Californians claiming to be environmentalists and indigenous rights activists are being paid by a right-wing organization with ties to the Charles Koch Foundation to oppose AB44, the California fur ban, according to documents obtained by the animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). At Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, DXE presented evidence from an undercover source — including a legal contract and social media posts — showing the grassroots opposition is, in fact, a paid operation by the founder of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a right-wing organization which is funded by the Koch Foundation.
“The fur industry is forced to manufacture support because the public is rapidly turning against animal cruelty,” DxE lead investigator and former law professor Wayne Hsiung said. “These secret payments are a sign of a corrupt, cruel, and morally bankrupt industry.”
A large number of supposed grassroots opponents to AB44 again showed up at the hearing yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite the paid opposition, however, supporters of the bill (including over a dozen who walked 150 miles to testify) still outnumbered them by a large margin — and the committee voted to approve the bill 7-1. During the bill’s last hearing on June 25th, 2019 in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee (SNRW), dozens of people unexpectedly lined up to speak in opposition, with many claiming to be grassroots opponents of AB44. The bill passed the SNRW hearing by a single vote, with reluctant Senators citing the new community opposition as a factor.
But DxE investigators discovered posts made by YAL employees offering people an “easy $100” and “easy $$ fighting tyranny.” A contract obtained by DxE showed the source of the funds: a company owned by YAL founder Cliff Maloney called Mobilize the Message, LLC. An undercover activist, posing as someone who had no interest in fur, was offered the contract to reach out to Senate Judiciary Committee members as if she were a grassroots opponent of the bill. DxE activists say this is part of a nationwide effort by corporate interests to fabricate grassroots opposition to animal rights.
“The vast majority of Californians are opposed to animal cruelty — and want their representatives to oppose it, too,” Hsiung said. “We’re hoping the Senate will take a stand for compassion, and against corporate misconduct and cruelty.”
Matt Johnson is the press coordinator and an investigator with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).