Rule No. 2 is you can never be "clean enough or lean enough" to appease the likes of the Environmental Working Group, PETA or Natural Resources Defense Council.

Rule No. 3 is that you can never outrun one of the groups to the left.

These rules are from Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Bellevue, Wash.-based Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, who said radical environmental groups are not about the environment, but about changing public policy to fit their political agendas.

Arnold and Nick Nichols, founder and chairman and CEO of Nichols Dezenhall Communications Management Group, detailed some of the tactics used by these radical groups to further their agenda and what their organizations are doing to counter them. The two spoke at the recent California Plant Health Association and CropLife America joint annual convention in Palm Desert, Calif.

Challenge exemptions

They are attacking them where it hopefully will hurt — in the pocketbooks by challenging their tax-exempt status and looking for ties to illegal activities.

Tax-exempt organizations like PETA have increased in number by almost four fold from 1990 to 1998, according to Nichols with assets he estimate are between $10 billion to $11 billion.

Arnold and Nichols contend these organizations violate Political Action Committee codes and rules; break Postal Service laws; violate IRS rules and have actually become more extreme and violent since 9/11.

"Fighting these people with a public relations flak is like sending a poodle after a rottweiler," said Nichols. "If you cannot beat them, arrange to have them beaten."

That is why the fight is being taken to government regulatory agencies to make radical environmental groups operate under the same rules He said his organization wants the IRS to find out where these groups get their money and where are they spending it. He contends some comes illegally from foreign sources with a vested interest damaging America’s economy. He also wants legislation passed and regulations strengthened to crack down on what he believes are illegal activities.

In his investigation of the Environmental Working Group, Arnold discovered it had funded a group on the FBI’s list of known terrorist groups, Earth Liberation Front. This discovery he hopes will prompt an investigation of EWG.

Lobbying questioned

Arnold contends these groups also break the law by spending more than the law allows on lobbying. EWG spent millions lobbying against the new federal farm bill without registering as a lobbying organization.

EWG’s efforts were funded in part by a $1.62 million grant from the Joyce Foundation, Chicago, Ill. The foundation said the grant was to be used to support "ag policy reform," according to Nichols.

Why would a Chicago foundation support EWG? Nichols said it was because the Joyce Foundation owns $1.8 million in Canadian Wheat Board securities and any threat to American wheat production would benefit Canada. Nichols also said the foundation owns $410,000 in General Nutrition Centers stock and any threat to the American food supply would benefit GNC.

Nichols believes any organization that lobbies illegally should lose its tax-exempt status.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com