NRDC under fire for violating its non-profit status

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a giant among anti-science groups, a $100 million per year juggernaut that is able to bully companies into writing checks in return for calling off the invective among the many satellite organizations in its orbit.

Republicans in the Senate seem to have finally had enough.

The NRDC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit prohibited from political activity but they refuse to disclose their donors so there has long been a belief that their dislike for one political party is not based on genuine concern about the public. Due to their giant coffers, they are able to wield an outsized level of mindshare among media outlets that don't ask how almost $300 million in assets can be hidden from the public under the guise of "privacy." By doing so, Senate Republicans contend, they can mask contributions by what the National Republican Senatorial Committee calls "a Who s Who of liberal billionaires and Hollywood elites that can get a tax write-off by either contributing directly, and having it hidden under the privacy policy, or earmarking it for the NRDC using grant foundations with an understanding that it will be used for programs in the ethical gray area of its non-profit status.

At issue is a series of political ads targeting Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is considered vulnerable by NRDC and other anti-science organizations. They would like him replaced with someone more reliable - in this case Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). The NRDC insists it is just informing voters and that its ads against Kirk are public education, not political advocacy.

Obviously the line between education and politics is fuzzy and NRDC has long been able to control their public perception with a well-funded advertising machine: Those full-page ads in the New York Times can't hurt when it comes to getting positive coverage from journalists - and having media ignore their ethical warts.

Hank Campbell is the President of the American Council on Science and Health. He can also be reached on Facebook, Twitter and Science 2.0.