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Fraser vs Pembina, part 2: Funding

Funding Highlights [added May 31]:

Both the Fraser Institute and the Pembina Institute have some reliance on foreign funding (about 15%). Both organizations rely on foundations for more than half their funding; Fraser enjoys more corporate support, while Pembina has more funding and research contracts from government and other NGOs. In general, Pembina is much more transparent concerning individual funding sources than Fraser.

Nevertheless, this investigation reveals that the oil and gas industry funding plays a much bigger role in the Fraser Institute’s budget than previously realized. Previously unreported cumulative funding from Encana stands at about $1 million; founding CEO Gwyn Morgan gave an additional $1 million, for a total of $2 million. Other important donors have included the Koch brothers ($523,000) and Exxon-Mobil ($120,000), along with significant but unreported regular donations by an unidentified Canadian Koch subsidiary and Exxon-Mobil subsidiary Imperial Oil. There is also circumstantial evidence pointing to support by Keystone XL proponent TransCanada and oil sands operator Canadian Natural Resources. Meanwhile, Pembina has transparently reported support from Suncor (and formerly TransCanada).

This is the second in an ongoing series comparing and contrasting two prominent Canadian think tanks, namely the libertarian and Conservative-friendly Fraser Institute and the environmentally focused Pembina Institute. This follows Part 1, Introduction and Background; subsequent sections cover Funding Transparency, Research Quality, Political Dimensions and Conclusions & Recommendations.

SECTION 2: FUNDING

  1. Summary of Findings
  2. Breakdown of Funding Sources
  3. Foreign Funding
  4. Oil and Gas Company Funding
    1. Encana & Gwyn Morgan
    2. Koch brothers (Koch International)
    3. TransCanada Corp ->Pembina
    4. TransCanada Corp -> Fraser
    5. ExxonMobil & Imperial Oil
    6. Canadian Natural Resources
    7. Suncor
  5. Conclusion


A  FUNDING – SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

Funding Breakdown: Fraser has a little more than double the revenue of Pembina ($10.8 M vs $4.8 M).  Both Fraser (54%) and Pembina (77%) derive more than half their donation revenue from foundations. Fraser also relies considerably more on the corporate sector for donations than Pembina (34% vs 7%). However, Pembina derives half its income from consulting fees, mainly with corporations, as well as other non-profits and governments, thus implying a higher corporate share of Pembina’s overall revenues.

Foreign Funding: Fraser and Pembina appear to have a similar level of foreign funding, about one-sixth of total revenue, based on 2010 tax returns and annual reports.

Oil and Gas company funding: Specific corporate or foundation sponsors, whether foreign or Canadian, are harder to identify in the case of the Fraser Institute, whose lack of transparency stands in sharp contrast to the openness of Pembina.

Nevertheless, Fraser’s major oil and gas company sponsor can now be identified for the first time. Canadian oil and gas giant Encana  has donated about $1 million to Fraser’s coffers since 2002, along with an additional $1 million gift from Encana’s founding CEO (and early Harper suporter) Gwyn Morgan, for a combined total of about $2 million.

U.S. based Koch foundations and are in second place and rising fast, having donated a total of $500,000 from 2007 to 2010. In addition, there were regular undisclosed contributions from an unnamed Koch Canadian subsidiary “years and years” before that.

Other oil industry companies associated with Fraser are ExxonMobil, ExxonMobil subsidiary Imperial Oil, and Keystone XL lead proponent TransCanada Corporation (also a former supporter  of the Pembina Institute). ExxonMobil donated $120,000 in 2003-2004. The amount and timing of Imperial contributions to Fraser remain unknown. There is strong circumstantial evidence of TransCanada support for Fraser, but no direct evidence or admission of funding, let alone amounts or timing.

The following table summarizes current knowledge of oil and gas industry funding of the Fraser Institute.

Company/Foundation_________ 2010__ Cumulative__
Encana__________________ Morgan-Trottier Foundation Encana/Gwyn Morgan Total $75,000 * N/A___ ______ $1,073,286 * $1,000,000 $2,073,286
Koch Foundations ____________ Koch Cdn. subsidiaries $150,000 None $523,221 Unreported
Exxon-Mobil_______________ Imperial Oil None Unreported $120,000 Unreported
TransCanada Corporation ** TBD TBD
Canadian Natural Resources ** TBD TBD

* Previously undisclosed Encana support given in response to author inquiries.
** Circumstantial evidence for support, without official confirmation as yet.

Suncor Energy, now Canada’s largest oil and gas company, is a long time supporter of Pembina, donating in five figures most years, as well as contracting for various consultant services.

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