Oil Change International

Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

PR Company Tries to Hide Links to New Pro-Fossil Fuel Investment Group

IPFI - Image2

C: Screengrab of the IPFI report

Last month, Oil Change International and Desmogblog reported on the formation of a new organization, The Institute for Pension Fund Integrity (IPFI), which had published its first “white paper” on “getting politics out of pensions.”

The white paper pushed back against the growing global movement to end investment in fossil fuels. As we reported, the headline on the Institutional Investor website summed up the main finding of the report: “New Pensions Group Says Forget About Climate Change.”

The images in the report (like the image above) are symbolically deliberate: They are of police, construction workers in hard hats, firemen, pensioners and teachers. To the reader these are meant to represent hard working folk whose pensions are threatened. But is the report speaking on their behalf?

IPFI

C: Screengrab of Whois listing of IPFI on April 23 2018,

As we reported, the author of the report and founder of the IPFI is Christopher Burnham, a former Treasurer of the State of Connecticut, and former United Nations Undersecretary. Whois records reveal that Burnham set up the IPFI’s website on March 22. Two days later records show that Burnham was still showing as the registrant name.

However by April 9, the contact for the website had been changed to Fred Wollenberg from the Bergman Group, which calls itself a communications company which specializes in new media, publishing and direct marketing. (see top image left)

Why this is interesting is that according to his biog on Bergman’s website, Wollenberg has developed “speciality marketing” for Exxon as well as the DCI Group, which was outed last year by Bloomberg for being behind another uncannily similar anti-disinvestment initiative called “Protect Our Pensions”. As Bloomberg reported, Protect Our Pensions “isn’t what it appears to be […] much of the writing is actually done by public affairs firms operating in the shadows.”

Well it seems that the Bergman Group also wants to hide in the shadows.

new IPFIUSA

C: Screengrab of Whois listing for IPFI April 30, 2018

Our blog was published on April 25th. It was entitled: “Is Fossil Fuel Industry Secretly Behind a new Campaign against Fossil Fuel Investment?” At the time of the blog, the “Whois” record showed that both the Registrant and Administration Contact for the website was Fred Wollenberg at 7204 Glen Forest Drive, Richmond, Virginia.(top image left again)

However, at 20.34.59 that evening the “Whois” record for the website changed (See middle and bottom images on left and right). Now both the Registrant and Administration Contacts are “Domains by Proxy” based in Arizona.

The whole point of using a Proxy domain company is to hide who set up the website. People do it all the time. It’s the online equivalent of trying to cover your tracks.

C: Screengrab of Whois record, April 30 2018

C: Screengrab of further information on IPFI listing, including change

So the obvious question is why was the IPFI so keen to hide the involvement of the Bergman Group or why was Fred Wollenberg from the Bergman Group so keen to try and wipe away his electronic fingerprints from the website?

The obvious conclusion is that they don’t want people to know the link. This may be because Bergman’s clients include Exxon and the DCI Group, it may not.  What we do know is that by trying to hide the connection, both Bergman and the IPFI just made another mistake in setting up what is increasingly looking likely as a fossil fuel front group.

You may see the image of a teacher or a fireman, but they hide what is really happening here. Because often the cover-up gives you greater clues as to what is really going on than the original crime.

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