What becomes of the broken Heartland?

The ramifications of last week’s leak of internal documents from the Heartland Institute — the US lobby group up to its neck in organised climate denial in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and perhaps elsewhere — continue to make news. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Heartland money was used to fund Aussie climate denial campaigners in 2009 and 2010, with funds channelled through the “American Climate Science Coalition” — a member of the coterie of climate “science” coalitions spun off from the New Zealand original with Heartland funding. Heartland’s charitable status in the US — which allows donors to the group to claim a 30% tax deduction (effectively a tax-payer subsidy of Heartland activities) — is being called into question as a result of the latest Mashey report into the links between Fred Singer and Heartland, and the dodgy nature of Heartland’s overseas grants. There have also been calls for some of Heartland’s large corporate donors to cease providing financial support for an organisation so steeped in climate denial.

The Sydney Morning Herald‘s investigation traced payments to Australian denial groups:

Documents from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that a group funded by the Heartland Institute, via a thicket of other foundations and think tanks, provided the vast majority of the cash for an anti-carbon price lobby group in Australia in 2009 and 2010.

The Australian Climate Science Coalition, an offshoot of a conservative lobby group called the Australian Environment Foundation, received virtually all its funding from the International Climate Science Coalition, which has been financially supported by Heartland.

In 2010, the Australian group had an income of $50,920, and $46,343 of that came from the American Climate Science Coalition, an offshoot of the International Climate Science Coalition, the ASIC documents show. The amount of public donations received was nil.

In 2009, the US arm kicked in $60,699 in funds – virtually all the Australian organisation’s entire budget of $62,910 – the ASIC documents show. Donations from the public, at a time when debate over the federal government’s proposed emissions trading scheme was at a peak, were just $138.

It seems likely that these payments — made through the ICSC and its US affiliate, the Climate Science Coalition of America — are in addition to the sums declared in Heartland’s Form 990 returns for 2009 (excerpted here). A total of US$115,000 was granted to bodies in “East Asia and the Pacific” in that year, following on from US$180,000 shipped overseas (with no regional designation) in 2008. The largest overseas grant made by Heartland — US$120,000 in 2008, categorised as “research/publication” — remains untraced, but it seems likely that it will also have been paid to either Australia, Canada or New Zealand. One major denial publishing project under way at the time was Joanne “Nova” Codling’s Skeptics Handbook, which Heartland later distributed to 12,000 US school board presidents — perhaps one of the unsuccessful attempts to influence school curricula referred to in the leaked documents.

The Guardian reports that John Mashey’s massive effort to analyse the links and financial flows between Heartland, Fred Singer and the Idso family firm, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (CDCDGC), is leading to calls for an IRS investigation of Heartland’s charitable status. The funds sent to Australia and New Zealand over the last five years seem to be in clear breach of IRS rules1, and likely to cause Heartland and the recipients considerable embarrassment.

Heartland has also been attacked from its own heartland — the Republican Party. A group called Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) has called for Heartland to stop campaigning against action on climate change. In a press release issued on Friday, REP said:

While Heartland has done commendable work in other policy areas, such as risk management, its climate operation has become a public relations servant of special interests—sowing confusion, misrepresenting science, and spreading distortions that pollute what should be a robust, fact-based debate about climate change.

That’s not conservative. As William F. Buckley once said, “Conservatism implies a certain submission to reality.”

Climate change is an opportunity for conservative organizations to actually be conservative, by acknowledging facts and laying on the table conservative policies for dealing with the climate issue.

That’s a wonderful encapsulation of what we really need in a “climate debate”. Instead of the endless sniping at science and scientists, why not sit down and contribute to a solution? Heartland, of course, supplies the answer by being in thrall to the special interests of its funders.

Finally, allow me to commend an excellent article by Elaine McKewon at The ConversationThink tank’s talking points deepen the divide over climate change. Based on a recent study of the output of the Institute of Public Affairs, an Aussie think tank with close ties to Heartland, McKewon examines the fantasy world created by opponents of emissions reductions. She notes nine “fantasy themes” in common use:

The nine themes were grouped into two categories. In the first category, “a plea for scientific truth”, there are four fantasy themes:

  • climate scientists as rent-seeking frauds
  • climate scientists as dissent-stifling elite
  • Plimer as Galileo
  • Plimer as the people’s scientist.

The second grouping, “religious, political and economic conspiracies”, includes five fantasy themes:

  • climate science as religion
  • environmentalism as religion
  • climate science as left-wing conspiracy
  • green as the new red
  • climate change mitigation as money-spinning scam.

Sound familiar?2 McKewon points out that these themes, acted out by stereotypical heroes and villains create a self-supporting belief system:

Together, these fantasy themes construct a rhetorical vision – an alternative reality – that is consistent with the ideology promoted by neoliberal think tanks such as the IPA and the hostility they provoke towards traditional “enemies” such as the environmental movement and the political left.

These fantasy themes serve as important markers of group identity for the IPA and its coalition of associate scholars, editors, opinion columnists and readers. They repeat the narratives – for example, in letters to the editor or in online comments or discussion forums. This repetition is a strong indication that they see themselves as members of the group.

It’s a compelling analysis that underlines just how successful Heartland and its allies have been at co-opting a large sector of right wing opinion in the service of their paymasters, and how powerful the myths they’ve carefully created can be.

[Jimmy Ruffin]

  1. See Mashey’s Fake Science…, p64 []
  2. Most of these themes are on display in just about every comment posted here by Joe Fone, Roger Dewhurst and the usual denialist suspects. []

63 thoughts on “What becomes of the broken Heartland?”

  1. So the Guardian speaks of a ‘whistleblower’ making a complaint to the IRS… no Guardian, John Mashey is no whistleblower (in the legal sense). He based his complaint, and the documentation supporting it, on information all available in the public domain. Nothing from the ‘leak’ went into Fake Science… although I’m sure John appreciated the independent confirmation of a number of interesting details 🙂

    1. See Whistleblower, which distinguishes between internal and external whistleblowers.

      I certainly wasn’t an internal whistleblower, as indeed, everything was public. The IRS form has a section for “original” Information and I wrote that this was done by data fusion and analysis of thousands of pages of (public) documents. That is, the data was out there, but in practice, almost impossible for the IRS to notice.
      For example, what really got this going was:
      1) Donna Bethell wrote to WashingtonPost, labeling herself a SEPP board member, which reminded me I hadn’t looked at SEPP 990s for quite a while.

      2) I did, and when I saw 2008/2009, with Frederich Seitz as Chairman, I almost fell out of my Chair, since I knew he was dead. There is no way in the world that IRS employees are going to check every 990 to make sure the Chairman was alive 🙂 That’s just too crazy.

      3) Of course, every since late 2007 Monckton/SPPI attack on Oreskes, see p.40, I’d been building spreadsheets of people, activities, organizations, which meant I could recognize trails to follow money.
      I’m a Trustee of a 501(c)(3), so I’ve read 990s before and used them in earlier reports.

  2. It’s actually sad John… you doing all that work, and then some sleazy Raymond Chandler character pre-empting you by impersonating a Board member, getting sent a load of stuff most of which you had to painstakingly compile; and then, as one Slashdotter put it it, spending a free afternoon and a sixpack to hack out a Summary for Dummies, taking care to insert those gorgeous sound bites that went around the world before anybody thought of doubting them…

    But, those are the ways of the world… it’s not a “story” without good guys, bad guys and spectacular action. And the good news is, Heartland have met their match in the art of pulling off a news story 🙂

  3. mustakissa:
    Well, It would have been nice if they;d waited a week or two (and the fact they didn’t pretty much rules out the people who knew mine was coming, since they wouldn’t have stepped on it.)
    BUT, after all the leaked material and mine cross-corroborate, and mine has all the 501(c)(3) material, so I don’t feel at all bad.
    And as I think you will see, serious people are reading mine, too.
    It just takes a while.

  4. Heartland must be loving all this free publicity. Should keep the lawyers in business for a while too.
    Quite a good effort for a small, relatively unknown organization with a tiny budget compared with anti science groups like Greenpeace ( using Patrick Moore’s description of the organization he cofounded )

    1. Yeah, and I’ll just bet all their sponsors (and beneficiaries – right, guys? 😉 ) are loving it even more!

      Were you born such an idiot, Andy, or did you have to work at it?

      1. “Whether or not Gleick actually penned the original forged document, he admits that he took ownership of it and published it to the world. That leaves him fully responsible for “uttering” the forgery and liable for any included defamatory material. Heartland’s lawyers will have a field day. Anthony Watts seems likely to do likewise.”

        Throwing stones inside glass houses is never a good idea.

  5. > Heartland must be loving all this free publicity.

    Yep, it sure appears so — and trying hard to get more. Not all good publicity though… most folks don’t respond well to attempts at cover-up by legal bullying.

    And if they really, seriously think of suing, I have one word for them: “discovery”.

    🙂

  6. Hi Folks,

    I am very pleased to have found your website. This is an excellent summary of Heartland’s crimes. Your readers may care to keep an eye on my WordPress blog this week as I am publishing the findings of my MA in Environmental Politics research into sceptical British Journalists. You/they may also like to have a rummage around on the blog for other aspects of the same (e.g. conservative think tanks, economists, politicians, and pseudo-scientists). For more info., see the About page on my blog.

    I think this week will be a good one for my blog because, having caught the attention of Toby Young (who has also* reviewed James Delingpole’s Watermelons v2 book on Amazon.co.uk), I am hoping that the journalists I am about to criticise will actually read what I say about them (it’s all fairly blunt but entirely factual)!

    Best wishes to you in all your endeavours,

    Martin Lack.
    * For the record, as if it might not be obvious, Young rates Delingpole’s book as 5-star whereas I would have given it no stars if I could.

      1. Thanks Gareth. I note your MA from Oxford. Are you an ex-pat or did you just go a long way to study there? Another reason why this week could be interesting for me is that I have managed to get a ticket to attend a meeting in the Houses of Parliament at which Dr Richard Lindzen is going to tell everyone why we need not fear ACD because the models are rubbish (clearly he has not heard of palaeoclimatology). It should be fun (especially if Brendan O’Neill, Melanie Phillips, Christopher Booker and/or James Delingpole are there too!)…

        Many thanks again for adding me so promptly to your blogroll (I am flattered).

        1. We left the UK in 1996 (she who must be obeyed is a NZr), and I’m now pleased to be an NZ citizen – albeit one with Welsh whakapapa.

          The Lindzen thing should be interesting. Look forward to a report.

        2. Martin, I don’t see anywhere in Lindzen’s talk about “Why we don’t need to fear ACD because the models are rubbish”. His talk is entitled “How to approach the science (Climate Models and the Evidence?)”

          I suspect he has heard of paleoclimatology, by the way, although I am sure you were just being a tease there.

          Judging by the title, it is the talk he gave at the Heartland conference a while back, and I think it is on video if you wanted to prep yourself.

          1. Andy, I have now been right through Lindzen’s presentation (circa May 2010) and am utterly astonished by the amount of misrepresentation of data and obfuscation of the real issues. If his talk tomorrow is not significantly changed from this, it would take me 3 times its length to detail all its faults. Therefore, it is just as well I have already thought through some questions to get to the heart of why he is so keen to misrepresent the facts… My assumptions about his intended message were correct but, nevertheless, thanks once again for prompting me to go on a fishing trip for the presentation (which I had assumed was new rather than recycled).

            1. Martin, you might also want to visit the Facebook page “Repeal the Act! Campaign to Repeal the Climate Change Act”
              who I believe are involved in inviting Prof Lindzen to this event.

              If you join this group you might find other interesting people to engage with.

            2. Thanks Andy, however, I very much doubt there is anyone other than Lindzen whom I might wish to engage with. For the record, I was invited to attend the meeting by one of its organisers, retired Anglican vicar Philip Foster, whom I have been sparring with on and off (via email) ever since I posted a review of his ludicrous book, While the Earth Endures: Creation, Cosmology and Climate Change, on amazon.co.uk (can you see a pattern emerging here?). I am not sure why Foster did this (i.e. does he think he can change my mind or does he rate my ability to put Lindzen to the test?). However, given that very few members of the public will be there, it was an opportunity I might never get again (especially if I can draw the assembled media attention to the ways in which Lindzen is misrepresenting the situation).

      1. Thanks Lionel. I am particularly fond of my demolition job on Phillips (which goes live in just over 4 hours). However, w.r.t. Delingpole, if you can’t wait till Friday, I have written about him at length already because, well, see my Background page for an explanation (and/or do a category search). However, whatever you do, make sure you do not miss this; it’s priceless (even if I do say so myself)!

          1. Andy, If he won’t engage with me on either his personal blog or his Telegraph blog, what makes you think he would talk to me on Facebook (not that I am going to try)? Personally-speaking, I think he realises that I don’t fit his stereotype of a Greenie and, therefore, he does not dare take me on in a serious debate (why would he?); although he is always happy to throw out facile, sarcastic, one-line crowd-pleasers.

            I hope you liked my Background page!

  7. Andy, I must admit I was paraphrasing what I think his message will be based on the title of the talk. Therefore, thank you very much for alerting me to the possibility of watching it prior to attending – this I will most certainly do if I can find it.

    1. I have found a PDF of the slides from a talk with the same name given at ICCC4 in 2010 – I cannot believe he will present information – to the UK’s Peers, MPs and assembled media – that was out of date even when he delivered it 21 months ago but, once again, many thanks for the heads-up…

  8. Turns out the whistleblower was Peter Gleick!

    At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

    Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues.

    This is where it gets interesting:

    I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

    1. Interesting – this confirms most of the docs as genuine, but there is still the mystery of who sent the strategy doc (the supposedly dodgy one) to Gleick in the first place, and also the question of whether it is genuine, though most of its contents seem pretty accurate.

    2. Yep, this is where it gets genuinely interesting. If the ‘strategy’ doc predates the others – rather putting-paid to the ‘X cobbled together a sexed-up version by culling the material in the other PDFs’ theorising – it clearly came from someone who had, at the very least, good insight into HI’s activities.

      Then Gleick goes looking for confirmation…

  9. As a side note, it seems that NZ has a few more clueless people, in this case, Ian Wishart, in Heartland critic: Pot calls kettle black?
    It seems he didn’t like what I wrote, but couldn’t say anything against that.

    Anyway, his silly piece shows how wrong one can be when simply looking at web sites, from thousands of miles away:
    “The irony is that the firm Mashey and three colleagues consult for, Techvisor, makes money by advising on “cleantech” and climate change issues. There is no disclosure in the PDF that Mashey prepared on Heartland of his role with Techvisor or its “clean energy” clientele.
    Nor is there any reference to Techvisor’s financial interests in the climate change gravy train in Mashey’s covering article on DesmogBlog.”

    Ho, ho.
    1) Techviser is the legal entity my wife and I use when doing paid consulting. We both do local volunteer sustainability work. (-$X)
    Either of us would do paid consulting on cleantech/climate if someone ever asked, but so far, no one has. We mention it because we’re happy to do some pro bono.

    2) In the typical semi-retired senior0techy fashion, I sometimes advise startups, a few of whom impinge slightly on cleantech, and VC friends sometimes ask me to sit in on an occasional meeting. OK, over 10 years I’ve gotten 2 free dinners from one VC.

    3) Climate is even more pro bono. PICS paid some expenses for lectures, no honoraria, and they got off cheap as it hooked to a ski trip. I’m not sure if I broke even or lost a few $ on the side-trip.
    Based on opportunity cost, my gravy train is probably -$500K. I generally only do paid consulting when somebody with interesting work asks, and that is generally in semiconductors/systems/software, of course.

    Anyway, this was truly amusing.

    1. John, Ian Wishart is a local joke; a far-right conspiracy fantasist and Christian fundamentalist with a long string of embarrassing publications to his name.

      His favourite politician is likely to be Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin. Just ignore him, and he’ll go away…

      1. He did an excellent job on Helen Clark, but I am sure you did not like that.

        Just because he is a fundamentalist nutter it does not mean that he is not a damn good journalist. If he was not in the habit of doing his background work he would have had the shirt sued off his back by now.

        1. Techvisor’s financial interests in the climate change gravy train

          If he was not in the habit of doing his background work

          This you call ‘background work’? You funny man!

        2. Indeed, Ian Wishart did do a “job” on Helen Clark.
          Roger, your assessment of Wishart’s journalistic skills is very informative.
          Very informative about you.

          1. The Paradise Conspiracy was an example of excellent journalism which would have got him sued if he had not got his facts right and all his ducks in a row. The substance of that book was confirmed in Molloy’s Thirty Pieces of Silver. Similarly he had to have his facts right to get away with the job he did on Helen Clark.

            Of course the [snip] is an idol of yours, and of most of those here.

    1. The broader tragedy is that his decision to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the “rational public debate”…

      Oh, how I laughed! Rational public debate? The Weatherman, The Sticky Bishop, Heartland, CEI, Inhofe, the Galileo Group, Plimer, the NZCSC, you… no wonder he put it in quotes!

      Revkin’s a wuss who’s afraid to call out the real problem. But there are plenty braver than he, and I reckon the tide is turning!

      1. Sorry, forgot to add, Barton, Delingpole(!), Monckton(!), Nova(!), Jones (A!), Limbaugh, Bernardi, Palin; the NAS, AAAS, NASA, CSIRO, BOM, NOAA, Met Office, AGU, Royal Society, etc. being involved in a Soc!al!st (aha! WordPress; got you this time!) conspiracy to bring down Capitalism, delete Technology, and create a New World Order seeking to redistribute all our lovely Money to Unworthy Foreigners; with the WWF and Greenpeace; and Barack Obama is in on it too; and Nicholas Stern; and Ross Garnaut; and Lord Oxburgh; and Penn State; and Muir Russell; and Richard Muller now, as well; and anyone else who breaks ranks – we’ve jinxed them all ahead of time; and AL GORE!!!!! did we mention him? we don’t like him; CO2 is not even a greenhouse gas, you know – that’s Peer Reviewed!; plus there’s an Ice Age coming, so there; and Models don’t work unless they predict an Ice Age; It’s the Sun!; and climate isn’t all that sensitive to anything else at all, really, but we really could see 1956 temperatures as early as next week…

        On and on ’til the crack of doom it goes…

  10. Well done, Peter Gleick! We need more activist scientists like him, to take the fight to the “denial-industrial complex” that is callously and malevolently destroying all our futures.

    If the Heartland rent-boys pursue him in the courts, it could well be the Scopes “Monkey Trial” of the 21st century.

    Where can I contribute to his defence fund?

    1. Yep, this will be interesting to say the least. And I agree with your sentiment indeed. No matter how this will turn, the proverbial “toothpaste” is out of the tube regarding the Heartland institute and no flogging of Peter Gleick will put it back in. To the contrary I would say!

      At least Peter owed up to obtaining the information unlike the hackers who broke into the East Anglia computer system or their secret paymasters!

      When we contemplate for a moment the fate of our descendants in a world wrecked by our actions then retrospectively speaking what Peter did is nothing indeed as compared to the crimes against the planet committed by those who sell the future of our descendants to satisfy their greed and vanity!

    2. “Where can I contribute to his defence fund?”

      I will forward your cheque for you if it is worth more than the postage.

      I suspect that Heartland will make him grovel rather than take the shirt off his back. It would look better and he probably does not have enough to be worth going for.

  11. I doubt that Heartland will have the guts to take Gleick to court, as the discovery process re the “Strategy” document could backfire badly on them. I also wonder how much money “Anonymous donor” will be sending them in future…

  12. When Andy Revkin says you have big trouble and you are or were an ally, you have big trouble. Writing articles and giving lectures on integrity and then spoofing the junior staff into sending you board documents is not quite what most think integrity means. The one document now seems to be pretty well regarded as fabricated, made up, fake, and not supported by the actual documents. Developing. Dr. Glieck would seem to have a serious problem.

    1. Get real, Terry, this is just a desperate attempt by Heartland and its sceptics-for-hire to change the subject away from their illicit political PR activities under the guise of a “charity”.

      Heartland’s problem now is that any attempt to crucify Gleick will only draw more attention to its own Board papers, which are clear evidence of deliberate intent to defraud the IRS and the American taxpayer!

    2. Revkin is nothing but a loud mouth, and is in the pocket of Heartland.
      Having read their funding and strategy documents he’s now angling for more dollars.
      What else would he say..

  13. Where can I contribute to his legal defence fund?”
    At Climate Denial Crock of the Week’s new Climate Scientist Legal Defense Fund… of course!

    However, as I have said to Peter Sinclair (and on my blog), since “environmental skepticism is not in the public interest” (Peter Jacques et al 2008, 2009), subterfuge to reveal it to be such must be, surely?

  14. Peter Gleick is to be applauded for what he has done (and for having the decency to admit it). He has nothing to be ashamed of (although if he had signed the open letter from climate scientists that would have been hypocritical)!

        1. A lawyer familiar with US law tells me that it is a criminal offence there though, since Gleick did not gain financially the criminal aspect may not be pushed very hard.

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