The Glass House Effect: Heartland Institute Tried To Steal Documents From Greenpeace

People who live in glass houses heat up faster than the rest of us

By Richard Littlemore, via Desmogblog

A Heartland Institute front man phoned a Greenpeace activist and lied about his identity in an effort to get her to turn over UN climate conference documents to which he had no legitimate access. Heartland senior fellow James Taylor then boasted about the scam in a press release decrying what he described as Greenpeace’s preferential access to UN information.

Now, in a belated act of optimism, Greenpeace’s Cindy Baxter has written a letter to Heartland [PDF here] requesting an explanation for the double standard. Baxter is asking, in effect, why Heartland thinks it’s completely okay for them to misrepresent themselves, repeatedly, and to celebrate the misrepresentations of others who are attacking climate scientists, but then gets all righteous when someone suckers them into handing over their entire budget and fundraising policy for 2012.

The Heartland misrepresentation about which Baxter is now complaining occurred in 2007 at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Bali. The Heartland caller phoned Baxter at four in the morning (Bali time), claiming to represent a U.S. environmental organization and asking if she would hand over the UNFCCC media list – which Heartland clearly had failed to secure through legitimate means.

Baxter demurred, after which Taylor sent out a press release, recounting the conversation, linking to a (possibly illegal) recording that Heartland had made of the phonecall, and “exposing” the fact that Greenpeace has a better working relationship than Heartland with just about everyone in the climate, diplomatic and scientific communities.

At the time, Baxter brushed off the incident as nothing more than you would expect from an organization that exists to take money from tobacco firms and oil moguls and then misrepresent the health risks of smoking and the science of climate change.

But lately, Baxter has grown annoyed by the double standard.

Heartland, which naively emailed the whole briefing package for its January Board of Directors meeting to a complete stranger (which turned out to be the climate scientist Peter Gleick), has been apoplectic about Gleick’s trickiness in seducing them into performing that St. Valentine’s Day Striptease (the documents were all released on February 14). Heartland President Joe Bast (who must still be trembling at the knowledge that his job is on the line, for the incompetence of his security measures if not for getting caught playing board members against one another), has said that in claiming in an email to be a Heartland board member, Gleick had committed a “crime” that was unforgiveable.

Yet Heartland holds itself to no such standard. In addition to the Taylor misrepresentation above, Heartland also financed a disingenuous climate video in 2008 called Unstoppable Solar Cycles: The Real Story of Greenland. In the process of shooting that work of fiction, the film crew had misrepresented itself and the ultimate purpose of the film to its subjects in Greenland, including one Rie Oldenburg, curator of the Narsaq Museum. Oldenburg said the Heartlanders told her the film was about Greenland history and made no mention at all that it was an attack on climate science that was being prepared for distribution to school children in America.

Joe Bast also thought it was perfectly acceptable – in fact a public service – when someone broke into the East Anglia University Climatic Research Unit and stole thousands of personal emails, thereafter cherrypicking and distributing out-of-context quotes in an effort to attack the credibility of the correspondents.

Given this history, it was more than an act of optimism for Baxter to write Heartland for an explanation. Heartland doesn’t explain. They never apologized to Rie Oldenburg. They have never responded to DeSmogBlog queries about their board package (even though Bast insists that we should have waited for a response before releasing the documents).

Finally, they have not apologised to Dr. David Watkins, a perfectly legitimate scientist who was embarrassed to be listed – incorrectly – among the brigade of climate science-denying “experts” whom Heartland keeps on retainer. (Watkins called and wrote to Heartland, pointing out that they had never paid him – and that he would not accept their money – and asking for an explanation. They have neither answered his phone calls nor written in response.)

There is, apparently, one standard for legitimate organizations and scientists, but not one that Heartland has any intention of meeting.

— Richard Littlemore, via Desmogblog. h/t Grist

JR: Several leading climate scientists have slammed Heartland for “spreading misinformation” and “personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.” Heartland President Joe Bast himself told Climate Progress last year, the “ecological impact” of mining and burning fossil fuels is “not negative”!  And remember his 2006 quote on second-hand smoking that “no victim of cancer, heart disease, etc. can ‘prove’ his or her cancer or heart disease was caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.”

See also “CAPAF General Counsel Responds To Heartland Institute.”


12 Responses to The Glass House Effect: Heartland Institute Tried To Steal Documents From Greenpeace

  1. Lara says:

    I’m sorry but all this continued talk about the Heartland Institute seems to be keeping the Peter Gleick thing in the spotlight longer than is needed.
    Is this a wise decision?

  2. fj says:

    Heartland, right-wing nuts and their ilk typical sham politics, sham science, sham primitive behaviors: back to the jungles of their minds with tribal warfare; with violence, lies, and total self-interest and hopefully, ultimately self-defeat of their type — perhaps like the Neanderthals — as the human race survives and moves on to much bigger and better things.

  3. squidboy6 says:

    That’s the way professional liars, cheats, and thieves operate. They make their living that way…

    I agree completely with the outrage by Greenpeace but I never expect Heartland to acknowledge their deception – even their name is a ruse. It’s their reason for being.

    It’s going to take something concrete to change them.

  4. Doesn’t this make Heartland’s ability to take legal action against Gleick somewhat complicated? (I think that’s an understatement). Any lawyers reading who can comment on this?

  5. Polymerase says:

    I agree with Lara. What’s the point of bringing this up again now that it’s out of the news cycle?

    Like it or not, climate scientists are held to a higher standard of integrity and honesty in how they represent themselves than people who shill for denier think tanks. Gleick made a huge mistake, trashed his reputation, and supplied the denier machine with fresh ammunition in their ongoing war against science. Let’s just get over it, learn from his mistake, and move on.

  6. Berbalang says:

    One good reason to keep bringing it up is that unlike the Climategate emails the Heartland documants actually contain evidence of wrongdoing.

  7. John Tucker says:

    Pretty much as long as all materials are made pubic I don’t care how they are obtained in certain areas. Bad behavior may transpire between individuals and need further discussion, but no organization working or claiming to be working in public advocacy should have closed files.

    If Heartland wanted to go after Greenpeace for anythign they should hit their anti nuclear division as they have dropped some whoppers in there. But at least Greenpeace didnt conceal their bad reasoning (also Heartland is about coal and oil), and im sure Heartland isn’t about to go advocating a open and reviewed scientific and reasonable approach to environmental matters. [my standard rant]

    I think this kinda confirms the only level of functional engagement that is productive with some organizations, like Heartland, is to demand and pursue full disclosure.

    Liberate the truth and the rest will take care of itself eventually. (hopefully before its too late)

  8. Jose says:

    So a smoking gun of Heartland’s chicanery is now “The Peter Glieck thing”? I don’t buy that narrative.

  9. John Hollenberg says:

    > Gleick made a huge mistake, trashed his reputation, and supplied the denier machine with fresh ammunition in their ongoing war against science.

    His reputation hasn’t suffered in my eyes.

  10. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Did anyone here actually expect anything different from the Heartless Institute? Their double standards are evident time after time.

    They do not even have the honesty to admit they are lobbyists.

  11. BillD says:

    I think that it’s outrageous that corporations and people (are they really the same?) can take tax deductions on donations to Heartland.

  12. cindy baxter says:

    I think it’s worth keeping Heartland in the news cycle – there’s a lot more information that needs to come out on those documents.

    check out Greenpeace’s investigations on it and