Penn Future’s Secret Lobbying

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation


Contact: Nathan Benefield 717.671.1901 | [email protected]

PennFuture’s Secret Lobbying

Report identifies hypocritical, unethical, and possibly illegal activities of nonprofit group

HARRISBURG, PA (07.08.10) — The Commonwealth Foundation today released a report on the activities and claims of PennFuture (a.k.a. Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future), the organization founded by current Pennsylvania Secretary of Environmental Protection John Hanger.

"PennFuture frequently criticizes the lobbying and campaign contributions of traditional energy industries in Pennsylvania," said Paul Chesser, a senior fellow in Energy and the Environment with the Commonwealth Foundation. "But a close look at the environmental activist group shows at least questionable and hypocritical, if not unethical or illegal, advocacy practices."

Chesser’s report, PennFuture’s Lobbying: Hypocritical, Unethical, and Possibly Illegal, describes how the eco-activist organization received nearly $1 million during the last five years from alternative energy companies.

"These alternative energy companies benefited from PennFuture’s lobbying for corporate tax breaks and taxpayer-funded ‘economic development’ funds," writes Chesser. "Yet the group reported to the Internal Revenue Service that it spent no money on grassroots lobbying on four of its past five tax returns."

The report also notes that PennFuture has received over $1 million in taxpayer-funded grants since 2002, which it then used to lobby elected and appointed officials for additional taxpayer money.

"Clearly, PennFuture spends a significant amount of time and money lobbying for or against legislation and regulation," said Commonwealth Foundation President and CEO Matthew Brouillette. "But what is most troubling is the perception that PennFuture is offering an independent perspective on issues like natural gas development and alternative energy mandates. This report will help policymakers and the media see PennFuture is not about the public interest, but about its own and alternative energy special interests."

The report identifies the many companies, including BP, Gamesa Energy, Iberdrola Renewables, and others, that have poured tens of thousands of dollars into PennFuture, which in turn lobbies for tax breaks, subsidies, and mandates.

"PennFuture has learned to play the political game of money and relationships well," said Chesser. "While it may or may not have run afoul of the law, the amounts it says it spends on lobbying do not align with the robust nature of its activities. That should give state legislators substantive reasons to question the motivations and activities of PennFuture. It should also be a source of curiosity for both state and IRS investigators."

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Editors Note: The full Policy Brief, PennFuture’s Lobbying: Hypocritical, Unethical, and Possibly Illegal, can be found at or by calling 717.671.1901

The Commonwealth Foundation ( is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.