According to leaked documents, telecommunications giant AT&T gave at least $100,000 to the Heartland Institute — a tax-exempt organization which promotes conspiracy theories about climate scientists, distorts climate science, and attacks regulation of air and water pollution. In a statement to ThinkProgress Green, AT&T says its contributions are now “past.”
AT&T’s support for the science-denying Heartland Institute contradicts the image the company projects as a leader on environmental sustainability and climate change:
AT&T: Climate change is a fact, and the scientific evidence so far seems to implicate greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, as the cause of climate change. [AT&T whitepaper]
Heartland: On the most important issue, the IPCC‘s claim that ―most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid- twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations [emphasis in the original], we once again reach the opposite conclusion, that natural causes are very likely to be dominant. [NIPPC summary]
AT&T’s website boasts of several environmental awards it has received, including being listed as the top company in its category for its answers to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s “survey on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as risks and opportunities associated with climate change.” The company makes public its annual greenhouse gas emissions and claim they use the data to help their “improvement efforts.”
The telecom giant also funds the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing organization that provides Republican state legislators with model legislation, including bills to block climate science in the classroom and deny the threat of carbon pollution.
In a statement to ThinkProgress Green, Beth Gautier Alm, director of public relations at AT&T, defended its past contributions to the Heartland Institute:
We are not currently contributing to the Heartland Institute. Our past contributions were earmarked for their technology and telecom efforts. Heartland keeps its specific project areas completely separate, in terms of staff, publications, events and budgets, so our contributions were strictly limited to supporting their work in the technology and telecom area.
AT&T’s $100,000 contribution was earmarked for Heartland’s “information technology & telecom news” project (ITTN). On those issues too Heartland opposes government regulations of business. The think tank’s website says it believes “rules for the Internet and electronic commerce should result from private collective action, not government regulation.”
The company spokesperson did not address whether it would give future contributions now that the Heartland Institute has acknowledged its plan to develop a classroom curriculum denying climate science. She also did not address whether AT&T has any disagreement with Heartland’s climate denial.
In contrast, General Motors recently announced it would no longer fund the Heartland Institute, because “we’ll continue to run our business as if climate change is real and believe we have a role to play in developing new cars, trucks and technologies that can make a difference.”
NOTE: One in a series of posts about the Heartland Institute’s inner workings, from internal documents acquired by ThinkProgress Green. ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents attributed to the Heartland Institute and sent to us from an anonymous and then unknown source. The source later revealed himself. Heartland Institute has issued several press releases claiming that one document (“2012 Climate Strategy”) is fake and asserting other claims regarding the other documents. ThinkProgress has taken down the “2012 Climate Strategy” document as it determines the document’s authenticity.