Heartland Institute Hemorrhages Donors And Cash For Extremist Agenda, As Coal And Oil Step In

Peter Gleick cleared of forging documents in Heartland expose

Heartland Institute hosts its annual denial-a-palooza conference in Chicago this week, during an uncertain time for the libertarian think tank. Exposed for its secret agenda to teach climate denialism in classrooms and its outlandish billboard campaign, Heartland has shed sponsors and more than $800,000 exactly because of its extremist position on the climate.

Meanwhile, the UK Guardian breaks the news today that an external investigation conducted for the Pacific Institute cleared climate scientist Peter Gleick of the charge of faking material in his elaborate effort to obtain internal Heartland strategy and finance documents.

In a matter of months, Heartland has alienated its own senior staff and lost 11 corporate sponsors including AT&T to General Motors. Now, its claims to legitimacy “lie in shreds and its financial future remains uncertain,” the Guardian wrote in a separate story Sunday:

Over the last few weeks, Heartland has lost at least $825,000 in expected funds for 2012, or more than 35% of the funds its planned to raise from corporate donors, according to the campaign group Forecast the Facts, which is pushing companies to boycott the organisation.

The organisation has been forced to make up those funds by taking its first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry. The main Illinois coal lobby is a last-minute sponsor of this week’s conference, undermining Heartland’s claims to operate independently of fossil fuel interests.
Its entire Washington DC office, barring one staffer, decamped, taking Heartland’s biggest project, involving the insurance industry, with them.

Board directors quit, conference speakers cancelled at short-notice, and associates of long standing demanded Heartland remove their names from its website. The list of conference sponsors shrank by nearly half from 2010, and many of those listed sponsors are just websites operating on the rightwing fringe.

It’s become increasingly clear that the more Heartland’s agenda has been exposed, fewer corporations want to remain publicly connected to the efforts undermining climate science. But what’s the most revealing is who remains among Heartland’s funders: a coal lobby group has stepped in as one of its “gold” sponsors. The Illinois coal chief praises Heartland for its work and “so we thought we would finally make a contribution to the organisation.” He added, “In general, the message of the Heartland Institute is something the Illinois Coal Association supports.”

In addition to the Illinois Coal Association, , Heritage Foundation has also joined to sponsor the conference.

Here’s more from today’s story on Gleick:

Gleick’s sting on Heartland brought unwelcome scrutiny to the organisation’s efforts to block action on climate change, and prompted a walk-out of corporate donors that has created uncertainty about its financial future.

Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute and a well-regarded water expert, admitted and apologised for using deception to obtain internal Heartland documents last February.

He has been on leave from the institute pending an external investigation into the unauthorised release of the documents, although it is not entirely clear what the investigation entailed. That investigation is now complete, and the conclusions will be made public….

The leaked Heartland documents included a list of donors and plans to instill doubts in school children on the existence of climate change.

They brought new scrutiny to the efforts by Heartland to block action on global warming, and to the existence of a shadowy network of rightwing organisations working to discredit climate science.

What of the alleged forgery? The Guardian notes:

Following the expose, Heartland acknowledged most of the documents were genuine. But the thinktank claimed the most explosive document, a two-page strategy memo summarising plans spelled out in detail elsewhere, was a fake.

Heartland also accused Gleick of forging the document and published findings of computer forensics experts that the memo did not appear to be a genuine strategy document.

Gleick, for his part, has consistently denied forging the document.

For those who don’t remember the history, I’d suggest Greg Laden’s new post, “An important revelation regarding Heartland Gate (global warming denialism).”

If this story bears out and Gleick is vindicated, then it does raise the question who created the strategy memo. If they ever figure that out, we’ll have to call the new scandal, Fakegate-gate.


We incorrectly indicated that ExxonMobil, along with several other oil companies, contributed to this year’s Heartland conference. ExxonMobil ended direct contributions to Heartland several years ago.

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10 Responses to Heartland Institute Hemorrhages Donors And Cash For Extremist Agenda, As Coal And Oil Step In

  1. The link proudly proclaims, “Peter Gleick cleared” of forging the strategy memo. But following the link, the details are beyond sketchy. They’re basically completely missing. Who cleared him? What was the basis for their finding that?

  2. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    This is but one head of the hydra, and it not off yet.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’m afraid that you will find that this is simply a purge, a cleansing of the hive of cavilers and the half-‘Hearted’ (in this case, the half-deranged). Those that prove their resoluteness and devotion to the Cause, will be rewarded by the Kochtopus. Being ‘exposed’ as mad, bad and dangerous to know only redounds to their benefit amongst the loonies and Dunnning-Krugerites.

  4. Chris Winter says:

    “Heartland Institute hosts its annual denial-a-palooza conference in Chicago this week, during an uncertain time for the libertarian think tank.”

    Is anyone planning to attend this “falsehood fest”, like, undercover (or not)? I’d love to hear what the mood among the attendees is.

  5. Chris Winter says:

    The Guardian appears to have a scoop in this story — or else has gotten it wrong. Their article mentions the Chronicle, presumably the San Francisco Chronicle since the Pacific Institute is near San Francisco. But I can’t find a current story on Peter Gleick at the Chron.

    I guess we will have to wait for things to clear up.

  6. Davos says:

    I’m with @1 on this.

    For a website that prides itself in calling out others that ‘uncritically’ pass-along the shoddy reports of others, this one is more than hypocritical.

    At the very least you can wait until the results are made public so you can evaluate them. Otherwise, you come off like a like-minded sycophant that jumps at the slightess inkling of ‘good news’.

    I saw earlier yesterday that Michael Mann and Scott Mandia rapidly retweeted the same ‘story’, but soon after those tweets have disappeared (perhaps recalled).

  7. Raul M. says:

    It’s probable to much to think about what they should decide about how their companies could cover for the rising UV levels projected for the year 2035.
    You know 2035 is only 23 years off.
    Going back to saying it was Gods will that the child went blind just being out in the sunshine, sure leaves.out much that has been discovered about UV rays. Well as they used to say happy trails.

  8. Toby says:

    Nice to see another obscurantist and anti-science organisation disintegrate. While it may reform, it will hardly carry the same weight again.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

    It seems like Heartland’s entire Washington office has decamped, and they intend to avoid climate advocacy.

    “”The ad was ill advised,” [Eli Lehrer] said. “I’m a free-market conservative with a long rightwing resumé and most, if not all, of my team fits the same description and of us found it very problematic. Staying with Heartland was simply not workable in the wake of this billboard.”

    “The new organization is not going to promote climate skepticism,” Lehrer said. “I can say that for sure.” ”

  9. chrisd says:

    @John Callender (1) & Davos (5)

    The Guardian article isn’t the real deal; it’s just a “We’ve learned that….”

    The article is upfront about the murky nature of what’s currently known (“[I]t is not entirely clear what the investigation entailed”) and states that the Pacific Institute itself will be releasing the details.

    Nobody’s expecting us to take what’s in the Guardian as the complete explanation. It’s more of a heads-up than anything else.

    Of course, it doesn’t really matter who performed the review or how it was conducted. If Abe Lincoln and George Washington rose from the dead to conduct the investigation, the so-called “skeptics” would still denounce it as a whitewash.

  10. caroza says:

    Not Fakegate-gate. Fake-Fakegate.