal Dutch Shell, which spilled oil throughout the indigenous
Ogoni homeland in the Nigerian Delta and then funded military
repression and execution of Ogoni leaders who complained. If NRDC
actively sought justice from Shell for its activities in Nigeria,
this would conflict with the interests of Schwarz and Cravath.
Is NRDC a real environmental advocacy group, or just a greenwashing
facade for the rich and corporate fatcats? Chairman Schwarz is
related to the founder of F.A.O. Schwarz, the upscale toy store;
and the family of NRDC's executive director Frances Beinecke owned
Sperry and Hutchinson, the company that issued grocery store "Green
Stamps" rewarding consumption. These pedigrees symbolize
the nature of NRDC's advocacy it suits the needs of the
wealthy and places a green fig leaf over industrial society. The
Ballona wetlands may be a local concern, but on several major
environmental issues like NAFTA and nuclear stranded costs, NRDC
has consistently taken positions that favor corporate interests
and alienate other environmentalists of integrity. Ironically,
NRDC is also in conflict with the celebrated Norwegian environmental
group the Bellona Foundation in regards to an NRDC-supported
plan to ship foreign nuclear waste to Russia.
"NRDC's neutrality on the Ballona Wetlands can't be taken
seriously -- the group takes money from the developers of the
wetlands and its board of trustees is polluted with lawyers whose
corporate law firms represent the developers. NRDC has a vested
interest in looking the other way. Apparently NRDC's environmental
policy is as corrupt as Beltway politicians and fictional as Hollywood
Based in Washington, D.C., Nonprofit Watch examines conflict-of-interest
issues among nonprofit organizations. For more information and
a copy of the report on NRDC and the Ballona wetlands, contact
Nonprofit Watch at (202) 318-1106. The report is also available
on the web at www.nonprofitwatch.org .
This report challenges the integrity of the
Natural Resources Defense Council(NRDC).
There is plenty of good work done with good
intentions by NRDC, and presumably most of its staff members are
sincere in their personal and professional commitment to environmental
protection. At the same time, Nonprofit Watch discerns that their
work is constrained and framed by powerful interests that control
For those who care about the environment, the
question is: Does NRDC's good work outweigh the growing list of
cases in which the group's policy serves corporate interests at
the expense of opportunities to promote environmental protection?
And noting NRDC's sellout on regional issues like the development
of the Ballona Wetlands of Los Angeles and global issues like
the use of Russia as an international nuclear waste dump
is it too cynical to ask whether the organization's good work
lends a "green stamp" of legitimacy to the group --
thereby providing the necessary credibility for NRDC to undermine
grassroots environmentalists and to adopt controversial stances
at the expense of the environment and to the benefit of corporate
The report is dedicated to grassroots activists
who have found themselves working harder to compensate for NRDC's
missed opportunities or worse, its active opposition.
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
The proposed development of the Ballona Wetlands
in Los Angeles has been the subject of long and bitter conflict
between environmentalists and real estate developers, but has
also strained relations among environmental advocacy groups. This
report examines conflicts of interest apparently influencing the
policy of a leading environmental group, the Natural Resources
Defense Council, concerning the Ballona Wetlands.
Grassroots environmentalists have long contended
that the proposed development named Playa Vista would not only
destroy significant wildlife habitat , exacerbate pollution, worsen
traffic problems in the nation's most congested metropolitan area,
and bring about a loss of vital open space. As Mark Hertsgaard
writes in Mother Jones, the Ballona Wetlands are
a "1,087-acre oasis of greenery and wildlife... on the verge
of becoming one of the biggest real estate developments in the
history of Los Angeles." He concludes that the Playa Vista
subdivision "will not only obliterate one of the last open
spaces in Los Angeles and destroy some of California's last remaining
wetlands, it also will generate 200,000 extra car trips per day,
worsening the city's already severe air pollution and condemning
western Los Angeles to permanent gridlock."(1)
A coalition of 107 environmental and civic
United to Save All of Ballona, seek to protect the site as
a park and wildlife refuge. Partners in the coalition include
the Wetlands Action Network, the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation,
the Ballona Valley Preservation League, and the California Public
Interest Group (CalPIRG).(2) Leading wetlands biologists
have criticized the plan for its questionable provisions for "wetlands
The current developer of the Ballona Wetlands
is a consortium named Playa Capital, in which the lead interests
are Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley; they plan to build a "mini-city"
on two-thirds of the site.(1) Playa Capital succeeds Maguire
Thomas, a development firm that initiated the project.
DreamWorks SKG joined the project 1995 with
plans to build a studio on a small part of the parcel. The involvement
of DreamWorks was considered critical to public-sector support
for the development. After several years of being vilified by
environmental groups, with protests outside the Hollywood openings
of its films, DreamWorks pulled out of the project in 1999.
According to a project opponent who spoke to
Nonprofit Watch on background, DreamWorks actually had a more
extensive involvement: "When DreamWorks first announced the
deal to be part of Playa Vista, they were to be one-third partners
in the project, sharing in the profits that they counted on to
help fund the construction of their studio. Later, as tensions
mounted between Maguire and Katzenberg, who ran the Playa show
for DreamWorks, the deal, which had only been handshake, morphed
into something else, and soon DreamWorks was to be a tenant. However,
they still were to receive a portion of the profits from
the development, although they were off the hook for the one-third
responsibility as developers."
Playa Vista is corporate welfare scam. It would
receive hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies and
tax breaks during a booming economy despite the involvement
of wealthy investors like Microsoft billionaires Bill Gates and
Paul Allen; Hollywood titans Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg
and David Geffen; one of the wealthiest men in Los Angeles, Gary
Winnick of Pacific Capital and Global Crossings; and Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter and Goldman Sachs. (DreamWorks SKG, under persistent
pressure from environmental groups, pulled out of the project
in 1999, so partners Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen and investors
Gates and Allen are no longer direct beneficiaries of the subsidies.)
Nate Holden, who represents a low-income district
on the Los Angeles City Council, denounced the government subsidies
for Playa Vista as "welfare for billionaires."(3)
Marva Smith Battle-Bey of the Vermont-Slauson Economic Development
Corp. criticized a $70 million municipal incentives package for
DreamWorks as "outrageous," adding, "I realize
that DreamWorks is going to be a boon to the city, but we really
have to be more equitable about the distribution of this stuff.
If we could get one-tenth of that kind of subsidy for commercial
projects, industrial projects, in the inner city, the impact would
The project has not been reviewed with a federal
Environmental Impact Statement.(EIS) Opponents argued in a lawsuit
that the Army Corps of Engineers, which issued the permits to
drain and pave the wetlands, had violated the Clean Water Act
and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).(5) The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service reviewed the
plans and recommended a full EIS, but instead the politically
connected developers were able to squeak by with a relatively
superficial "environmental assessment." In June of 1998,
the federal district court revoked the Army Corps permit and ordered
a full EIS. The developers appealed and convinced the Corps of
Engineers to join their appeal. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
heard the case in May 1999 and has not rendered a decision. However
in August 2000, the lower court ruling that had halted the filling
of part of the wetlands was overturned by a panel of three judges
of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.(6) Disappointed
by the ruling, the Wetlands Action Network suggested that it might
seek a review by the entire 9th circuit or pursue an appeal to
the Supreme Court. Marcia Hanscom commented that "It's definitely
a harsh blow for the wetlands. We are certainly going to continue
to fight this development. This is only one of many of our legal
Activists have also won a restraining order
against the Playa Vista developers after bulldozers removed a
willow grove, habitat of the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher.(1)
While the project has received praise for plans
to employ eco-friendly construction methods, opponents have run
ads saying, "Placing a development this massive on and around
a wetlands ecosystem is not environmentally sound no matter
how many recycling programs it has. How can a project that your
own environmental impact report predicts will add 200,000 more
car trips each day and generate 10 new tons of air pollution per
day be 'environmentally sound'?" (7)
People interviewed by Nonprofit Watch have
commented that Los Angeles has disproportionately little urban
parkland in comparison to most large U.S. cities. Hertsgaard described the Ballona site as a "Central
Park sitting right under [L.A.'s] nose, waiting to be noticed."
Along this train of thought, ecologist Roy van de Hoek has called
for the Ballona site to be turned into a state park. (Van de Hoek's
mettle is reflected in his having been fired in the past for publicly
criticizing his employer, the Bureau of Land Management, for shoddy
oversight of California rangeland.(8))
Richard Epps, president of the Los Angeles
chapter of the Audubon Society, has derided the anti-Playa Vista
activists, commenting that, "they're fighting to save a garbage
dump, and that time and money could be spent doing more valuable
things."(1) In contrast, Steve Crandall, attorney
for activists opposed to Playa Vista, has stated, "Let's
save this thing! If you put biologists to work, you could restore
it into a beautiful flyway. It's one of the last open spaces in
Los Angeles, and it's important to the future of Los Angeles,
and even the world, that it be saved." Activist Bruce Robertson
has echoed Crandall, commenting that, "You could restore
this land if you wanted to. Until there are buildings on it, this
land can be saved." What follows is an exploration of why
the Natural Resources Defense Council may have been disinclined
from sharing the sentiment to save the entire Ballona site.
Environmentalists and Ballona
NRDC and other Major Groups Taking a Dive on Ballona
The fight against development of the wetlands
began in the 1980s, led by the National Audubon Society and later
the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands(FOBW). Audubon reached a settlement
with the developers, and FOBW stepped in to demand protection
of a larger parcel of the wetlands. Later FOBW also reached a
settlement with the developers. These settlements were generally
viewed by grassroots activists as sellouts, and a grassroots network
emerged to work for more extensive protection of the wetlands
and surrounding open space.(9)
New Times Los Angeles'
writer Jill Stewart has accused elite environmentalists as well as
city officials, politicians and West Side liberals of being co-opted
by the developers since Maguire Thomas suckered Hollywood by luring
DreamWorks into the project.(9) State senator Tom Hayden
echoes this point, saying several major environmental groups "think
of Spielberg as a good guy and [DreamWorks] SKG as a million-dollar
contributor to liberal causes. It simply makes environmentalists
uncomfortable to get into a fight with these fellows."(10)
DreamWorks' spokesperson Andy Spahn in 1998
described Playa Vista as a "a win-win for both the city and
the environment... 90 percent of the local environmental community
supports the project."(1) But Hertsgaard's 1999 article
notes that "aside from one organization called Friends of
Ballona Wetlands, almost no local group actively supports the
project." When Spahn, who headed the Environmental Media
Association from 1989-'93, joined DreamWorks in 1996, a UPI story
suggested that he was hired especially to co-opt environmentalists
in this matter -- "Spahn's appointment may help DreamWorks
fend off attacks from a coalition of environmental groups trying
to block its plan to build a high-tech studio and corporate headquarters
on 100 acres of marshland near the Los Angeles coastline. Opponents
contended the project will cause 'irreparable harm' to the Ballona
Wetlands, which are used by birds migrating along the Pacific
Mark Hertsgaard is an advocate for a Global Green Deal and an environmental writer
noted for his book Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search
of our Environmental Future. In Mother
Jones he wrote: "Conspicuous by their absence are
such mainstream groups as the National Audubon Society, Natural
Resources Defense Council, and even Heal the Bay." Tom Hayden
and Marcia Hanscom, executive director of the Wetlands Action
Network, have "suggested that these groups are ducking the
conflict for fear of angering Spielberg and other potential donors
a charge the groups deny," according to Hertsgaard.(1)
(Nonprofit Watch commends Hertsgaard for his willingness to take
these groups to task. Wealthy groups such as NRDC can generously
pay writers for contributions to their groups' periodicals, creating
a disincentive for critical examination of these elite environmental
Biased Neutrality: NRDC and the Ballona Wetlands
In Spring 1997, environmental and peace activist
Jerry Rubin went on a hunger strike in opposition to the Playa
Vista project, and was hospitalized after 26 days. Spurred by
his action, representatives from DreamWorks then agreed to meet
with environmentalists. Without the pressure from Rubin's fast,
activists do not believe DreamWorks would have agreed to the meeting.
reporting on the meeting, cited NRDC among "groups that have
either taken neutral positions or have, for the time being, resolved
differences with the project's lead developer." (12)
Quite differently, project opponent Bruce Robertson, who viewed
DreamWorks as a "catalyst" for the entire development,
said "We call on DreamWorks to take a major stand on the
Other opponents complained that key coalition
partners had been excluded from the meeting while neutral or vacillating
groups including NRDC, Friends of Ballona Wetlands and
the California League of Conservation Voters had been included.
The meeting elicited protest from 40 activists angry about the
exclusion of representatives of groups critical of Playa Vista.
According to the Hollywood Reporter,
Joel Reynolds, a senior attorney in the Los Angeles office of
NRDC, said "It was a useful meeting. It was a start of a
dialogue that has real potential for allaying public concerns
and enhancing the project."(13) NRDC's apparent interest
in "allaying public concerns and enhancing the project"
suggests a stance supportive of the underlying project beyond
the neutrality that NRDC has tried to claim. Curiously the short
article bothered to mention that NRDC was "a 27-year-old
group with about 400,000 members nationwide," -- perhaps
an effort to bolster Reynolds' credibility as a spokesman for
the environmental contingent.
In September 1998, Reynolds was quoted in Daily
Variety in reference to a dispute between DreamWorks and Playa
Capital. He said, "The breakdown in negotiations may suggest
some hidden agenda that has nothing to do with developing that
site as its been approved." (Emphasis added.) It's
not clear whether Reynolds meant the approval was a fait accompli
and there was no point in resisting it, or that the approved
version of the plan warranted support, but the former interpretation
conveys a weakness of NRDC while the latter again suggests tacit
support for the project.(14)
Reynolds commented to Mother Jones that NRDC was watching Playa
Vista closely and "sees itself getting involved in phase
two, when it's more clear what the project will be like."
Of course, as Hertsgaard noted, "by the time phase two is
under way, there could be some two dozen apartment buildings on
the site and it will be too late to stop the project."(1)
This concern has been echoed by grassroots activists speaking
to Nonprofit Watch.
Interestingly, activists have also told Nonprofit
Watch that Reynolds recuses himself from opposing the Playa Vista
project, explaining that he worked as an attorney for the Center
for Law in the Public Interest at the time when the Center negotiated
a settlement on behalf of Friends of the Ballona Wetlands -- thus
Reynolds sees himself restrained by the past settlement. Another
activist communicated to Nonprofit Watch that Reynolds' name was
actually on a legal document prepared for Friends of Ballona Wetlands.
NRDC should have assigned someone without this conflict of interest
to deal with Ballona matters.
In 2000, according to grassroots activists,
NRDC staffers have been more attentive, albeit quietly so, to
concerns about toxic gases under the Ballona site. However, since
DreamWorks is no longer an investor in the project, NRDC need
not worry about upsetting the DreamWorks triumvirate of powerful
Hollywood moguls Spielberg, Geffen and Katzenberg. (Additionally,
there are other complicating issues that help explain the newly
found willingness of NRDC's Los Angeles office to speak up against
the project, albeit if only softly within environmental filings
-- this may receive attention from Nonprofit Watch at a later
Despite the withdrawal of DreamWorks, NRDC
certainly does not join with the grassroots to oppose the project.
To the central point of this report, NRDC's longstanding "neutrality"
takes on a different appearance in light of the many links to
Ballona developers as discussed below.
NRDC and Cravath, Swaine & Moore
- NRDC POLICY ON BALLONA WETLANDS
- BY CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Frederick A.O. Schwarz is chairman of NRDC
as evident from the group's website. He has been the chairman of NRDC since
1992, and a trustee since at least 1988.(15,16)
Except for stints with the New York City government, Schwarz's
career has been that of a corporate lawyer for the elite corporate
law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, based in New York. Cravath
has represented key players in the Ballona development.
Cravath and the Developers of the Ballona Wetlands
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Goldman Sachs: A major area of Cravath's practice is mergers and acquisitions.
In addition to such major mergers as that of MCI and WorldCom;
Lucent Technologies and AT&T; Boeing and McDonnell Douglas;
and Westinghouse and Infinity; Westinghouse's $4.5 billion acquisition
of CBS; and Disney's $19 billion acquisition of ABC, Cravath handled
the 1997 merger of Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter.(17,18)
According to Cravath's own website, the firm represents both Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter and Goldman Sachs an appearance, at least,
of a major conflict of interest for Schwarz and NRDC, since these
finance companies are the leading investors in Playa Vista, having
invested $200 million in return for majority ownership in Playa
Capital which is carrying out the Playa Vista development at the
Ballona site.(19,20) The firms gained their stake
in 1997, when the opposition to the project was quite vocal and
attracting significant media attention; these firms cannot plead
ignorance of environmental concerns.(21,22)
Morgan Stanley is listed in NRDC's 1999 annual
report as providing "$1000 or more" to NRDC through
"purchase of tables or gifts in kind to NRDC benefits in
San Francisco or New York." Obviously the firm likes NRDC's
work or lack thereof, as in the Ballona controversy.
The political satire street theatre troupe
which had protested Steven Spielberg and his films regarding the
Ballona development, has now turned its attention to the "villains...
those pesky Wall Street bankers, MorganStanleyDeanWitterGoldmanSachs,"
also known by FrogWorks as "Golden Sacks."(23)
Lawyers for Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs
sent a threatening letter to project opponents Kathy Knight, of
the Native American group Spirit of the Sage Council, and Patricia
McPherson. The activists had "sent public reports about toxic
[gas] risks at Playa Vista to the bond guarantors who are backing
the [project's] affordable housing."(24) (Subsequently,
Rex Frankel of Save All of Ballona took over the task of sending
the reports to bond guarantors. As Frankel explained, "I
don't own a home or have any real assets, so the Wall Street lawyers
can't threaten me with financial ruin like they did Patricia and
Kathy.") This is, of course, the same Morgan Stanley that
underwrote an NRDC fundraiser and that is represented by the law
firm of Mr. Schwarz, chair of the "neutral" NRDC.
DreamWorks SKG: Again
according to Cravath's own website, the firm has represented DreamWorks.
Cravath handled the incorporation of DreamWorks SKG as a limited
liability company.(25) Cravath handled the legal affairs
involved in the studio's initial financing.(17) Cravath
represented DreamWorks in its effort to raise $2 billion, half
in financing and half in equity.(26) On behalf of DreamWorks,
Cravath handled the investment of $500 million by Paul Allen of
Microsoft. Finally, the friendship between Robert Kindler, a partner
in Cravath, and Ronald Nelson, co-COO of DreamWorks, was of benefit
to Cravath in winning DreamWorks as a client.(27) Certainly
Mr. Kindler would not appreciate it if NRDC, the charity of his
colleague Mr. Schwarz, were to make trouble for his friend's company.
Furthermore, in July 1999, New Times Los
Angeles columnist Rick Barrs reported that the task of "representing
DreamWorks on securing its construction loans [for the Ballona
Wetlands] ...has fallen to fat-cat Manhattan law firm Cravath,
Swaine & Moore."(28)
It has been argued that when the Wall Street
investment houses began to pump money into Playa Vista, this attracted
DreamWorks, whose involvement in turn enticed other businesses
to the site. However, Marcia Hanscom of the Wetlands Action Network
blames DreamWorks for the capital influx from Goldman Sachs and
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter at a time when the previous developer's
efforts were falling through due to financial difficulties.(29)
"If it hadn't been for DreamWorks, there would be no project.
There is no way that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley would have
come in without Spielberg and the others," Hanscom told the
London Independent. Regardless of whether the two Wall
Street firms or DreamWorks deserve the greater responsibility,
it is gross conflict of interest to say the least for NRDC's chair
to be at the law firm representing all three entities.
Other Tie-Ins Of Cravath Clientele to the Playa Vista Development
Credit Suisse First Boston: In 1997, Cravath client Credit Suisse First Boston extended
$255 million for Rob Maguire of Maguire Thomas to regain ownership
in the MGM Plaza in Santa Monica.(30) Rob Maguire had long
been pursuing development of the Ballona wetlands; it was Maguire
who handed the project over to the Wall Street banks.
Chase Manhattan Bank: Cravath client Chase Manhattan
made a loan of $150 million to the Playa Vista project, but foreclosed
NRDC and DAVID GEFFEN
David Geffen is a principal partner in DreamWorks
SKG. According to IRS records, the David Geffen Foundation gave
NRDC $75,000 from 1994-'96. NRDC's annual reports from 1993-'99
also show Geffen Foundation grants from 1996 to 1999, and in 1994;
the group's 1995 annual report and the Geffen Foundation's IRS
990 filing for 1995 give conflicting information. Ironically,
the 1996 annual report lists the Geffen donation as supporting
NRDC's project "Working for the West: The Campaign for NRDC's
San Francisco and Los Angeles Offices." The 1999 annual report
of NRDC categorizes support from the Geffen Foundation as over
The involvement of DreamWorks with Playa Vista
was announced at the end of 1995.(31) It is not clear whether,
when DreamWorks was created in 1994, the company already envisioned
situating itself at the Ballona site; if so, that may have influenced
Geffen's decision to support NRDC in 1994. Regardless, NRDC's
acceptance of this support while the donor's project was under
concerted attack by environmentalists belies the integrity of
NRDC's vaunted neutrality.
In 1993 Andy Spahn took charge of The David
Geffen Co. and The David Geffen Foundation.(11) His foundation
role, doling out money to charity on behalf of Mr. Geffen, perhaps
facilitates his role in corporate affairs at DreamWorks. This
would seem to be a problematic mixing of corporate and charitable
interests, which would further explain the "neutrality"
of NRDC a grantee of the Geffen Foundation.
Andy Goodman, Spahn's successor at the Environmental
Media Association, says of Playa Vista: "This is not development
rampaging with no concerns for the environment. It has been the
assessment of the major environmental groups in this area that
if this isn't necessarily a good thing, it's at least benign."
(7) Presumably the "major environmental groups"
in question include NRDC.
When activists Bruce Robertson, Marcia Hanscom
and others formed Citizens United to Save All of Ballona, an anti-development
coalition now representing 104 groups, the Geffen Foundation asked
several member groups to reconsider their affiliation. At least
one, the 18th Street Arts Complex of Santa Monica, chose to withdraw.(32)
With this type of activity, the Geffen grants to NRDC look even
If the Geffen Foundation explicitly demands
that its fundees withdraw their opposition to the project, what
are we to think when NRDC receives funding from the Geffen Foundation
and NRDC's staffer Joel Reynolds gives tacit support to the project?
One cannot help but question NRDC's integrity.
Two NRDC Trustees With Law Firm Representing Geffen:
In securing Paul Allen's investment of half a
billion dollars in DreamWorks, Geffen was represented by attorneys
from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which American
Lawyer described as "his regular counsel."(26)
This adds another conflict of interest for NRDC: two trustees,
Adrian W. deWind and Ruben Kraiem, are attorneys with Paul, Weiss.
DeWind was chairman of NRDC for 12 years before Schwarz took the
helm in 1992.(16)
Geffen's financial support of NRDC is also
problematic in light of his successful effort to win approval
for construction of a seawall along his Malibu compound; the project
raised environmental concerns and was opposed by Sierra Club activists.
Mark Massara, the Sierra Club's coastal program manager, says
seawalls constitute "the single worst coastal crisis in California,"
adding, "we are slowly but surely walling off the entire
coast."(33) Though staff engineers of the California
Coastal Commission recommended against it, the politically appointed
commission gave Geffen its approval. The Los Angeles Times
pointed out that "an unprecedented lobbying effort was unleashed
to persuade commissioners to override their staff's recommendation
and approve the project. Calls on behalf of Geffen, a prolific
fund-raiser for Democratic Party candidates, have been made to
commissioners from the governor's office and legislative leaders."(33)
The approval was roundly denounced in the California CoastWatcher Newsletter of the Sierra
Club. According to the newsletter,
Peter Douglas, executive director of the Coastal
Commission, told the commissioners that this project was incredibly
important given the attention it had received and that,
because there was no demonstrable need for the wall, approval
would create a precedent for approving literally thousands of
new "unnecessary" seawalls. This project, Douglas testified,
had no redeeming value whatsoever. So why did the Commission
approve it? Simply because Mr. Geffen has enormous political
and financial power, especially among Democrats, longtime recipients
of Geffen's considerable campaign donations.(34)
On this issue, NRDC also appears to be neutralized
by Geffen's largesse the group kept quiet in this controversy,
as far as the media record indicates.
NRDC and Sullivan & Cromwell, Another law Firm
represented on NRDC's board of directors and linked to a Ballona
Attorney Frederick A. Terry, Jr., of Sullivan
& Cromwell, is a trustee of NRDC. Sullivan & Cromwell represented
Goldman Sachs in the company's 1999 plan to go public with an
11% stake.(35) A shaky stock market caused Goldman to postpone
its plans. Despite the connection to NRDC's board, it is doubtful
that Sullivan & Cromwell would have urged Goldman Sachs to
advise prospective investors that the company was under fire from
environmental groups in Los Angeles over the Ballona issue.
On another matter of concern to environmental
and human rights activists: Goldman Sachs is also denounced by
International Campaign for Tibet for its role in raising $10
billion for the China National Petroleum Company (PetroChina)
to build a pipeline from Tibet to Shanghai, downsize millions
of workers, pursue economic opportunities in the Sudan (where,
ICT says, "China has been complicit in the slaughter of more
than 2 million Sudanese Christians"), and to expand oil and
natural gas extraction in occupied Tibet
Just as NRDC has been useless in the effort
to save the Ballona Wetlands, it should not be hoped that
NRDC would join "Tibetan rights activists, the AFL-CIO, anti-slavery
groups, national security interests and environmental organizations"
in denouncing Goldman Sachs' involvement with Chinese oil development
in Tibet. This would be too much to expect given NRDC's ties to
the firm through Mr. Terry, as well as NRDC chairman Mr. Schwarz
as his law firm Cravath also represents Goldman Sachs.
NRDC, Dreamworks and Hollywood
The following strong ties by NRDC to Hollywood
give the group yet further conflicts of interest that would lessen
its inclination to oppose a major studio like DreamWorks.
Robert Redford has long been a trustee of NRDC.
His current movie project, "The Legend of Bagger Vance",
is being distributed in November 2000 by DreamWorks SKG.(36)
Negotiations between Redford and DreamWorks were public knowledge
as early as March of 1998,(37) more than a year before
Dream Works pulled out of Playa Vista in July 1999.(38)
It is not expected that DreamWorks would have looked kindly upon
Redford if his environmental group NRDC were challenging the company's
As noted in George magazine, the Ballona
Wetlands campaign "should have caught on among Hollywood
liberals, but it hasn't. The reason? One of Playa Vista's biggest
investors is DreamWorks SKG."(32) NRDC has ties not
only to DreamWorks, but to Hollywood elites who might find it
awkward to be at odds with Spielberg and his partners. In addition
to Robert Redford, NRDC's board includes many Hollywood figures
-- Alan Horn, president and COO of Warner Brothers; Joe Roth,
chair of Walt Disney Studios; Laurie David, wife of "Seinfeld"
co-creator Larry David; and singer James Taylor. Also, another
trustee is Peter Morton, the founder and Chair of the Hard Rock
Café; Hard Rock books performers at its clubs and hotels.
NRDC fundraisers enjoy the presence of Hollywood's glitterati.
A recent Los Angeles event for NRDC featured a concert by Jewel
and appearances by Larry David, Al Franken, Diane Keaton, Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, Carole King and Rob Reiner.(39)
By challenging DreamWorks, NRDC would risk
alienating a significant donor base which also gives the group
glitz. Consider what Andy Goodman of the Environmental Media Association(EMA)
told George magazine, "This is a company town. It
doesn't pay to go against the company." (32) (Yet
he maintained that EMA supports the project on its merits. Perhaps
Goodman aspires to one day follow the path of his predecessor
at EMA, Andy Spahn who as discussed above moved on to become a
spokesperson for DreamWorks)
On the issue of free trade, these ties of NRDC
with Hollywood coincide with the group's free trade policies.
No doubt the businessman of Hollywood are pleased with NRDC's
past support of the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA)
and failure to challenge other agreements. Since the adoption
of NAFTA, more Hollywood films have been shot in Mexico and Canada,
where production costs are lower due to weaker labor laws and
cheaper workers.(40) According to the Houston Chronicle,
"the advent of NAFTA in 1994 pushed this trend by making
it easier to ship everything from film to special effects equipment
in and out of the country." Actors supporting NRDC should
also consider that free trade agreements have been criticized
by foreign filmmakers, concerned that such agreements will rule
as invalid national laws meant to raise funds for a country's
own film community. And, of course, NAFTA was and is opposed by
nearly all environmental groups, excepting those with strong ties
to the corporate sector.
- Questions Regarding NRDC's Integrity
- Not Unique to Ballona Wetlands
The concerns raised here as to whether conflicts
of interests influence NRDC's advocacy on the Ballona wetlands
point to structural limitations of NRDC. This apparent inherent
straitjacketing of the group by special interests coincides with
other controversial stances that NRDC has adopted. For example:
support of stranded costs bailouts for nuclear utilities which
thereby has facilitated electricity deregulation; advocating shipping
nuclear waste to Russia; taking no active stance on the Ward Valley
nuclear waste dump; support or non-activism on trade deals such
as NAFTA; opposition to incinerators only on a case by case basis;
negotiating in support of oil drilling in a national park in the
Amazon; and other matters. Put these elements together and you
seem to have the profile of an entity that would more aptly be
called "The Natural Resources Dumping Club." These issues
will receive extensive examination in the future as time and resources
Ironically, plans to ship nuclear waste to
Russia puts NRDC at odds with the Bellona
Foundation, the Norwegian group that has received worldwide
attention for its work with Goldman Environmental Prize winner
Alesandr Nikitin, the whistleblowing submarine commander jailed
by the Russian government. Perhaps the Bellona and
Ballona activists might find it useful to collaborate
with each other. Note that there has been no support from Russian
environmentalists for NRDC's plans to turn their country into
a toilet for nuclear waste; in fact grassroots environmentalists
have carried out protests of this agenda. The NRDC agenda is all
the more problematic in the context that the Russian government
has treated its native environmentalists as if they were subversive
traitors. (Read more about this matter in a brief commentary
from Bellona; a longer analysis
from Bellona; a very interesting discussion
in which Bellona responds to a letter regarding Bellona's concerns
from an NRDC staffer who has the gall to write that it is hoped
"Bellona will find a way to support this endeavor and not
find itself joining the NIMBY [Not In My Backyard] crowd"
to which Bellona responds that "we urge the wealthy nations
. . . to face the music and deal with the nuclear waste they have
created rather than dumping it on someone else (the NIMBY way),"
and an article
by Jeffrey St. Clair published in In These Times.)
NRDC AT Odds With Grassroots Activists
In Towns With NRDC Offices
In three cities where NRDC has offices
New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles the group has
been at odds with grassroots activists.
In New York City, NRDC and the Environmental
Defense Fund support a development project along the Hudson River
that is opposed by the New York Public Interest Research Group,
Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Clean Air Campaign and
other grassroots groups. The opponents want a full federal EIS,
just as grassroots activists demand at Ballona. (See the Westway2
website for more information or read an article
about the matter.)
In San Francisco, activists opposing sweatshops
and unsustainable logging have united against the owners of The
Gap. The company is under fire for contracting with factories
that mistreat workers, and the Fisher family that owns the company
has angered enviros in Mendocino over its logging venture. Activists
have leafleted at an NRDC fundraiser in San Francisco because
the company's Executive Vice President Robert J. Fisher, the son
of Donald and Doris Fisher who founded the company, sits on the
board of NRDC and is a funder of the group. While he resigned
from the Gap at the end of 1999, he remains on the board and as
of April 2000, held 6.3%
of the company's stock. No doubt he and his parents appreciate
how NRDC supported NAFTA and has taken a dive on other free trade
agreements, thereby facilitating the contracting with foreign
sweatshops. (See www.gapsucks.org
for more information. Global
Exchange has also been a leading critic of the company.)
Finally, in Los Angeles there has been tremendous
grassroots energy devoted to the Ballona issue on which NRDC has
officially been neutral as discussed in this report. Links to
groups struggling on behalf of Ballona can be found below.
The conflicts of interest outlined in this
report suggest a strategy for grassroots pressure against the
special interests developing the Ballona Wetlands: demand that
NRDC strongly and publicly lobby the developers and polluters
with which it is intertwined. Perhaps activists in New York, San
Francisco and Los Angeles will unite in regards to how in their
different efforts, NRDC is at odds with them or dubiously neutral.
Other Environmentally Questionable Ventures With Which NRDC
is Entwined Through Its Elite Leadership
As can be seen from the above, the matter of
the Ballona wetlands in Los Angeles raises a controversy about
NRDC policy that is not isolated or unique indeed, on many
national and global environmental issues, NRDC has consistently
taken positions that favor corporate interests and alienate other
environmentalists. The essential question is not just whether
NRDC opposes development of the Ballona Wetlands, but whether
NRDC's policies are muted or limited in ways that coincide with
the interests of the corporate clientele of Cravath and the other
law firms with representatives on NRDC's board of directors. The
following are but two more examples of how Cravath's clients are
at odds with environmentalists; numerous others exist.
Cravath's Client Royal Dutch Shell: Since
1912, Cravath has represented
Royal Dutch/Shell in the U.S. and abroad. This interconnection
between Cravath and NRDC seems especially contemptible. Shell
supported and funded the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria, which
repressed and sometimes executed indigenous people who complained
about the environmental impact of Shell's oil drilling in the
Nigerian Delta. Ogoni tribal activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight
others were executed in 1995 for demonstrating against Shell.
This matter has done the most to catalyze united efforts between
human rights and environmental activists.
Is NRDC suing Shell, seeking compensatory damages
for the company's destruction of the Nigerian environment and
its people? It can't; its chairman is with a law firm that represents
Shell. Such a major lawsuit would be too great a conflict of interest.
Nor would it be tolerated by the other corporate law firms and
Wall Street interests with which NRDC is interlocked. To these
establishment interests, a lawsuit of a few million dollars in
damages is tolerable, but one demanding justice and remediation
for the Nigerian Delta could cost a billion dollars or more, thereby
significantly affecting corporate profits and thus stock returns.
However, in milquetoast fashion, NRDC's executive director Frances
Beinecke was part of publisher Conde Nast's committee that gave
Saro-Wiwa a posthumous award, (41) and NRDC plays footsie
through its Climate Neutral Network with Chevron, another company
that propped up the Nigerian military dictatorship, polluted the
Ogoni lands, and bore scornful criticism from Saro-Wiwa.
In his book Losing Ground, environmental
writer Mark Dowie notes that NRDC and Human Rights Watch proposed
a joint project to address the "environmental/human rights
nexus."(42) Dowie adds, "HRW might have picked
a better ally." Apparently, and understandably so, nothing
substantive came from this effort other than a report certainly
no action, which would require a major challenge to powerful interests,
many represented by Cravath.
(Nonprofit Watch notes that Cravath, Swaine
& Moore is also represented on the board of the Lawyers Committee
for Human Rights(LCHR). Cravath attorney Robert D. Joffe is a
trustee of LCHR;
Cravath also donates
to the group. In a previous report,
Nonprofit Watch took LCHR to task for its ties to clothing manufacturers
that have been criticized regarding foreign sweatshops. Coziness
with the law firm that represents Shell Oil further lessens confidence
in this group's integrity.)
The Three Gorges Dam: The gargantuan
Three Gorges Dam under construction in China is opposed by many
environmental and human rights groups. The International Rivers
Wall Street" campaign charges that "Wall Street
investment banks are working with the [China Development Bank]
to make the dam a reality." The investment
banks involved with the project include Salomon Smith Barney,
Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse First Boston, Morgan Stanley Dean
Witter, J.P. Morgan, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, and Chase
Manhattan Bank. Guess what? Every one of these banks has
been represented by Cravath, Swaine & Moore. What's more,
in 2000 NRDC's Chairman Fritz Schwarz represents J.P. Morgan's
subsidiary Morgan Guaranty Trust in a lawsuit with Korea Life
Insurance Co. regarding a $90 million derivatives deal.(43)
NRDC has not been entirely silent on the matter
of Three Gorges. Barbara Finamore, an NRDC specialist on China,
stated back in 1997 that, "The scale of this dam just dwarfs
any other project of this kind. Entire cities are going to go
underwater."(44) She also commented that "It's
not enough to just remove the barriers to U.S. investment in China.
It has to be focused on clean energy or there is the potential
for even more damage to the environment."(45) In 1998
NRDC did oppose an amendment sponsored by Senator Murkowski that
"would prohibit the US Export-Import Bank from withholding
any project's financing for environmental reasons if the government
of any other G-7 country provided money for the project."
Rejection by the bank of the financing for the Three Gorges Dam
had prompted Murkowski to push the amendment.(46) By the
same token, shouldn't NRDC be vocally calling attention to these
concerns with the finance companies involved in the Three Gorges
Dam and represented by law partners of NRDC's chairman?
A search of news media reveals no recent advocacy
or commentary by NRDC regarding the dam; even NRDC's web site
has no information about Three Gorges. (Finamore and NRDC were
also silent when the Clinton administration announced the $50
billion sale of nuclear reactors to China and defended the deal
as a means to address global warming.)
NRDC: PRACTICING SUPERFICIAL ENVIRONMENTALISM
IN SERVICE OF THE WEALTHY AND CORPORATE INTERESTS?
There are several interesting symbols that
Nonprofit Watch would like to suggest in conceptualizing NRDC.
These symbols are embodied in chairman Frederick A.O. Schwarz,
executive director Frances Beinecke, and NRDC's support from the
Ad Councils of the United States and Japan.
Frederick (Fritz) Augustus Otto Schwarz, Jr., Esq. (F.A.O.
Schwarz): Frederick Schwarz is the great-grandson
of the founder of the F.A.O. Schwarz toy company.(15) F.A.O.
Schwarz sells expensive toys for the wealthy, just as Frederick
Schwarz chairs a group that repeatedly proffers a environmental
agenda friendly to the rich and powerful corporations. Certainly
Mr. Geffen and the wealthy investors in Playa Vista no doubt have
appreciated NRDC's neutrality and tacit support.
Frances Gillespie Beinecke: Frances
Beinecke is the daughter of corporate executive William S. Beinecke.(47,48)
The wealthy Beinecke family was involved in a variety industries,
but perhaps is best known for Sperry & Hutchinson (S&H),
founded by her great-uncle's father; her father William S. Beinecke
served as Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the company.(49).
She also sits on the board of the Beinecke family's Prospect
Hill Foundation, which has an endowment of $71 million, adding
further to her influence.
Sperry and Hutchinson, also known as the S&H
Green Stamp company, provided "green stamps" for merchants
to hand out with grocery and other purchases as a reward for shopping.
The stamps were redeemable for consumer goods. The Green Stamps
were not environmentally "green" -- the term "green"
referred to their color. The company was sold by the family around
1980 but has recently been repurchased by a relative who is moving
to make at an internet
Is NRDC's brand of environmentalism merely
putting a "green stamp" upon the industrial system of
our world? When one considers NRDC's support of NAFTA with its
environmental side agreement -- a toothless green fig-leaf which
seems to have utterly failed or advocacy for bailing out the nuclear
industry's stranded costs which puts the cost -- $100 billion
plus -- onto the taxpayer, gives new life to old reactors, and
ensures that underwriters will be willing to risk investing in
a new generation of reactors, it would seem that the answer is
yes. (It would seem that Schwarz and Beinecke are the "power
elite" about which wrote C. Wright Mills.)
U.S. and Japanese Ad Councils: These
two entities underwrite advertising for NRDC. The U.S. Ad Council
represents, and is funded
by, broadcasters, advertising agencies and corporate advertisers
which make money by encouraging consumption. Presumably the same
applies to the Japanese Ad Council.
Regarding Japan, consider that Japanese corporations
over the years have been condemned by environmentalists for rapacious
logging and other wanton resource extraction and consumption.
Furthermore, Japan is a top user of nuclear power with plans for
many more nuclear power plants and would very well benefit from
the NRDC-supported plan to turn Russian into a storage site for
foreign nuclear waste.
In spite rhetoric from NRDC critical of corporations
and an occasional corporate accountability campaign, could it
nonetheless be the case that when push comes to shove, the corporate
sector prefers to deal with NRDC's brand of environmentalism as
opposed to that practiced by groups with a stronger agenda?
Nonprofit Watch is not in a position to referee
the debate over the Ballona Wetlands. However, the coalition of
grassroots environmentalists and other civic groups intent in
saving all of the Ballona site have a greater integrity than elite
groups such as NRDC, which postures as neutral and claims that
the Playa Vista development has not warranted its intervention
while the group is entwined with developer interests as discussed
in this report.
A leaked confidential memo from developer Playa
Capital entitled "Known Opponents" listed 90 people
and 88 groups in opposition to the company's developments plans.(3)
In light of the gross conflicts of interest outlined in this report,
perhaps there also exists a shorter memo, maybe entitled "Known
Friends and Silent Bystanders," which includes NRDC, as well
as the National Audubon Society and Friends of the Ballona Wetlands.
Writing in The Nation, William Gibson
notes that the developers of Ballona have pumped the political
system with campaign donations.(10) "One CalPIRG study
of campaign donations from 1993 to 1995 found that DreamWorks,
together with Maguire Thomas Partners and the major law firm and
engineering consultants who worked on the project, gave a total
of $346,000 to local and state politicians, including a $50,000
donation by Steven Spielberg to Governor Wilson months before
he allocated $40 million in project subsidies. During the 1996
national campaign, Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen together gave
the Democrats $562,000. And in the 1998 California governor's
race the three DreamWorks principals each donated $50,000 to Democratic
candidate Gray Davis." To Nonprofit Watch, NRDC's conflicts
of interest coupled with the group's neutrality are the nonprofit
equivalent of political campaign financing by special interests.
A Ballona activist complained to Nonprofit
Watch that the "neutrality and silence" of groups like
NRDC "gave the tacit seal of approval to the development
an approval that was important to the liberal wing of the
Democratic Party in California. If these three organizations had
joined with the Coalition to Save All of Ballona in 1995 or 1996,
then the political dynamics of the struggle would have been changed."
In response to this report, NRDC may argue
that neutrality was the appropriate position for the group to
take to avoid conflict of interest. But the suggestion that NRDC
might take a position on "phase two," and the fact that
the group did not explicitly recuse itself, negates that argument.
NRDC should have publicly acknowledged the apparent conflicts
of interest and vocally recused itself from the issue.
In taking NRDC to task, it should be recognized
that the group has played a leading role in trying to force Los
Angeles to take responsibility for its stormwater drain-off which
is a major source of pollution of the Santa Monica Bay. This is
a paradox of modern industrial society: the natural and life-giving
process of rain causes environmental harm by washing to sea the
human-generated pollutants that coat the land. On one level NRDC
could be applauded for its efforts to force municipalities to
deal with storm runoff as if it were sewage; but it focuses on
a symptom of pollution rather than addressing the human acts that
produced the pollutants. Moreover, as in the matter of nuclear
power bailouts, here too NRDC wants the public to assume the cost
of problems created by corporations acting for profit, carrying
out industrial activities, and producing consumer items that contribute
to this toxic runoff.
The ecological problems facing the planet and
its inhabitants are numerous and complex. While Nonprofit Watch
does not claim to have the answers, it must conclude that NRDC
is too cozy with corporate special interests to develop and promote
an Earth-saving vision.
- Links to Groups Opposed to the
Playa Vista Project
- and Endeavoring to Save the Entire
Ballona Site from Development
(The below organizations would certainly be far worthier organizations
for ones charity dollars and volunteer energy than the Natural
Resources Defense Council(NRDC). Note that mention below does
not imply that the below groups endorse Nonprofit Watch or this
Other Ballona Links
- Wetlands Action Network(WAN) http://www.wetlandact.org/
- (P.O. Box 1145; Malibu, CA 90265; (310) 456-5604 fax:
(310) 456-5612; firstname.lastname@example.org )
- In the view of Nonprofit Watch and with no disrespect towards
other activists groups, WAN has played a leading role under the
leadership of Marcia Hanscom in the effort during the '90s to
save the Ballona site from development.
- On the e-mail list for this group it was noted several months
ago that Hanscom had sustained an injury and lacked health insurance.
While grassroots activists doing the "heavy lifting"
often get by with scant resources and compensation, the elites
pay themselves hefty salaries for example, NRDC's President
John Adams earned a compensation package of $238,964
in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1998. Environmentalists and
the general public need not support such salaries, especially
in light of the issues raised in this report about NRDC's integrity.
Let the rich take care of NRDC it certainly takes care
of them. There are many other organizations such as those listed
here where the donor's dollar would be used with much greater
integrity and efficiency.
- Other Leading Opponents of Development
on the Ballona Wetlands
- (in alphabetical order)
- Ballona Valley Preservation League http://www.ballonawetlands.org/
- 12228 Venice Blvd. Box 500, Los Angeles CA 90066; (310) 398-5511
- Ballona Wetlands Land Trust http://www.ballona.org/
- PO Box 5623 Playa del Rey CA 90296; (310) 338 1413 / Fax:
(310) 399-2920; email@example.com
- California Public Interest Research Group http://www.pirg.org/calpirg/
- 3435 Wilshire Blvd., #308; Los Angeles, CA 90010; (213)251-3680
- EarthWays Foundation http://earthways.org/
- 20110 Rockport Way Malibu, CA 90265 ; 310-456-8300 or FAX
- saveBALLONA.com http://www.saveballona.com/
P.O.Box 5025, Playa del Rey, CA 90296; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Spirit of the Sage Council http://www.sagecouncil.com/
- 30 N. Raymond Ave., Suite 302; Pasadena, CA 91103; 626 744
9932, 626 744 9931 (fax)
- Surfrider Foundation -- Ventura County http://www.west.net/~srfrdrvc/index.html
- 239 W. Main Street, Ventura, California,
93001; 805-667-2222, email@example.com
- West Bluffs Conservation Association http://www.savewestbluffs.org/
- 8117 W. Manchester Ave., # 517, Playa del Rey, CA 90293-8728;
(310) 967-5920 (310)301-1750 (fax)
- Two Other Meritorious Groups Mentioned
In this Report
- (While their work is not related to the Ballona Wetlands,
the following two groups are mentioned in this report in regards
to their opposition to NRDC supported projects. )
- CLEAN AIR CAMPAIGN: 150 NASSAU ST, NEW YORK, NY 1003;
- The project of long time New York environmentalist Marcy
Benstock who years ago led the fight against the billion dollar
Westway highway in New York City; she valiantly perseveres in
spite of powerful interests arrayed against grassroots enviros
and aggressive efforts in New York to co-opt and subvert environmentalists.
- Bellona Foundation http://www.bellona.no/
c/o BELLONA USA, PO BOX 11835; WASHINGTON, DC 20008-9035;
Tom Hayden on the Development of the Ballona
The Last Stand, The Struggle for the Ballona Wetlands(Ironically, this film was shown at the 2000 D.C. Environmental
Film Festival by the Clean Water Network, which operates out of
NRDC's offices.) http://www.ballona.com/
A View from the Other Side
Collection of reviews and letters to the
editor regarding film The Last Stand -- Provide insight into the Contrasting Viewpoints About
the Playa Vista Development and the Ballona Wetlands
- -- The
Last Stand: Anti-Playa Forces Roll The Dice Again by Marc
- Haefele of LA Weekly criticizes both the
activists opposed to Playa Vista and the film The Last Stand.
- -- Letters
from filmmakers and activist in response to Haefele's review
of The Last Stand
- -- Letter
from Ruth Lansford, President of Friends of Ballona Wetlands,
counter-responding to above letters.
- -- 'Wetlands'
More Promotion than Documentary
- James Bates of the Los Angeles Times takes
on The Last Stand
- -- The
Mudslinging in the Wetlands Television: Documentary on environmental
impact of Playa Vista project gets air time--and raises a furor
over its objectivity
- Lorenza Munoz of Los Angeles Times reviews
The Last Stand
- -- Counterpunch:
Production Team Takes Issue with the Ballona Wetlands Stories
- Filmmakers Respond to Articles by Bates and
Munoz in Los Angeles Times
- -- BUSINESS
WRITER WAS WRONG CHOICE FOR 'WETLANDS' REVIEW
- A variety of readers of the Los Angeles Times
criticize review by James Bates
Friends of Ballona Wetlands -- This is the group that reached a settlement with the
developers and has been criticized by grassroots environmentalists
for its position. http://ballonafriends.org/
Background Articles on the Ballona
Vista 's Road to Reality Is Full of Twists and Turns;
Development: Part of the huge project near Marina del Rey is
underway, but legal and other hurdles remain. by Jim Newton and
Monte Morin in Los Angeles Times, Oct. 3 1999
Steven Spielberg and his billionaire partners would bulldoze
E.T. to get the Playa Vista megadevelopment built on L.A.'s last
surviving wetlands. But outraged citizens may topple these giants.
By Jill Stewart -- New Times Los Angeles -- June 3, 1999
Sprawl: Instead of saving open space, politicians are giving
subsidies to developers. By J. William Gibson, The Nation,
March 1st, 1999
Other Lost World: Los Angeles has its own Central Park
sitting right under its nose, waiting to be noticed. Instead,
it's being bulldozed, and Steven Spielberg is building his new
film studio on the site as part of one of the biggest real estate
developments in the city's history.
- by Mark Hertsgaard -- Mother Jones -- January 1, 1999 http://bsd.mojones.com/mother_jones/JF99/hertsgaard.html
of the last park; Nothing, it seems, can stand
in the way of progress. Especially when the building site is
Hollywood and the builder is one of its most powerful directors.
by Andrew Gumbel in The Independent (London), Oct. 3, 1998
Up DreamWorks: It took a conservative judge to
finally slam the brakes on Steven Spielberg's steamroller in
the Ballona Wetlands. By Jill Stewart -- New Times Los
Angeles -- May 30, 1998
- 1. Hertsgaard, Mark. Spielberg's other lost
world; Steven Spielberg's new Los Angeles film studio. Mother
Jones (24:1), 62. 1-1-1999. http://bsd.mojones.com/mother_jones/JF99/hertsgaard.html
- 2. Jill Stewart. DreamJerks; Steven Spielberg
and his billionaire partners would bulldoze E.T. to get the Playa
Vista megadevelopment built on L.A.'s last surviving wetlands.
But outraged citizens may topple these giants . New Times Los
Angeles . 6-3-1999.
- 3. PATT MORRISON. CONFESSIONS OF A 'KNOWN
OPPONENT'. Los Angeles Times , B-1. 7-16-1999.
- 4. JODI WILGOREN and NANCY RIVERA BROOKS.
STUDIO DEAL A HIT WITH CITY COUNCIL; BUSINESS: MEMBERS PRAISE
PACKAGE OF TAX BREAKS TO LURE DREAMWORKS SKG TO PLAYA VISTA DEVELOPMENT.
BUT A NEW COALITION OF OPPONENTS VOWS TO FIGHT THE PROJECT. Los
Angeles Times , B-1. 12-6-1995.
- 5. J.WILLIAM GIBSON. BLOCKING BALLONA: FINANCING
IN HAND, PLAYA VISTA STILL FACES OBSTACLES. LA Weekly , 14. 10-24-1997.
- 6. U.S. JUDGES LIFT BAN ON FILLING WETLANDS.
Los Angeles Times , B-7. 8-22-2000.
- 7. Sharon Waxman. Wetland Of the Giants;
Environmentalists Balk at Studio Site. The Washington Post ,
- 8. PETER H.KING. CALIFORNIA AND THE WEST;
A Case of Wanton Weeding. Los Angeles Times , A-3. 1-11-1998.
- 9. Jill Stewart. Jamming Up DreamWorks; It
took a conservative judge to finally slam the brakes on Steven
Spielberg's steamroller in the Ballona Wetlands. New Times Los
Angeles . 7-30-1998. http://www.newtimesla.com/archives/1998/073098/stewart1.html
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