NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 12, 2004

Environmental activist groups are often portrayed as "grass roots" efforts that scrape by on meager donations from those concerned about the environment. However, some environmental groups are rewarding their employees with hefty salaries that could rival the pay of some CEOs, says Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

According to a report by Public Interest Watch:

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council paid $1,753,849 in compensation and benefits to just nine employees in 2001.
  • The Environmental Defense Fund paid a total of $2,120,980 in compensation and benefits to 13 employees in 2002; when measured against the $25 million they received in donations, salaries amount to 8.5 cents of every dollar for just 13 employees.
  • The Sierra Club provided a much more reasonable compensation for their staff: $411,670 for five employees in 2002 (with the president earning a gross salary of just over $140,000)
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals paid only $294,234 in 2001 to their top five staff (PETA?s president earned a gross salary of only $30,000).

Indeed, not all charitable environmental groups are paying out executive-type compensations. At issue, however, are the 501(c)3 affiliates responsible for passing along big donations to these groups. In fact, Public Interest Watch concluded that the affiliate Greenpeace Fund, Inc., acted as a "shell corporation," illegally allowing large, tax-exempt donations to flow to Greenpeace, Inc. and Greenpeace International.

Moreover, donors who respond to street-corner marketing campaigns are often unaware of how much of their money might actually go toward saving the environment.

Source: Ian Murray, "Rolling in the Greenpeace: How to Success in Charity Work Without Really Trying," Competitive Enterprise Institute, September 28, 2004; and "Executives at Environmental Charities Go (for the) Green," Public Interest Watch, August 19, 2004.

For CEI text:,04225.cfm


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