His parents were wildly rich, and so is he.
He’s in the energy business, and he’s not afraid to throw money around to get government policies that help his bottom line. He buys scientists to crank out favorable research. He pays think tanks to formulate policies that fatten his wallet.
He contributes vast sums to politics – both in direct support of candidates and in advocacy. He doles out tens of millions of dollars per year to groups to forward his energy views, and the source of much of this money is the darkest of secrets.
And to top it off, he rides to work on a yacht – a 54-foot, 1,550-horsepower craft with a 550-gallon fuel tank.
So, is this Charles or David Koch? Actually, it’s neither. It’s Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Simons, who got rich off his father’s hedge fund business, invested heavily in green energy and has acquired some interesting allies in his quest to move government policy and the economy toward his areas of financial interest.
His checkbook has enabled him to check a lot of boxes. He maxed out to both of President Obama’s White House campaigns and was a six-figure donor to the Democratic Party and a seven-figure donor to other Democrat candidates.
He also has made himself known and appreciated among liberal environmental groups.
His Sea Change Foundation doled out more than $100 million in 2011 and 2012 to groups such as the Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters and the Center for American Progress.
The Sea Change Foundation operates with a skeletal staff and what InsidePhilanthrophy.com called “quite possibly the world’s least-informative website.” It consists of one screen with three sentences that say it is non-profit, it engages on energy issues and it does not accept grant applications.
But that’s substantially more transparency than is offered by Klein Ltd., the Bermuda-based firm that seems to exist only to funnel anonymous contributions to Sea Change. Klein, which gave Sea Change $23 million in 2010 and 2011 – about 40 percent of the group’s funding during those years – has no website and, by agreement with the host government, does not have to disclose its donors.
This has begun to raise some eyebrows. Last year, a report from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee laid out the questions at the heart of this. “…in 2010-2011, this one private foundation, which receives over 30 percent of its funding from a foreign overseas company, actively seeking to hide the source of its funding, contributed over $20 million to fight domestic fossil energy production.”
Now, who would want to do a thing like that? Our jobless economy is surviving at this point solely because of the fracking boom and the tremendous economic activity and savings in energy costs is has brought to Americans. We’ve gone from a nation that imports nearly two-thirds of its fuel – much of it from unfriendly and serially undemocratic countries – to one so close to energy independence it is contemplating selling its fuel abroad.
As a result, energy prices have fallen substantially worldwide, even as demand has continued to climb. The only losers are other countries dependent on high energy prices to generate the revenue they use to finance their governments.
Which offers a clue to where Klein Ltd. gets its money.
Lachlan Markey of the Washington Free Beacon reports Klein is run by “executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving member of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.”
It operates out of a law firm in Bermuda known as Wakefield Quin, whose clients include more than 20 firms associated with the Russian government as well as Kremlin-controlled Rosneft, the world’s largest oil company.
Klein Ltd., which works out of Wakefield Quin’s offices, appears to have only two employees – Nicholas Hoskins, a hedge fund manager heavily invested in Russian oil and gas with other business interests that connect him to Roseneft, and Marlies Smith, a corporate administrator.
What do the Russians want for their money? They want a carbon tax in some form in the United States, which would drive our energy costs higher and raise the price of oil and natural gas worldwide. And Simons is desperate to make it happen for his partners in green advocacy, regardless of what it means to the country he calls home.
From 2007 to 2012, Sea Change gave more than $173 million to groups so they would push a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system or for other regulations that would help both the Russians and his own green energy business interests. His green groups thrive on a panoply of government grants, low- or no-interest loans and breaks from bureaucrats who save their regulatory zeal for fossil-fuel projects.
So let’s review. The Koch brothers are honestly, openly, proudly in the business of serving America’s energy needs and of promoting leaders and organizations that push for sound energy policies. They employ 77,000 people in providing products people buy with no government urging.
Nat Simons controls a hodgepodge of dodgy investment concerns that focus on renewable energy. He wants government not only to finance his business experiments but to harass and limit the effectiveness of other competitors in the energy market.
He wants Americans to pay substantially more for gasoline, household energy needs and every other product that requires energy. He wants a carbon tax that would hurt the poor far more than the rich. He is willing to get in bed with the oligarchs who run Russia and certainly do not have the interests of American taxpayers at heart to get the money to pressure the system to produce the outcomes he wants.
That he is a hero of the left and the Kochs are arch-villains tells you all you need to know about the moral vacuity of America’s liberals. How long can even they look the other way?
Brian McNicoll is a conservative columnist and freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va. He is a former senior writer for The Heritage Foundation and former director of communications for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.