House Republicans introduced legislation Tuesday to expose Russian money funneled to advocacy groups, saying Moscow could be bankrolling environmental organizations to oppose increased U.S. energy production.
Rep. Ted Budd, who led the lawmakers in introducing the bill, said that increased transparency was needed to ensure foreign enemies were not trying to subvert America’s political process.
“The prospect of Russia funneling money to U.S. environmental groups to do Russia‘s bidding and actively oppose U.S. energy is a dangerous form of interference in our politics,” said Mr. Budd, a North Carolina Republican who is running for the Senate this year. “It is time to shine a light on how and why green energy groups undermine American energy dominance, destroy American jobs, and weaken America on the world stage.”
The legislation would require any U.S. organization that has received funding from Russia to register as a foreign agent. Individuals registered as such are subject to strict financial disclosure rules.
The bill, which Mr. Budd authored with fellow GOP Rep. Randy Weber of Texas, impacts any organization that has received funding from Russia going back to the invasion of Crimea in 2014.
“To counter American energy leadership, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his allies have been financing Radical environmentalists in their war on American oil and gas production,” Mr. Weber said. “Putin manipulates these ‘useful idiots’ to target and harass domestic American energy projects that would put us on a course to energy independence.”
The White House has rebuffed calls by GOP lawmakers to launch a full investigation into potential Russian interference in domestic politics.
Republicans have warned that organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) are potential tools for Russian subversion.
They cite 2010 reports that shell corporations in the Bahamas tied to the Russian government gave more than $23 million to the Sea Change Foundation. The group then turned around and made significant donations to the Sierra Club, the NRDC and other groups.
Environmental organizations say the calls for transparency are nothing more than a GOP “smear campaign.”
“We receive no funding from the governments of Russia or China,” said Bob Deans, the director of strategic engagement for the NRDC. “We answer to our independent leadership, and we don’t do the bidding of any government — foreign or otherwise — in our work to advocate for common-sense environmental protections in the public interest.”