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The recent disclosure of the Sierra Club’s secret acceptance of $26 million in donations from people associated with a natural gas company has revived an uncomfortable debate among environmental groups about corporate donations and transparency.
The gifts from the company, Chesapeake Energy, have drawn criticism from some environmentalists. “Sleeping with the enemy” was a comment much forwarded on Twitter posts about the undisclosed arrangement.
“Runners shouldn’t smoke, priests shouldn’t touch the kids, and environmentalists should never take money from polluters,” John Passacantando, a former director of Greenpeace who is now an environmental consultant, said in an interview.
Yet the donations to the Sierra Club, reported by Time magazine’s Ecocentric blog and a blog called Corporate Crime Reporter, have plenty of precedents. Between 2004 and 2006, the National Audubon Society accepted $2.1 million from the chemical giant Monsanto to find a strategy for ensuring the safety of waterfowl near industrial farms using pesticides, for example.