Those are all positive things, so why last year did they also give money to one of the most corrupt, hate-filled, lying, mercenary organizations in America? U.S. Right To Know is an industry front group that exists to attack scientists and undermine public confidence in food and medicine for their donors/clients, who unfailingly sell "alternatives" to the science and health consensus. They even launder dark money payments to outlets willing to help. More on that below.
Yet they just got $300,000 from a foundation that claims to care about the public.
Did Laura and John Arnold Foundation not see that the organization was founded by Organic Consumers Association, known allies of propaganda sites like Russia Today and an NGO which actively embraces the anti-vaccine movement?(1) Did they not see that a key funder is Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, which is not just a name, they literally think their organic soap has supernatural powers and are also an anti-vaccine group?(2) How about Crossfit? You know, the exercise video company where the spokesman and right hand man of the CEO turned out to be an anti-LGBT hatemonger and whose CEO told diabetics that Coke caused their disease? (3) -That is a natural fit for deniers for hire like US Right To Know but should have been a red flag for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Instead, last year they gave USRTK the largest grant in its history.
Part of that may be because Gary Ruskin is simply a great salesman. There is no question he is better than me and I actually ran worldwide sales for successful companies. He convinced people he was the heir to Ralph Nader, the famed consumer advocate's right-hand man, and though every piece of major legislation he's lobbied for has failed he has gotten companies to hand him millions of dollars. He even convinced University of California San Francisco to let him and his team manage an Industry Docs site where taxpayer funding is used to attack taxpayer funded scientists and engage in politics - all in violation of federal law. It takes some real Svengali stuff to get a $1.5 billion university system to jeopardize its brand in order for you to make money.
Not everyone remains in love with him. The group that put him on the map, Organic Consumers Association, seems to have had enough of the bad press associated with him and slashed his funding.
And the bad press for Gary Ruskin, Stacy Malkan, Carey Gillam, and the army of Twitter bots US Right To Know uses is legion. While they once got a few gullible journalists - Eric Lipton at the New York Times and whoever - to buy into their fuzzy-wuzzy consumer interest narrative, those mentions are getting harder to come by. They hired discredited former journalist Carey Gillam and gave her the title "research director" so they could show their clients deliverables by having her write in newspapers. That didn't work out. Journalism is a small community and Reuters concerns about her advocacy for anti-science groups were well-founded. Other outlets know that. She has occasionally convinced politically sympathetic editors in left-wing outlets like The Guardian in England to run op-eds but those are also under a cloud of suspicion because of dark money line items on US Right To Know tax forms that go to a journalism site in England.(4) In the U.S. it's just squeaky blogs on Alternet, Huffington Post and anti-Semitic sites like CounterPunch carrying their conspiracy theories.
As organic food became Big Food - $120 billion in sales this year - more organic farmers and companies have found they no longer need to build themselves up by tearing their neighbors in regular farming down. The industry voice is no longer dominated by rich white gardeners who oppose science in favor of Shamanism, it is now a diverse group of professional farmers who simply choose to adhere to a manufacturing process because it has higher profit margins, no different than a kosher food group does. The organic industry now has rules, it put in dozens and dozens of exemptions for non-organic additives because that increases their revenue, it has lobbyists and trade groups on panels inside the US Department of Agriculture.
Organic farmers aren't limited to Whole Foods now(4), they have Kroger. There are farmers growing both conventional and organic food based on whichever provides the best economic return. It's become mainstream capitalism, not a fringe lifestyle that needs to promote conspiracy stories.
Being mainstream means they no longer need to fund smear merchants like Organic Consumers Association, consumers are already buying their process in produce aisles. And there are other groups, such as Organic Trade Association, which do not carry baggage such as sponsoring meet and greets with anti-vax cuckoo bird Robert F. Kennedy the way OCA continues to do while kids in the northwest whose parents listened to organic trade groups about medicine suffer.
Organic Consumers Association has slashed funding to its junkyard dog puppet group by 85%. Maybe US Right To Know did not promote that event with Kennedy strongly enough. Maybe US Right To Know is now too poisonous even for OCA, and they have been pressured by donors to cut them off. It's impossible to know yet.
But to the mainstream science community, and apparently organic farmers, if 85% of the OCA donation is gone there is only $25,000 more to go.
I applaud that move. It is better to leave them to the magic soap crowd.
(1) Food is Russia's number two export, after energy, so it is little surprise that they fund activist groups devoted to opposing both of those in America. You'll never see them funding Science 2.0, for example, because we don't hate the United States the way environmentalists here do.
(2) It's mostly a rhetorical question. Though everyone wraps themselves in the Flag of Science, and it gets equal billing with activist causes in the Arnold press kit, of the $1,000,000,000 they distributed in the last five years, less than .005 went to science.
(3) Why did their CEO specifically call out Coke? It remains a mystery.
(4) Or the convincing was done the more mercenary way. The Guardian has received high dollar donations from a "donor advised" fund - which means it launders the money from others. Meanwhile, US Right To Know has a dark money donation they only admit went to a journalism organization in Europe. Dr. David Zaruk (who is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees for this non-profit) believes it went to Guardian, which means that outlet started carrying her op-eds after they got a giant suitcase full of money.
(5) Which comes with a lot of umbrella mythological beliefs, such as that organic food uses no pesticides and contains no chemicals, 'evaporated cane juice' is not just regular table sugar with a fancier name, and asparagus juice is worth $7 a bottle. Kroger shoppers are a lot smarter than Whole Foods fundamentalists.