My turn: Where does SEACC's money come from?

Posted: Thursday, February 08, 2007

For those of us trying to make a living in the real world on working people's wages, democracy and justice seem accessible to only to those who have money. Idealist notions aside, the more money you have, the better you can work democracy and the court system to your advantage. A recent pardon by former Gov. Frank Murkowski comes to mind.

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Another example is a case closer to home - the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council versus the hard working residents of Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

SEACC has a large well-paid staff, lobbyists, lawyers and all the time in the world to file lawsuits against local businesses to keep Southeast Alaska's economy in decline. These suits have devastated Southeast Alaska's economy and forced many of our neighbors and families to move out of state. So where does SEACC get all its money to file these lawsuits and pay the lawyers and lobbyists?

SEACC's 990 tax return forms are public information, therefore it's easy to see how much money it's getting. Line 1a of their 2005 990 (gifts and grants) totaled $714,826. Page three of Schedule A shows how much in gifts and grants they received in previous years: $683,962 in 2004 and $627,817 in 2003. Now the question is where is all their money coming from?

Do SEACC's board of directors put up their own money for lawsuits, lawyers and lobbyists? The board officers are: President Anissa Berry-Frick, Vice President Paul Barnes, Secretary Mike McKimens and Treasurer Jim Slater. Do they provide the $700,000 in gifts? Or is it the other board members: Joe Sebastian, Steve Lewis, Molly Kemp, Bill Brown, Jeff Sauer, Dave Duffey, George Figdor, Eric Lee, Scott Ownbey, Mark Rorick, Jack Ozment, Mary Lou King, Gregory Vickrey, Peter Branson, Stephen Todd, Vicki LeCornu, Joan McBeen, Doug Mertz, Mike Sallee, Wayne Weihing or Bart Koehler.

Southeast Alaska residents want to know where the money is coming from that is chasing away their livelihoods, dreams and children.

Maybe the money comes from other member groups: Alaska Society of American Forest Dwellers, Chichagof Conservation Council Customary, Traditional Gathering Council of Kake, Friends of Berners Bay, Friends of Glacier Bay, Juneau Audubon Society, Lisianski Inlet Resource Council, Lower Chatham Conservation Society, Lynn Canal Conservation, Narrows Conservation Coalition, Prince of Wales Conservation League, Sierra Club, Juneau Group, Sitka Conservation Society, Taku Conservation Society, Tongass Conservation Society, Wrangell Resource Council or the Yakutat Resource Conservation Council? Are these groups holding bake sales to fund SEACC's lawsuits?

It is hard to imagine that SEACC's board or member organizations can afford to maintain SEACC's lawsuit prone budget. So where is the money coming from? Figuring that out is not as easy as you might think in this transparent business world, but after several hours on the Internet, it's clear the bulk of their money isn't coming from Alaska.

Gordon E. and Betty I. Moore Foundation gave a whooping $609,000 over the past three years. Why or what is the purpose of such a generous gift? The stated goal of the grant: "Outcomes for this grant include grassroots efforts to stop development in the Tongass region."

The Brainerd Foundation has given more than $100,000 in the past few years. Other Outside foundations give regularly to SEACC: Weeden, West Wind, Tides, Wilburforce and Leighty Foundations are ones I found. SEACC's funding does not end there. Other "grassroots" donation-grabbing organizations such as Alaska Wilderness League and Alaska Conservation Foundation raise funds from the same foundations to fund SEACC's lawsuit campaign against Alaska jobs.

There was a lot of squawking in the last couple of elections about large sums of money coming from Outside corporations funding this or that campaign. It seems only prudent and important for us to know who's providing the vast sums of money to fund SEACC's lawsuit campaign. Because SEACC is hell bent on driving working people from the forest and our mines, we at least deserve to know who's paying them to do it.

Therefore, SEACC, I challenge you to come clean about your benefactors so Southeast Alaskans can give credit where it is due.

• Bradley Fluetsch is a Juneau resident.

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