Was $100,000 in Federal Research Grants Diverted to an Indian Community College?

Jagadish Shukla in his native village of Mirdha, in a 2003 New York Times photograph.

Jagadish Shukla (left) in his native village of Mirdha, in a 2003 New York Times photograph.

by James A. Bacon

George Mason University climate scientist Jagadish Shukla isn’t under congressional scrutiny just for paying himself handsomely with federal research funds over and above his university salary, he is also being questioned about donating $100,000 to his pet education charity in India.

Shukla attracted considerable notoriety as the lead author of a letter to President Obama urging a federal investigation into major energy corporations under the RICO statute for “knowingly deceiving the American people about climate change.” Climate skeptics quickly hit back by drawing attention to his pocketing of $250,000 in salary and compensation from GMU as well as $314,000 as president of the federally funded Institute for Global Environment and Society (IGES) in addition to paying his wife Anastasia Shukla $146,000 in IGES funds.

On October 1, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, mailed a letter asking Shukla and IGES to preserve a “full and complete record of relevant communications” should the committee request them. Smith followed up with another letter, dated October 19, to request documents relating to the alleged shifting of $100,000 in federal grant money to the Institute for Global Education Equality of Opportunity and Prosperity in 2014, which then allegedly transferred the funds “to a school in India that was apparently founded by Dr. Shukla.”

“It appears that grants provided to IGES are not serving the intended purpose of providing services to the public,” wrote Smith. “Instead, taxpayers appear to be picking up the tab for excessive salaries, nepotism, questionable money transfers, and political activity while receiving little or no benefit.”

“The public expects non-profit organizations that receive taxpayer money to exercise responsible stewardship of their tax dollars,” he continued. “As the Committee is charged with investigating waste and abuse in agencies under its jurisdiction, I have initiated this oversight regarding grants received by Dr. Shukla.”

The query by Congressional Republicans occurs against the backdrop of a highly partisan debate over climate change. For years, climate warriors have tried to discredit skeptics by linking them to giant fossil fuel companies, with the implication that their arguments were tainted by self interest. The latest iteration of that argument, advanced in books and newspaper articles, is that Exxon Mobil knew the dangers of man-made climate change years ago but misled the public in a manner similar to the way tobacco companies hid the link between smoking and cancer. Exxon Mobil has heatedly denied the charges, responding that journalists cherry picked facts to fit their narrative. The letter signed by Shukla and 19 other climate scientists, including five from GMU, urged the Obama administration to prosecute energy companies if they were found to be lying to the public. Since then, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed documents from the oil giant to determine if the company lied to the public.

Skeptics have countered by arguing that research by climate alarmists is biased by the endless quest for federal research grants. Given the capture of the federal bureaucracy by climate alarmists, they contend, only research supporting the prevailing orthodoxy gets funded. Through his non-profit vehicle, IGES, Shukla has been a major beneficiary of federal funding, which he has used to fine-tune computerized climate models for forecasting global warming. As Shukla’s handling of the grant illustrates, skeptics contend, climate scientists aren’t pure either; they, too, pursue their self interest.

IGES describes itself as a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to climate research in service of society.” The institute was established to “improve understanding and prediction of the variations of the Earth’s climate through scientific research on climate variability and climate predictability, and to share both the fruits of this research and the tools necessary to carry out this research with society as a whole.”

In its 2014 Form 990 filing, IGES listed a $100,000 grant among its expenses, although it did not specify to whom the money was given. The Smith letter suggested that the recipient was the Institute for Global Education, Equality of Opportunity, and Prosperity. That group, which lists Anastasia (Anne) Shukla as its secretary, describes its mission as alleviating poverty, educating the public about the sources of poverty, establishing an education center in Washington, D.C., and “supporting Gandhi College in the Ballia district of Indian to provide education and training to poor rural students, especially women.”

Shukla was born in 1944 in Mirdha, a small village in the Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, India, according to his biography on the IGES website. “This village had no electricity, no roads or transportation, and no primary school building. Most of his primary school education was received under a large banyan tree.”

Shukla went on to earn degrees in India, where he was a precocious student, and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He specialized in building computerized climate models and became a lead author in the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports on global warming. Now employed at George Mason University, he has played a prominent role in Governor Terry McAuliffe’s commission on climate change and resiliency.

Gandhi College

Gandhi College

A 2003 New York Times profile describes how Shukla had returned every year to his home village, where his family still resides, and paid for education, weddings, home improvements, funerals and even food for his extended family. In the years before the 2003 article was written, Shukla had committed to set aside 10% of his income for more ambitious projects, such as a small medical dispensary and the Gandhi Degree College. His younger brother Shri Ram Shukla oversaw those projects, the NYT said.

In its 2014 Form 990 Filing, the charitable Institute for Global Education, Equality of Opportunity, and Prosperity (GEEOP), listed a $100,000 grant for “educational purposes” in “South Asia,” plus $640 in non-cash assistance in the form of books. It did not specifically list the Gandhi Degree College as the recipient. However, the IGES website states that the college has received support from a non-profit society in India named after Shukla’s son who died in a motorcycle accident and from GEEOP, which was “established specifically for supporting Gandhi College.”

Bacon’s Rebellion left a voice mail message with Shukla’s office. I will update this story if I get a response.

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12 responses to “Was $100,000 in Federal Research Grants Diverted to an Indian Community College?

  1. I’d be fine with an investigation of Shukla if it also included the Koch Bros money …

    let’s have transparency but let’s have equal transparency.

    what was the Koch money spent on especially since it’s 30+ million compared to what – a couple hundred thousand?

    where is the ardor to find out about other spent money?

    • Isn’t the “Koch Brothers” money their money to spend as they wish while federal grant funds are public monies to be spent according to established rules?

      • nope. it’s important to KNOW what Koch money is being spent on. They ARE free to spend as they please – but GMU is not free to use that money as they please without accounting for it.

        in fact, it’s as important or more important than govt money since the govt has a gazillion grants and until now – no one seem to be concerned about them.

        years ago – the tobacco companies were “buying” studies that showed doubt in the connection between cigarettes and cancer and even to this day -there are folks who say it has never been proven.

        Similar things have been done with fossil fuel companies and climate change.

        I’m ALL IN FAVOR of ALL funding having transparency – govt and private…

        let’s get it all out and let the facts stand.

        what has the Koch money been spent on?

      • you’d be bonkers if you thought the Koch bros were spending secret money to influence the General Assembly – right?

        but you don’t care if they “buying” studies to influence others?

        quite the double standard there…

  2. Hm. I guess suspending the rush to judgment and positing counterfactuals is only to be used for Republican governors. Good to know.

  3. Larry, who spends more — Charles Koch or Tom Steyer? Who knows. In the context of this article, who cares?

    The Kochs are a distraction from the main point of this story, which specifically addresses arguments that you have raised in the past — that any climate research touched by fossil fuel money is automatically tainted, hence, can be safely ignored without any further thought, while government-funded researchers are unsullied by self interest and conflicts of interest, hence deserve greater credence in the global warming debate.

    We don’t know the whole story about Dr. Shukla, and he deserves the right to tell his side of the story, but it looks like he had a pretty nice deal going with the National Science Foundation.

  4. nope. I said Koch and other money for colleges should be subject to the same transparency standards you are advocating for others.

    Do you think you KNOW the story about the Kock Bros funding?

    http://www.kochfamilyfoundations.org/pdfs/ckfuniversityprograms.pdf

    have you ever advocated transparency for that money BEFORE you advocated transparency for this?

    you conspiracy theory folks seem to only want to know one side…

    how about it – how about you advocate for transparency for ALL funding of college studies?

    then I’ll get off your case..

  5. George Mason University Foundation Fairfax VA $34,610,564

    Charles Koch Charitable Foundation
    2005 $1,102,500
    2006 $350,000
    2007 $408,000
    2008 $2,873,000
    2009 $5,539,300
    2010 $4,017,644
    2011 $4,407,548
    2012 $5,455,572
    2013 $10,437,000

    when did you ask for information about what this money was used for?

  6. who knows Jim? did you want to know for those funds or just the funds for Shukla?

    why are you so hot to trot to know about 200K of funding for one guy and totally not concerned about 30 million from other sources?

    seems like if you were TRULY interested in REAL transparency of any/all grant funding for any College – you’d make that case instead of cherry picking one thing on one partisan subject.

    so is your “concern” really about any/all funding for climate science or just certain ones that don’t conform to your beliefs?

    you don’t trust the govt but you do industries that are openly climate deniers – giving funds to colleges for “research”?

    you do disappoint. You’ll write one post that is objective and non-partisan – then you’ll turn around and and post clearly one-sided partisan stuff…

    and as long as you do – I’m gonna point it out.

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