RFF Featured in Chronicle of Philanthropy Op-Ed

An op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy reviewed the meager climate policy accomplishments achieved despite the massive amounts of foundation money spent to do so and the lack of public analysis about what went wrong. One exception noted was RFF's commissioning of a critical analysis to help explain why the Cap & Trade campaign failed, by Harvard Professor Theda Skocpol.

Lack of Paid Sick Days Exacerbates 2018 Flu Season

The Washington Post reported on the widespread prevalence of flu cases which has likely been made worse by employers who don’t offer their workers paid sick time. In the process, businesses hurt their own bottom line due to high rates of absenteeism. The article cites RFF’s grantee and project partner: “In 2010, a policy brief published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research used data from the CDC and the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] to estimate that during the virulent 2009 flu season, about 8 million American workers went to work while infected with the influenza virus, causing an additional 7 million people to get sick in the process.” 


RFF's Innovative Philanthropy

RFF's grantee, El Puente, has been at the center of critical relief efforts in Puerto Rico (see side bar news item). A recent Nonprofit Quarterly piece used El Puente as an example of positive change emerging from catastrophe thanks to the breadth of understanding and visionary roll that funders can play. RFF brought together experts and other nonprofits, notably the Institue for Energy Efficiency and Financial Analysis, to help make El Puente's sustainable energy and solar lighting initiative a success.


As repeatedly reported, Exxon deceived the public about climate science while funding a number of organizations to foment doubt about fossil fuel’s central role in the globe’s expanding climate crisis. The Rockefeller Family Fund funded both the investigative journalists at Columbia Journalism School and history of science professors at Harvard University who waded through the decades of deceptive conduct. This situation was not lost on a federal judge considering Exxon’s pending case against the New York and Massachusetts Attorneys General. As reported in a recent New York Magazine article on the Rockefeller family and Exxon, the judge had the following exchange with Exxon’s attorney:


“Didn’t Standard Oil grow up to be Exxon?” Caproni asked Justin Anderson, one of Exxon’s lawyers, after Anderson repeated Exxon’s conspiracy claim against the Rockefellers. “That’s ironic, don’t you think?”

“It’s disturbing, Judge,” Anderson said.

“No, it’s ironic — come on,” Caproni said.

“It could be both,” Anderson said. “Ironic and disturbing at the same time.”

“Fascinating,” Caproni said. “What happened to those Rockefellers?”

“Your Honor, what happened was they got on this bandwagon — ” Anderson said, before Caproni cut him off to interject: “They care whether subsequent Rockefellers can breathe.”


January 10, 2018--Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city is bringing suit against five fossil fuel firms – BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell – to pay for the costs of protecting the city from climate change impacts such as flooding and erosion. The city will also divest $5 billion of fossil fuel-related holdings from its $189 billion pension fund.

“… we’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits. As climate change continues to worsen, it’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient,” Mr. de Blasio declared.


The Working Matters coalition organized a successful House AND Senate override of Maryland Governor’s veto of the Healthy Working Families Act, a statewide earned sick and safe leave bill. Maryland becomes the tenth state to guarantee earned sick leave to its citizens. Over the past three years, RFF has workied closely with the coalition to build capacity, organize supporters, and educate voters.

Since RFF began its focus on workplace reform, more than 13 million people have gained the right to guaranteed earned sick leave – in more than 40 cities, and now 10 states.

“Read the documents”

The Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) promotes public education about the risks of global warming.  It funds investigative journalism and high-quality research that helps the public understand the realities of climate change.

Historians of science have long known that Exxon has been a leading funder of those who deny the validity of climate science.  When investigative journalists at Columbia University and InsideClimate News found internal ExxonMobil documents that acknowledged the "catastrophic" climate risks associated with burning fossil fuels, the company exhorted the public to "read the documents" rather than be deceived by the "allegations" contained in the reports about them.

RFF subsequently made a grant to Harvard University to enable two scholars--Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran--to comply with Exxon's request and independently review all available documentation, which reflect both the company's internal understanding of climate change and its public statements about the issue.  Their peer-reviewed, empirical report examines the internal Exxon memoranda that have already been the subject of media scrutiny as well as every published article by an Exxon scientist about climate change and all the many "advertorials" the company published on the subject in the editorial pages of The New York Times--187 documents in total.  This exhaustive report concludes that "ExxonMobil misled the public" about climate change.  You can read the full Harvard report here.

The Rockefeller Family Fund still holds out hope that ExxonMobil will decide to come clean with the American public about its role in artificially manufacturing the so-called "debate" over climate science.  Perhaps then we can move on with the urgent business of addressing the unfolding climate catastrophe that Exxon has for so long predicted.


(photo by Johnny Silvercloud,


El Puente Seizes a Solar Power Opportunity:

After Hurricane Maria destroyed the entire electric grid in Puerto Rico, El Puente jumped at the opportunity to organize the delivery of solar-powered generators, lanterns and cell phone chargers to Puerto Rico. The goal was two-fold: to provide immediate access to electric power and light, and to pave the way to a green energy future as Puerto Rico rebuilds its electric power structure.

Building Democracy at the Grassroots Level:

RFF's Rural Electric Co-op Democracy Project trained and deployed a group of carefully chosen Fellows and Mentors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to reach out to members of the Black Warrior Rural Electric Co-op service district in Alabama. Although serving a largely African American population, the Co-op had only two African Americans on the board and an election had not been held in decades.The Fellows' goal was to inform co-op members of their right to vote in the Co-op election held in November. The outrage generated by an election that offered only one voting option--a "yes" vote for incumbent candidates--created a powerful incentive for three-busloads of co-op members to join the Black Warrior Democracy Campaign and blast the "new" board with withering questions.



NJ Gov-Elect Pledges Support for Earned Sick Leave :

Following the success of RFF grantees to secure earned sick leave legislation in thirteen cities in New Jersey, a state-wide intitiative is promising. New Jersey Governor-elect Phil Murphy pledged his continuing support for earned sick leave in his address to the League of Municipalities soon after the November election.