President, Environmental Media Services; director, Friends of the Earth; senior counselor, Fenton Communications; chairman, Center for Citizen Initiatives; board member, Center for Environmental Citizenship; former Exec. Director, Environmental DefenseConsidering the rampant exaggeration found in Environmental Media Services’ press releases and web pages, it’s ironic that EMS president Arlie Schardt is probably best known for pointing out others’ public hyperbole. As press secretary for Al Gore’s disastrous first presidential campaign in 1988, he warned then-Senator Gore: “Your main pitfall is exaggeration.”
Though he is now a professional environmentalist, Schardt is not a scientist. In fact, he started out as a staff writer at Sports Illustrated before jumping into the foundation game. He ran the Environmental Defense Fund for several years in the 1970s, then spent more than a decade writing about professional fundraising as editor of Foundation News. Schardt also served as vice president for communications at the Council on Foundations from 1988 to 1992. By this point, he was a veteran “progressive” voice, writing several books and writing countless op-eds from a liberal perspective. The tweedy Schardt even drafted a 10-year plan for National Public Radio before signing the founding documents of Environmental Media Services in 1994.
Schardt’s career connections have resulted in a collaboration that has made EMS much more influential than its small size would suggest. Schardt, moonlighting as a project director at the Tides Center, saw just a hair under $1 million directed from Tides to EMS in 1999. But not all of Schardt’s influence comes from playing musical office chairs — he has other chairs as well. He sits on the boards of Friends of the Earth and the Center for Environmental Citizenship. He also spreads the Fenton Communications party line through his connections with the American Communications Foundation, which feeds content to CBS Radio.
In 1999, Environmental Media Services took on the task of defending the eco-warriors who smashed up Seattle during World Trade Organization meetings there. It was hardly a tough task for EMS, which had received $200,000 in grants just for addressing WTO issues. Said Schardt of this funding: “I wish I had more.”