Strange anomalies highlight a donation campaign aimed at preventing adoption of the world's most sought-after clean energy alternative, reports Grant Warkentin.
Opponents of LNG projects in BC’s north are getting money from an Ontario family foundation with a major link to numerous mining megaprojects.
The “RAVEN” non-profit based in Victoria, which acts as a third-party fundraiser for First Nations involved in environmental court cases, recently announced it had found two new “matching funds” donors to “make sure the whole Unist’ot’en case against Coast Gas Link will be absolutely covered by donations.”
A proposed natural gas pipeline from Peace River country to Kitimat has been opposed for several years by some members of the Wet’suwet’en nation in Northern BC. Pipeline opponents are now receiving new cash to continue their fight.
One of the new donors to their cause is the Klein-Panneton Foundation, a “not-for-profit corporation” with more than $700,000 in cash to spend. In the past seven days, the foundation has made contributions to RAVEN’s campaign, matching other donors who gave amounts ranging from $10.20 to $510.
The Klein-Panneton Foundation lists Gerald Panneton as a director. He has a long history in Canada and the USA of involvement with mining megaprojects, and is described as a “serial mine discoverer” in the mining trade press. In the last five years he has been involved with:
- Trying to restart a California gold mine
- Trying (and failing) to get a massive open-pit vanadium mine built in Nevada
- Dealing with the fallout in court from his time with one of Canada’s largest gold mines
- Serving on the board of Canadian Metals Inc
Some of the recent projects he worked on are connected to ‘green’ energy. For instance, vanadium is usually used to make steel, but it is quickly becoming an important ingredient in high-tech batteries. And Canadian Metals Inc. recently received $1 million from the Quebec government’s Forest Industry Diversification Fund to look at the possibility of building a silicon processing plant in Baie-Comeau, presumably to take advantage of the growing demand for silicon in the manufacture of solar panels.
A request for information has been sent to the Klein-Panneton Foundation to clarify its involvement and support of the fundraiser, as well as to clarify Gerald Panneton’s involvement.
Donations do add up – but they shouldn’t
When was the last time you donated exactly $10.20 to a charity?
Apparently, this number was the sweet spot for eight people, who donated exactly that amount to fight a natural gas pipeline in BC’s north. Their donations were matched by the Klein-Panneton Foundation (see related story above).
That isn’t so weird by itself. But in the same donation campaign, 12 people donated exactly $20.40. Their donations were also matched by the foundation.
Stranger still, 52 people donated exactly $25.50, matched by the foundation; 40 people donated $51 each, matched by the foundation; and 40 people donated $102 each, matched by the foundation. Maybe it’s all coincidental, but 51 is half of 102, 25.50 is half of 51, and 10.20 is half of 20.40.
It’s definitely strange that each one of those donors would have chosen to donate that amount deliberately, entering it manually on the fundraiser page, which has more traditional preset donation amounts available for people to choose:
Why did 144 people choose to manually enter these oddball donation amounts for this campaign? And why did the foundation specifically choose to match these oddball amounts?
The strangest thing of all is how the matching donations made so far this week by the Klein-Panneton Foundation add up exactly to a nice even $2,500.
Maybe it’s all a coincidence, but it must make for nice, tidy balance sheets for the foundations and non-profits involved in collecting, administering, and distributing these donations!
UPDATE: Charitable ‘tip’ option enabled by default to cover "fees"
It turns out those oddball donation amounts reflect a 2% “tip” which donors can add on top of their donation.
But unlike donating a dollar or two at the grocery store checkout to a local charity, where this money goes is far less clear. And unlike at the grocery store, this is added on to the bill by default.
At the bottom of RAVEN’s donation page for the anti-LNG campaign, there is a small tick box and a statement which reads “I’d like to cover the fees associated with my donation so more of my donation goes directly to RAVEN.”
This is probably to cover the “Interchange” fees charged by credit card companies on transactions, and the statement is to meet the requirement from credit card companies in Canada that anyone charging this fee must clearly disclose it to cardholders. To opt out, donors need to click the tick box, which is enabled by default.
So why do the Klein-Panneton Foundation’s matching donations added up to exactly $2,500? The foundation matched some donations which included the “tip” and some which did not, so unless this is all a huge coincidence, there appear to be some interesting machinations behind the scenes at RAVEN making sure that the balance sheets are nice and even.
‘Tip’ amount not in line with actual fees
There’s nothing wrong with a charity asking donors to chip in a little bit extra to cover credit card fees, but transparency is crucial for maintaining trust with donors. For example, other Canadian charities who ask for donors to cover these fees have detailed explanations about how they work, and how if they end up with more money than necessary, it gets invested back into the charity.
RAVEN does provide a brief explanation about the enabled-by-default 2% surcharge on every donation. However, it might need to be updated – credit card fees for charities are currently only half that amount in Canada. As well, RAVEN only processes payments through VISAs and Mastercards on its website, so it’s unclear what other fees this money would be used to cover.
In 2014, VISA and Mastercard voluntarily lowered their fees charged to charities and non-profits in Canada (their decision came after several prolonged battles with the Competition Bureau over these fees). Now, they are 0.98% for most consumer VISA cards and 1% for all Mastercards.
All the other donation campaigns on RAVEN’s website feature the enabled-by-default, 2% opt-out ‘tip.’