Vermont Youth Lobby using taxpayer assets to carry out student activism

Michael Bielawski/TNR

LOBBYING ORGANIZATION?: Is the Youth Lobby a registered lobbyist organization? The group’s website says no, but its close associations with VPIRG and 350VT are raising some eyebrows over its activism and use of taxpayer-funded assets.

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 11:02 a.m. on May 13.

A student-led climate-change activism organization called the VT Youth Lobby is using public taxpayer assets to organize and promote its activism while having close ties to VPIRG and 350VT.

On May 1, the day the world’s socialists celebrate International Workers’ Day, students connected with Harwood Union High School’s Youth Action Committee led a march to the Statehouse to urge lawmakers to take bold action against global warming.

Based on speeches delivered at the rally, Youth Lobby students say time is running out for life on planet Earth and that dramatic change is needed to avert looming environmental disaster.

According to the Youth Lobby website About Us page, the group was formed with help from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and 350VT, two top environmental lobbying groups in the state. The group denies being a lobbying organization, however.

“We are, in no way, an ‘official’ lobbying organization, and none of us are paid lobbyists,” the website states.

The Vermont Secretary of State’s online Lobby Disclosure Database appears to confirm the claim, as the Vermont Youth Lobby is not listed in the database. TNR’s attempts to contact the organization by phone, email and Facebook messaging were not returned.

However, the group is using taxpayer assets associated with the Harwood Unified Union School District.

On May 3, the group’s Join Us page read had a sign-up form that read at the bottom, “This form was created inside of Wwsu.org.” The Wwsu.org domain name is the website of the Harwood Unified Union School District.

The wording about the form being “created inside of Wwsu.org” was removed as of May 8.

Since WWSU is a school district, and therefore a taxpayer asset, the use of the wwsu.org internet system makes it appear that the state is supporting the activism of the Youth Lobby.

When True North signed up for the group’s newsletter through the Youth Lobby website’s “Join Us” prompt, text on the page indicated that the environmental activist group 350VT is accepting tax-deductible donations for Youth Lobby. “350VT is collecting funds for the Youth Lobby Day. All donations will go directly to the Youth Lobby organizing group,” the newsletter signup page said.

Also appearing on the Youth Lobby’s Join Us page is the group’s contact phone number. On a different page for the group’s “third planning meeting” in spring of 2016, that same number is listed as the number for Matt Henchen, an “adult mentor” to the group whose email address is listed as a wwsu.org address — another taxpayer asset. The information on the site appeared as follows at the time of publication:

Youth Lobby website screen capture

 

On a Youth Lobby web page promoting the April 12, 2018, “Rally for the Planet,” the group urges readers to “consider donating,” and says 350VT is collecting funds for the Youth Lobby Day and that “all donations will go directly to the Youth Lobby Organizing group.”

It reads as follows:

Consider Donating

350VT is collecting funds for the Youth Lobby Day. All donations will go directly to the Youth Lobby Organizing group. All donations are tax­ deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law; no goods or services were received in exchange for this donation.

**Any donations from schools will be used to coordinate a two-day Youth Activism Conference this Fall. Please donate – every bit helps.

Please SEND CHECKS TO:

350 Vermont
255 S. Champlain St., Suite 11
Burlington, VT 05401
802.444.0350

Or DONATE ONLINE:

https://350vt.nationbuilder.com/youth_lobby_day_donation_page
350VT is a 501(c)3 organization (tax ID 46-3647561)

At the bottom of that section, contact information is once again given for Matt Henchen, and the email listed is the same wwsu.org address — a Harwood Unified Union School District account. Henchen’s number is listed there as well.

Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, a free-market think tank based in Montpelier, said his hunch is that Vermont Youth Lobby is indeed a lobbying group.

“They don’t appear to be registered on the secretary of state’s website. I’m shocked,” Roper said. “My guess is that they are lobbying but have not registered as lobbyists or filed any of the necessary disclosure forms.

“I understand that Bill McKibben’s group [a 501c3, which has very limited lobbying abilities] is raising money for what appears to be a 100 percent lobbying purpose. What does the secretary of state have to say about this? The attorney general? Are these kids going to be forced to comply with the law, or are rules just for conservatives and suckers?”

On the other hand, Roper wonders if Vermont’s lobbyist registration laws are simply “stupid.”

“Is it absurd that we’d require a bunch of kids fired up about an issue to register as lobbyists. Isn’t the whole framework a violation of our 1A right to petition government for redress of grievance?” he said.

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Images courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR and Youth Lobby website screen capture

11 thoughts on “Vermont Youth Lobby using taxpayer assets to carry out student activism

  1. If these kids lobbied for lower taxes, less regulation, repeal Act 250, promote a more business friendly legislature or support conservative candidates, they woulldn’t get the time of day in Montpelier.

  2. A couple of years ago I was hired to drive a school bus with students and teachers to a VT Youth Lobby event in Montpelier. There were many other school buses there. I thought it odd that what looked to me like a protest march would be a school sponsored trip. When I asked, the teacher chaperone on my bus said it was not lobbying because VT Youth Lobby is nonpartisan and the trip promoted science education.

  3. A great way for snowflakes to feel smart, important and morally superior. These kids have been brainwashed by the big public education monopoly. More VT taxes and regulations will harm working Vermonters and the elderly while having zero (0) measurable impact on climate change. Want to make a real difference, find a way to get rid of some of Vermonts taxes and regulations, then create some well paying private sector jobs.

  4. This sucks. The Communists in VT have stooped so low as to have school kids perform protests and promote their liberal agenda. Is it “For The Children” or for the Alinsky cult? Where are the parents? The woodshed needs to be an attitude adjustment reality transformation. My kids go it and are very prominent in society.

    This indicates the Gov School system has been infiltrated and taken over by Goebbels propagandists in conjunction with 350VT. Kids have become a social tool. How low can you go?

    Donate to 350VT, they need to donated out of business. Does this have the roots with and support of Kristen Vrancken of So. Burlington? See: http://truenorthreports.com/vermont-republicans-are-being-framed

    Given time, the facts become exposed. Time to send these cockroaches back into hiding.

  5. First you learn life lesson’s before you get to Demonstrate. Get off your butt and figure
    out how to finance your soapbox tour’s and No Fing way Tax monies should pay for
    this Little brown shirt brigade of the warming hoax army…IF the leftist Fascist party
    want’s the brown shirt brigade to goose step for them they can pay. But no more
    letting them SKIP school to do it, we don’t need more professional whiners..

    Also agree on registering the little dweebs like all Lobbyist and scrutiny on donations.

  6. Welcome to Vermont. Kids use hard earned tax payers’ money to tell their story. Make them use their own money for a change,then poof. No more demonstrations.

  7. Vermont has more non-profits per capita than most any where else. People, lobbyist, many organizations hide behind “non-profits” on a regular basis. My hunch is there is massive fraud and abuse going on.

    350.org is pimping for the new world order and “sustainable communities”…….funny how they always throw in we need free education and free medical while their talking about “saving the environment”.

    Conveniently meeting on world socialist day, called International Workers Day? Do they see the connections? Nothing to do with the environment, everything to do with subversion? Wonder if they know more about socialism than a constitutional republic?

    Should inquire with the kids….what’s that all about huh? These kids are smart and given the right education won’t fall for con jobs…..they aren’t old enough to know this scam has been going on every 10 years for the last 50 years at least.

  8. Activist ??
    Brainwashed kids, puppets for the Liberal Left………………… They have No shame !!

  9. Someone tell the kiddies that NASA says the glaciers on Greenland and Antarctica are growing. That could not be happening if the theory of global warming was correct. They are being suckered into stupidity.

  10. Government schools, what else could we possibly expect.

    My govt school kids have had more school time, assemblies, guest speakers etc focusing on environmental subjects than any other subject.

    Environmentalism= the new religion.

    Between Environmentalism and Buddhism (mindfulness) each day, the kids barely have time for the “ three R’s”.
    ( wont even mention the massive failure of separating church&state with the stealth introduction of “mindfulness” )

    Coming up they will have to shift
    something else in the curriculum to accommodate the states new H3 social justice curriculum.

    Well we know what they WONT take out.

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