Al Gore's Incredible Shrinking Climate Change Footprint
The former vice president set out to create the Apple Computer of climate change — but instead he’s running the Microsoft. From a sweeping, expensive “blitz” to a “niche” effort in digital media.
The numbers, according to a review of the nonprofit’s tax filings, show the change has been severe. In 2009, at its peak, Gore’s group had more than 300 employees, with 40 field offices across 28 states, and a serious war chest: It poured $28 million into advertising and promotion, and paid about $200,000 in lobbying fees at the height of the “cap and trade” energy bill fight on Capitol Hill.
Today, the group has just over 30 people on staff and has abandoned its on-the-ground presence — all of its field offices have since shut down — in favor of a far cheaper digital advocacy plan run out of Washington. Advertising expenses have decreased from the millions to the thousands, and the organization no longer lobbies lawmakers. Donations and grants have declined, too — from $87.4 million in 2008 to $17.6 million in 2011, and many of its high-profile donors have drifted away, one telling BuzzFeed she now sees the group’s initial vision as “very naïve.”
...Susie Tompkins Buell, a California-based Democratic donor and one of Hillary Clinton’s closest friends, seeded $5 million in 2007 to the organization, but now says she hasn’t “followed it very much” or contributed since.