Cause of Action

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Cause of Action, formerly known as Freedom Through Justice Foundation, according to its website, is a non-profit organization claiming to use "public advocacy and legal reform tools to ensure greater transparency in government, protect taxpayer interests and promote economic freedom." [1] In June 2013, the organization altered its website to add that it "uses investigative, legal and communications tools" to achieve this mission. It received just shy of a million dollars in funding from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a national journalism organization, earmarked "for journalism," in 2011.[2]

The Executive Director, Dan Epstein, assisted in the investigations of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the National Mediation Board as Counsel for Oversight and Investigations at the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for the U.S. House of Representatives. [3] Epstein is an alumnus of the Koch Associates Program run at the time by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Institute and later by the Charles Koch Institute.[4][5]

The Freedom Through Justice Foundation was incorporated in July 2011 and applied for tax exempt status in August 2011, but it was not granted 501(c)(3) status until July 2012.[6][7] It started receiving funding in 2011,[8] started issuing press releases in at least October 2011,[9] and started to get press calling it "a government accountability nonprofit" in November 2011.[10]

Major Activities

Environment & Energy Publishing called Cause of Action "the most active nonprofit you've never heard of." It reported on the variety of causes the group advocates which all have an underlying theme: government overreach and excessive regulation. For example, Cause of Action represented Oregon Windfarms in a lawsuit concerning a Chinese-owned company's attempts to set up a wind farm in Oregon which was blocked by President Obama. It also represented a lesbian couple in California who wanted to start a family by using a donor they knew. This was apparently against the FDA rule barring such agreements of "body tissue transfers." These are seemingly very different types of issues, but Cause of Action's position is that both are unconstitutional government overreach.[11]

Drakes Bay Oyster Company v. Salazar, et al & Keystone Pipeline

Cause of Action has been a main supporter of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company's lawsuit against the federal government, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, for refusing to renew the company's lease of the public lands on which it operates. [12] In February, 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the company's request for an emergency injunction pending appeal of the denial of a preliminary injunction that would allow the company to remain in operation during litigation.[13] Oral arguments on that issue were heard in May.[14]

The Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013, which would expedite permits for the Keystone Pipeline, open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, allow more offshore drilling, would also extend the Drakes Bay Oyster Company's operating permit for at least ten years. Because of this, many Tea Party affiliated groups have taken up the cause. The farm's owner told the New York Times that he was surprised his oyster farm ended up in the bill and was uncomfortable with the types of groups that have taken up his cause.[15]

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

Cause of Action received $994,000 from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity (including under its former name, the Freedom Through Justice Foundation) to "support journalism" in 2011.[16] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[17] That was 99.7 percent of its income for that year.[18] Unlike other organizations funded by Franklin, however, Cause of Action has no "reporters" on staff.[19]

Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[20][21] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[22]

Franklin Center Funding

Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center's funding "is 100 percent anonymous." But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin's Internal Revenue Service records).[23] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[24] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[23]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[25] a conservative grant-making organization.[26]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[27] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[28] which is partially funded by the Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[29] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[30] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Other Funding

In addition to the $994,000 in funding that Cause of Action received from the Franklin Center (an organization funded in part by DonorsTrust) in 2011, it also received $1.95 million in funding directly from DonorsTrust in 2012 -- nearly two-thirds of its total funding for that year[31] -- in three separate grants, each for general operations.[32] (See DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients for more.)

IRS Forms 990

  • Cause of Action Institute, 2012 IRS Form 990, organization's annual IRS filing, May 14, 2014.
  • Cause of Action Institute, 2011 IRS Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 3, 2013.

Personnel

Former Staff

  • Mary Beth Hutchins, Communications Director 2012-2015[45]
  • Amber Abbasi, Chief Counsel for Regulatory Affairs 2011-2013[46]

Contact Information

Cause of Action
1919 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Suite 650
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202-499-4232
Web: causeofaction.org

Resources and References

Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Resources

References

  1. Cause of Action, About, Organizational Website, Accessed May 13, 2013. This organizational statement is still available here as of July 2013.
  2. Franklin Center, 2011 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 12, 2012.
  3. Cause of Action, Dan Epstein – Executive Director, Organizational Website, Accessed May 13, 2013.
  4. Emily Yehle, The most active nonprofit you've never heard of, E&E, November 14, 2012.
  5. Brooke Williams and Matt Pearce, Issa oversight committee staffs up with industry insiders, Center for Public Integrity, February 28, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Freedom Through Justice Foundation, Form 1023, organizational IRS filing, August 5, 2011.
  7. Internal Revenue Service, Letter to Cause of Action granting tax exempt status, July 9, 2012.
  8. Franklin Center, 2011 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 12, 2012.
  9. Cause of Action, Press Releases, organizational website, accessed July 2013.
  10. NLRB FORMER CHAIRMAN AND GENERAL COUNSEL ENGAGE IN EX PARTE COMMUNICATIONS, Washington Examiner, November 7, 2011.
  11. Emily Yehle, The most active nonprofit you've never heard of, E&E Publishing, November 14, 2012.
  12. Felicity Barringer, End of the Line for an Oyster Farm, The New York Times, November 29, 2012.
  13. Cause of Action, Emergency Injunction Granted for Drakes Bay Oyster Company, organizational press release, February 25, 2013.
  14. Joe Rosato, Jr., Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm Fights to Stay Open: THE FUTURE OF THE COMPANY IS NOW IN THE HANDS OF THREE JUDGES, Cause of Action website article, May 14, 2013.
  15. Fnorimitsu Onshi, Oyster Farm Caught Up in Pipeline Politics, New York Times, April 9, 2013.
  16. Franklin Center, 2011 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 12, 2012.
  17. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  18. Cause of Action Institute, 2011 IRS Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 3, 2013.
  19. Cause of Action Employees, LinkedIn.com, accessed July 2013.
  20. Rebekah Metzler, 'Watchdog' website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  21. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  22. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  24. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  25. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  26. Bradley Foundation, The Bradley Foundation, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  27. Sam Adams Alliance, Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit, organizational PDF, accessed August 19, 2011.
  28. Media Matters Action Network, Sam Adams Alliance, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  29. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  30. Media Matters Action Network, Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  31. Cause of Action Institute, 2012 IRS Form 990, organization's annual IRS filing, May 14, 2014.
  32. DonorsTrust, 2012 IRS Form 990, foundation's annual IRS filing, November 14, 2013.
  33. Dan Epstein, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  34. Patrick Massari, LinkedIn profile, Linkedin.com, accessed January 2015.
  35. James Valvo, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  36. Prashant Khetan, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January, 2015.
  37. Joshua Schopf, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  38. Ryan Mulvey, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  39. Aram Gavoor, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  40. Laura Begun, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  41. Kent Huntington, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  42. Kevin Schmidt, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  43. Catherine Chae, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  44. Moira Smith, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  45. Mary Beth Hutchins, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.
  46. Amber Abbasi LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn.com, accessed January 2015.