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.

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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).”

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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.

Update:

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.