Tufton Street: Shine a light on dark money in politics

by Good Law Project

Tufton Street: Shine a light on dark money in politics

by Good Law Project
Good Law Project
Case Owner
Good Law Project's mission is to achieve change through the law. We uphold democracy, protect the environment, and ensure no one is left behind.
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Latest: Jan. 25, 2023

GWPF reports itself to the Charity Commission following MPs' complaint

Following a complaint raised by a cross-party group of MPs working with Good Law Project, the climate change promoting ‘charity’, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), has been for…

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Who pulls the strings of the shady groups in Tufton Street?

For years sections of the media have worked to expose 55 Tufton Street and its outsized and malign hold over the Government via the opaque lobby groups and right-wing think tanks like the so-called Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Liz Truss linked Institute for Economic Affairs and ‘anti-woke’ groups like Restore Trust. 

Now Good Law Project has embarked on a series of legal interventions focused on Tufton Street cronyism: undisclosed donors, misinformation, astro-turfing, opacity and lobbying.

Restore Trust  – far from restoring trust – is one of many organisations which needs scrutiny. It recently tried – and failed – to seize control of  the National Trust, to stop it exploring debates on issues like slavery and LGBTQ+ inclusivity. Although Restore Trust claims to be grassroots it  won’t say who funds it, or even who it is. It has many of the hallmarks of an astro-turfed – a fake grassroots – organisation whose function is to mask the real actors who have a vested and often financial interest in the message they sell. 

We instructed expert data rights agency AWO to write to Restore Trust on behalf of our Legal Manager and National Trust member, Ian Browne, asking for a full explanation of who is behind their website and who holds and analyses the data. They have yet to provide a substantive response. So we have taken the first formal step in legal proceedings against them. 

Last month we worked with MPs to write to the Charity Commission about another Tufton Street Group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), whose board has links to investors in oil, and lobbies Government to water down measures to address climate change. Their charity status means their misinformation, remarkably, is subsidised with public funds. 

The Charity Commission has responded to us to say that they are actively considering the information we have shared with them about how, we believe, the GWPF breaks charity law. We will monitor the Charity Commission investigation and are likely to take action if the Charity Commission fails to discharge its obligations.

These two interventions are just the start. Tufton Street is not just about denying climate change and promoting fake history. For example, Tufton Street also hosts the Institute for Economic Affairs whose catastrophic economic policies were adopted by Liz Truss and drove up mortgage rates for millions of families across the country. Its funding and motivations, too, are opaque.

Unmasking these organisations, and challenging their abuse of charity status, are just two of the litigation tools we are using to tackle dark money in our politics. We want to degrade the whole ugly Tufton Street infrastructure - bring it into the light and force it to comply with the law. 

This is complicated and important work requiring specialist legal help. And we need your help. Please donate if you are able to. We will use the money to support cases tackling dark money in politics. 

It is our policy to only raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on this litigation. If for some reason we don’t spend all the money raised on this case, for instance if the Government backs down or we win, the donations will go towards supporting other litigation we bring.

Update 3

Good Law Project

Jan. 25, 2023

GWPF reports itself to the Charity Commission following MPs' complaint

Following a complaint raised by a cross-party group of MPs working with Good Law Project, the climate change promoting ‘charity’, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), has been forced to make a Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission. GWPF is based at 55 Tufton Street, the home of dark funding, astroturfing and opaque influence.

Charities have a responsibility to report serious incidents, where significant harm has been, or could be, caused to their beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and stakeholders. The Charity Commission is also alerted in circumstances where charities have lost money or assets, or have seen their property or reputation damaged.

Back in October, Caroline Lucas MP, Layla Moran MP and Clive Lewis MP wrote to the Charity Commission to highlight potential breaches of charity law by GWPF. These included its spending of hundreds of thousands of pounds on one-sided ‘research’, and its financial relationship with the non-charitable subsidiary Net Zero Watch (NZW). 

In response, the Charity Commission confirmed it was reviewing the evidence submitted.

We believe the lobbying efforts of organisations who deny a climate emergency are not charitable activities and should not be subsidised with our taxes. Ensuring the GWPF is investigated is an important further step in our work to shed light on the role dark money plays in our politics and to push for transparency over who really pulls the strings of this Government.

Just last week, 55 Tufton Street-linked Restore Trust caved following a legal challenge brought by our legal manager, Ian Browne, over its use of personal data. The ‘anti-woke’ campaign group that previously and unsuccessfully attempted to infiltrate the National Trust to shut down debates on slavery and LGBTQ+ inclusivity, has now agreed to pay £16,500 towards the costs of the case.

Update 2

Good Law Project

Jan. 13, 2023

Success: Restore Trust caves in to legal challenge

Last year, Good Law Project launched a legal campaign to uncover the insidious network of think-tanks and lobby groups based around 55 Tufton Street. These organisations have had a disproportionate and harmful influence over our politics – and we have set out to expose who’s behind them and who’s funding them.

We have recently been looking into Restore Trust, who have unsuccessfully tried to infiltrate the National Trust and want to shut down debates on issues like slavery and LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

Working with data rights law firm, AWO, we helped to unmask who’s behind their website – a company called RT2021 Limited. One of RT2021’s directors is Neil Record, who is also the chairman of climate change denial group, Net Zero Watch, based at 55 Tufton Street, and libertarian think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA)

A common feature of the right-wing think tanks and fossil fuel lobby groups around 55 Tufton Street is their lack of transparency and misuse of people’s personal data.

Following legal action taken by Ian Browne, our Legal Manager, Restore Trust have been compelled to reveal who they are and, after beginning legal proceedings, we’ve also forced them to correct their use of data.

Restore Trust have also now agreed to settle the legal challenge, take the further remedial action sought and pay costs.

But we’re not stopping there. We are also tackling the climate change apologists and deniers at Global Warming Policy Foundation.

And Ian has now instructed the same data rights specialists, AWO, to turn their focus to The New Culture Forum – another Tufton Street right-wing think tank – who have some questionable data practices that we are keen to interrogate.

With your support, we will continue to expose the shady groups that operate from 55 Tufton Street.

Update 1

Good Law Project

Dec. 13, 2022

Formal legal proceedings commence against Restore Trust

We took the first formal step in legal proceedings against Restore Trust, asking for a full explanation of who is behind their website’s data analysis and targeting, and why they carry it out. They failed to respond to our letter but changed their website to reveal the operator of their site - RT2021 Limited.  

Public records show that one of RT2021’s company directors is Neil Record, who is also the chairman of climate change denial group Net Zero Watch and libertarian think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs. Despite previous denials, this confirms that Restore Trust is linked with the Tufton Street network of think tanks and pressure groups that are funded by dark money and which helped push the economic ideas behind Liz Truss’s disastrous premiership. 

Restore Trust has yet to address the breaches in data protection law we identified with AWO, a data rights agency, so we have asked our solicitors to issue proceedings against RT 2021.

 Our legal action is an important step in our work to expose the cronyism behind Tufton Street including undisclosed donors, misinformation, astro-turing, opacity and lobbying.

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