PETA Under Attack for Funding Alleged Eco-Terrorists

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

Washington ( - As concerns about eco-terrorism mount on Capitol Hill, there is more finger-pointing aimed at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which admits to having provided financial support to a group allegedly connected to the terrorism.

But while PETA acknowledges that some of its money has in the past gone to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and to the legal defense funds for several Animal Liberation Front (ALF) members, the organization denies that any of its money "goes toward illegal activities."

The ELF and ALF are both loosely knit underground organizations that have taken responsibility for acts of arson and vandalism at colleges, animal farms, corporations, housing developments and even car dealerships over the past decade. The ALF was spun off of the ELF, which uses the slogan, "If you build it, we'll burn it."

Leading the charge against these groups is Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.At a Thursday conference entitled, "Stopping Eco-Terrorism," sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, McInnis reported that the "number one threat of violence in this country is eco-terrorism."

"Whether it is bombing an abortion clinic, or whether it is blowing up a mink farm, or burning down [a corporation], there is no place in our society. We cannot accept this kind of violence," McInnis said.

McInnis' subcommittee conducted a hearing on eco-terrorism last month, at which time, Craig Rosebraugh, a former spokesman for ELF, cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination for every question he was asked. During that same hearing, James Jarboe, Domestic Terrorism Section Chief of the FBI, reported that the ALF and ELF have become "one of the most active extremist elements in the United States."

Thursday, Jarboe said "the FBI estimates that the ALF/ELF have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of $43 million."

McInnis said he is concerned with the "lack of arrests and lack of investigations in regards to these acts of violence" and he added that it is time to go after the financial backers of such extremist groups.

"We need to increase awareness of some of these foundations and organizations who knowingly make contributions to the ALF and ELF, and other foundations who have no idea about what their money is being used for, which is usually just sent as part of their annual distribution," McInnis said.

On February 12, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) reported to the subcommittee that in the last several years, PETA made donations to ELF and several defense funds for accused ALF members.

As a result of those findings, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE) petitioned the IRS Monday to strip PETA of its tax-exempt status.

"Why hasn't the IRS looked into this? Or Congress?" asked CDFE Executive Ron Arnold. "PETA continually encourages unlawful acts. PETA people have numerous

"Tax exempt status is for charitable purposes. There's nothing charitable about encouraging arson," Arnold said. "Enough is enough. PETA should be stripped of its tax exempt status."

PETA spokesperson Lisa Lange acknowledged a $1,500 donation to ELF for a "project of habitat protection," which concluded, "meat eating is a huge problem for the environment."

"This is one of our focuses of our vegetarian campaign reaching to environmentalists, basically saying you can't be an environmentalist and eat meat, and the ELF was going to be doing some publicity on that very thing," Lange said. "We saw it as an opportunity to get our message out.

"None of our money goes toward illegal activities," Lange insisted. "This specific project we funded was a quality project."

Lange also said PETA is open about its contributions to the legal aid of accused ALF members. According to a release by the Center for Consumer Freedom, PETA made a $2,000 contribution to the defense of David Wilson in 1990, and $5,000 contribution to the "Josh Harper Support Committee."

Lange could not verify the dollar amounts.

"I'll suppose that those are true," Lange said. "It's not something that I have committed to memory because it is not that big of a deal, frankly."

Lange also said PETA gave $45,000 to the defense of Rod Coronado, an ALF member who was convicted of a fire bombing at Michigan State University.

"In the case of Rod Coronado ... he needed defense and we helped him," Lange said.

"Donations of support were given to those individuals (like David Wilson), because every person in America has a right to be considered innocent before proven guilty," Lange said. "They also have a right to a legal defense."

However, McInnis does believe PETA's claims.

"PETA clearly knew what their money was going toward, in my opinion," he said.

As far as the IRS investigation that CDFE is requesting, Lange said, "The IRS is welcome to come do an audit, absolutely, anytime."

CDFE President Alan Gottlieb said the IRS has waited too long to investigate groups like PETA, and hopes the report of the donations will finally convince the agency.

"The IRS has been slack in its oversight of this dangerous group. So we have had to issue a formal complaint to IRS Commissioner [Charles] Rossotti himself," Gottleib said. "We hope the IRS will take PETA seriously now."

McInnis referred to the "very selfish motivation" of organizaions like ELF and ALF in committing acts of terrorism, but pointed out that not all environmental groups are as extreme as those groups.

"Three-fourths of the major environmental organizations in this country hold [groups like ELF and ALF] in disdain," McInnis said. "They try to distance themselves from them, because they understand the real harm in somebody like ELF and ALF has on the other environmental groups out there.

"It is this kind of image that dilutes very sound messages other groups are trying to convey," he said.

E-mail a news tip to Jason Pierce.

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