How Heartland lied to me and illegally recorded the lies

4 a.m. Bali, December 2007, the first Tuesday of the two-week UN climate talks. My phone rings, waking me up. Blearily, and a little crossly, I answer it.

I was in Bali to run Greenpeace International’s media for the meeting. The caller was someone called “John” who said he was an intern for a US NGO that I had never heard of. It was a small NGO, he said, who couldn’t come to the meeting, but “john” asked me for a copy of the UNFCCC’s media list for the meeting.

I confirmed I had a copy but refused to give it to him – he appeared a little suspect. The conversation ended when I put the phone down – the caller clearly wasn’t bothered that he had woken me at 4 am, which was odd, as an NGO colleague would have apologised and hung up immediately.

Three days later I was again woken by the phone, with the information that the right wing think tank the Heartland Institute had just issued a press release slamming the UN for working with environmental NGO’s. Heartland’s press release posted a link to a recording of the 4 a.m. conversation earlier in the week.

Hang on, let’s get this clear:

Someone from the Heartland Institute:
 – called me at 4 am, lied to me saying they were an intern for a US environmental NGO 
- recorded that conversation without my knowledge or my permission, and released the audio of the telephone conversation to the media, again without my permission.

Sound familiar?

This calls into question Heartland’s bleatings about being misled by climate scientist Peter Gleick, and its threats to sue him for using false credentials to obtain information. They seem happy to use underhand tactics to get information for themselves, yet slam Gleick for doing similar.  CEO Joseph Bast called it a “serious crime”.

So I’ve written to Joseph Bast reminding him of this incident:

To recap, the Heartland Institute used a false organizational identity in order to obtain an internal document. It also surreptitiously recorded a telephone conversation (illegally, I believe, if it was done from your home state of Illinois) then posted it online to attack me in the same sort of privacy invasion you’ve been complaining about.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, not only because your organization did all this, but it recorded itself doing exactly what you’ve been howling about was done to you. I’m calling on you to show the same level of post-action forthrightness of Dr. Gleick, admit what you did, and re-post the audiotape of the full conversation.

I haven’t yet heard back from Bast.

DeSmogBlog has more examples of Heartland’s history of deception, including leading someone to believe that a video they were being interviewed for was for the Discovery Channel rather than a climate denial video.

Given my first-hand experience of Heartland, and having also witnessed the theft of thousands of emails between climate scientists and Heartland’s thousands of words about them (often willfully taking them out of context) in Climategate, I find it breathtaking that Heartland has suddenly become all ethical about the leaks of its documents.

These are documents that show plans to mislead children about the science of one of the most important issues in their future: climate change.

Also attending the Bali meeting was the right wing think tank, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), that had brought its crack team of climate deniers, including Lord Christopher Monckton, whom I’d seen hectoring journalists in the media centre.

Monckon was registered on the CFACT delegation but the UN media list itself confirms Monckton’s attempts to register himself as a journalist, listing his email contact as Tom Swiss (Heartland’s PR man), as with another denier, Will Alexander, whose email contact was another Heartland email address.

CFACT has received a total of $2,509,285 from fossil fuel funders ExxonMobil, the Koch Foundations and the Scaife Foundations since 1998.

We now know that Heartland had paid for a number of the deniers who were part of the CFACT team. Heartland money went to the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition that year, and NZCSC members, Owen McShane, Bryan Leyland and Vincent Gray were also on the CFACT team, along with a number of Australian deniers, Prof Robert (Bob) Carter, David Evans and Joanne Nova.

Desperate for the attention they weren’t getting, CFACT even offered free Balinese massages to people who attended their event.

Why didn’t I sue Heartland at the time?  Simple: they would have loved the attention – and I had better things to do with my time, as the 192 governments who had already accepted the science of climate change worked towards agreeing the Bali Mandate.

As it was, no media covered Heartland’s outraged press release and the whole incident served as an opportunity for me to talk in detail to a number of journalists about the climate denial industry and its funding by the fossil fuel industry.

My one failing is that I cannot recall the name of the NGO that the caller pretended to be an intern for.  I didn’t write it down at 4 am and, given that I’m not from the US, I didn’t recognize the name the caller gave me. But he definitely didn’t tell me he was from – or acting on behalf of –  the Heartland Institute.

And given that I am one of the co-founders of Greenpeace’s Exxonsecrets website, launched in 2004 to track money going from ExxonMobil to think tanks including the Heartland Institute for their campaign to promote climate denial, every alarm bell would have gone off if I’d received a telephone call from The Heartland Institute, no matter what time of day or night it was. I knew this organization and its peddling of climate denial very well.

I would certainly have remembered if they said they were taping the call, let alone agreed to that – and its subsequent broadcast.
This blog has been cross-posted from Polluterwatch, where Greenpeace is conducting a series of ongoing investigations into the Heartland documents. My letter to Bast is available here.

80 thoughts on “How Heartland lied to me and illegally recorded the lies”

    1. [re-posting this in the right place]

      @AndyS, actually, if you read it properly, the NGO was in the US , not in Bali. I can’t possibly pretend to know every NGO in the US.
      But I’m sure you were happy with the opportunity to post that graph.

      Oh, and don’t forget the numbers in that graph also include business groups like the International Chamber of Commerce and think tanks like CFACT.

  1. Fascinating account of Heartland’s hypocrisy, Cindy, which is, after all, their core business! 😉

    Despite some brief triumphalism from the dimmer conclaves of the Denialati re Gleick’s admission, this whole story has an unstoppable momentum, and it’s all down hill for Bast and Co..

    1. yes, I think so Bill. Bast is probably clinging to his job with fine threads, given that it was his staff that let the documents out in the first place. And I’m sure its funders are now running for cover.

    2. Forensic analysis seems to suggest that Gleick is the likely forger of the phoney strategy document.

      Too bad for him I guess. Collateral damage for The Cause.

      What charges will be laid against Heartland for this phone call? Impersonating a non-existent NGO?

      I’m not making any claims as to the ethics of either side here, but if it isn’t illegal then there isn’t much traction to be had.

          1. Wow, Watts – now, there’s an authority! Is there anything this underqualified genius cannot turn his mind to?

            All this ‘forensic analysis’ stuff is really rather silly – I could show you converse stuff that shows Bast or “Heartland Staff Member” as the most likely author, but if it’s a cut-and-paste of ‘Bastisms’ that’s hardly surprising.

            I also thought you guys were supposed to be ‘skeptics’, and yet, yet again, we see that a single, decidedly ropey analysis that confirms your prejudices is lapped up like cream!

            But the real point is, even without the ‘Strategy’ memo, it’s still a devastating leak for Heartland.

            Incidentally, if we were Deniers, Andy, we’d still be quoting from it, and would forever more. Just like you ran the ‘Mann’s censored data’ BS only the other day, and the wilful misconstruing of ‘hide the decline’ and Trenberth’s ‘travesty’ still gets posted with monotonous regularity…

            1. Actually the forensic analysis doesn’t show conclusively that Gleick is the creator of the document. The two prime suspects are Bast and Gleick, as you’d expect, with the scales tipping slightly towards Gleick.

              A part of the problem is that there is a lot of original material in the document, so textual analysis alone makes it hard to pinpoint the author of the document

              The threads that I have read on this seem pretty ambivalent, so I don’t know if it will lead anywhere.

              As for the “censored BS” that you refer to, I merely asked a question on that topic, had it explained to me, acknowledged that, and moved on.

      1. Gleick was mailed the original document, which is why he went about trying to confirm it.

        And again, Andy, you appear to be not reading things in full. As I said in my letter to Bast (see my blogpost):

        “[heartland] also surreptitiously recorded a telephone conversation (illegally, I believe, if it was done from your home state of Illinois) then posted it online…”

        Heartland were also trying to find a document that was not public, a document that contained a large number of private emails. They did get hold of a copy (no doubt in an equally underhand and possibly illegal manner), then they posted , that online, along with the illegal recording of the phone call with me.

        Tell me the difference between that and what Gleick did.

        1. Presumably the only bit which is illegal is the recording of the phone conversation without your permission.

          The rest appears to be speculation.

        1. Yes I do agree there is hypocrisy here Macro.
          I am just trying to establish whether there is an indictable offense and how it compares with Gleick’s actions.

          Of course I am sure this is hypothetical and Cindy has no intention of taking legal action. You wonder if Heartland will either.

          It is a game in the sense of a game of propaganda, dirty tactics etc.
          This is why I said I was enjoying the show. Not out of some sense of schadenfreude but I like watching people engage in The Art of War

          You probably don’t believe me, but hey..

            1. Andy Scrase appears to be a professional time-waster. He may be getting paid for it, but we’re not.

              Perhaps, if we all ignore him, he’ll go away….

          1. from Climate Conversation: Andy says:
            March 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm “I’d very much like to know which Rob Taylor is calling me a “rent boy”. So any info gratefully received”

            Andy Scrase, if you will confirm that you are, despite appearances, actually not a hireling of the pollutocracy, I will be happy to change your designation from “rent boy” to “enthusiastic amateur twink” (i.e. one who attempts to white-out evidence for AGW, of course).


            PS: I am in the phone book, just as you are.

  2. By the way, if I had been woken up at 4.00am by someone I didn’t know, I think the call would have been extremely short and to the point. I don’t *do* mornings, especially as I imagine you’d have quite a lot of stuff happening during the evenings, not to mention jet lag etc.

    1. Oh please. Check Heartland’s press release (that you no doubt haven’t read either – do you read anything?). They posted a link to the audio of the conversation (now taken offline). I didn’t have any other conversation with anybody asking for the document.

      But please, be my guest: ask Heartland to release the full audio.

          1. Sorry, which indefensible am I defending?
            I am not defending the phone recording. If it is illegal, then I suggest that Cindy takes criminal proceedings against Heartland.

            In the absence of any evidence, this might be a bit tricky, which is my point really.

            1. I’m sure Heartland will find the audio recording under subpoena…

              The fact that they boasted about having it here:

              and gave to the world to see the place where it was stored
              is a clear admission that they did indeed have it.

              Illegally recording and then publishing a phone conversation is a rather serious matter under USA state law.

              I hope this hits them where it hurts.

              And as for you AndyS, well, the hole you have been digging for yourself for a long while now in here is getting deeper by the post…. in fact perhaps under your pseudonym resides another Heartland funds recipient, who knows…..

            2. You are defending Heartland, who we now know to be a bunch of hypocrites who called foul when they were stung in this way, but who turn out to have behaved in exactly the same way themselves. Hypocrisy of that kind is indefensible, AndyS. Or do you have another explanation for what happened?

            3. George March 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm
              You are defending Heartland, who we now know to be a bunch of hypocrites

              I am not defending Heartland.
              This is climate politics. It’s a dirty game, Get used to it.
              I am just enjoying the show.

            4. I’d find your “just enjoying the show” claim a lot more believable AndyS, if you were unbiased in your trolling. But I don’t see you winding things up over at the “Climate Conversation Group” or wherever else you hang out. So I’m going to take your “just enjoying the show” claim as a concession that Heartland are indeed indefensible.

            5. George March 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm

              Shucks caught out again!

              By the way, the thread at Kloor’s is quite interesting, with comments from Steve McIntyre and Steven Mosher worth reading.

            6. Yep, Andy, like the ever-more-ridiculous Roy Spencer, can proudly proclaim ‘I Heart Heartland’.

              Now, there’s an association to treasure on your deathbed…


              This is climate politics. It’s a dirty game, Get used to it.

              I am just enjoying the show.

              Text-book sociopathy?!

              Particularly from the man who was only yesterday blubbing about the unfairness of it all with all the nasty names the mean ol’ Warmists had called him (despite his own egregious and routinised abusive behaviour!)

              Well, now we know how seriously to take your bleating…

              Also, I fixed this for you:

              I’m stuck on a the level of Angry Birds

            7. This ” scandal ” happened four and a half years ago.

              Can someone tip off the press? Friday might be a slow news day.

            8. Ah, but the hypocrisy remains a very live issue indeed, little Andy, and I suspect that sharper intellects than your own won’t fail to notice it.

  3. Thanks Cindy … it pays to have a long memory.
    The intertangle is dandy is delightful among Heartland, their payees and CFACT. The free massages sound great.

    Consider CFACT: the best it seems to be able to get is Monckton, of whom they say this, please give them money, so Monckton can visit every college in US..

    Likewise, buried deep in Fake science…
    p.96 Heartland’s Maureen Martin authored the “Smoker’s Lounge” web page for Heartland, wrote a lot about schools, and on p.204, describes children “Shouting Down Science Experts.”
    And who might that be? The Viscount, of course.

    (In the 2012 Heartland plans, Martin was going to lead “Operation Angry Badger” …)

        1. Hey! What’s with the psycho-analysis?
          And what’s with these dumb-ass Wikipedia links you guys keep spraying around?

          What the hell has “denial” got to do with discussing the criminal aspects of these Heartland issues?
          Fact is, for me, it’s a great story, and it’s just got a lot better now I’ve found out about the Angry Badgers.

          I’m stuck on a level of Angry Birds so this is a welcome relief.

            1. Thomas, Heartland appear to have taken down the doc you linked to a few posts ago – do you have a copy you can put up somewhere?

              Or can you send it to Gareth?

    1. I copied the link to the audio from the content of the Heatland press release on their website. It supposedly as written in their press release pointed to the audio file, which however they have removed.

      The release is here:

      and inside it the Heartland Institute writes:

      Audio file:

      and thereby admits to the existence of their file on a URL on their servers….

  4. andyS March 15, 2012 at 5:55 pm
    This is climate politics. It’s a dirty game, Get used to it..

    Wow, tough talk, Andy, coming from someone who squealed and stamped his little feet over my “dreadful comments” about McShane and the other grifters at NZCSC!

    Of course, Max Planck put it rather better:

    A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

  5. Rob – I too have celebrated the timely demise of various persons who do more harm alive than dead so here’s to Max Plank. I have spent years arguing with denialists until I realised that they are not discussing issues in good faith, or are blinkered by beliefs. I prefer the cooperation of thought as I am sure you do and others here. So I find I do better to discuss a question with those who also cooperate in thought rather than defend positions or subvert thought. I doubt AndyS is just seeking attention or stupid – he is doing a rather clever job of exploiting reactions to prevent any development in a thread or to even kill it.

    Something I have discovered recently – some may remember my remark a while back about “partial privatisation” of my food supply, water supply and now I can add (solar) energy supply. People get the political joke immediately, laugh a bit and then can get seriously interested. They start looking for justifications. I don’t even have to try to engage them on climate change. It becomes a given, which pleases me a lot.


    1. I agree that this AndyS dude has no other agenda than to derail sensible discussion on the threads of this and perhaps other sites that he spends seemingly a lot of time working….
      It would be a benefit to this site if he disappeared and perhaps Gareth can have a think about whether we need this sort of malice around much longer.
      The pro-active side of the denier circus employs people to behave the way AndyS does.

        1. I’ve already suggested that you proceed with criminal charges Cindy. I have already suggested that you seek the original files.

          What more do you want?

  6. Leaving aside the ethics and hypocrisy aspects for a minute, the main claim here is that the recording of the phone conversation is illegal.

    But is it?

    According to wikipedia, for example

    However, in certain jurisdictions such as Germany, courts will accept illegally recorded phone calls without the other party’s consent as evidence.

    and also

    Under United States federal law and most state laws there is nothing illegal about one of the parties to a telephone call recording the conversation, or giving permission for calls to be recorded or permitting their telephone line to be tapped. However, several states (i.e., California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington) require that all parties consent when one party wants to record a telephone conversation

    1. Noting that the Heartland Institute is based in Illinois, as stated in my letter, where all parties’ consent is required for a telephone conversation to be recorded (and published).

      Noting also, again, that Heartland is all hot and bothered about the publication of private emails and names. And that in the same press release it published the recording of our conversation, Heartland also published the UN media list, which was full of private emails…

      1. Fair enough, but we don’t have a copy of that list, and no one seems to be able to find it (I tried on The Wayback archive too).

        So it’s all sounding like a bit of a cold case to me. Webcite is a handy tool if you want to stop pages disappearing and create a permanent archive.

        1. yup, Heartland changed its whole site and lost a bunch of archival material with it. But that doesn’t change what it did.

          The funny thing is that while I had the UN media list, I didn’t actually use it, whereas Heartland proceeded to spam it for the rest of the conference.

          And yes, Webcite is definitely the business.

      2. Andy cannot learn anything from a post that does not suit his purpose.

        The fact that he offers some blatantly irrelevant material about German – hell, why not Ukranian? – law speaks volumes about both his intelligence and his sincerity. And note that, even though he cut-and-pasted a list of US states, he also cannot read the post to check.

        I don’t say ‘re-read’, because I doubt he actually read it through in the first place. If you look at the exchange above you see he has first had a Pavlovian reaction to ‘NGO’, briefly evacuating the appropriate linkspam – including another ‘hilarious’ cartoon from dullard peer Josh – and then reads as far as super-trigger ‘Gleick’, casing him to stop and reflexively serve up the appropriate Wattsian linkspam and the related imbecilities du jour.

        He then simply stops all the pesky reading stuff so he can get back to the real business of his being here – antagonising people – and only reacts to the ‘illegal recording’ issue when it’s put to him in a comment response.

        I suspect Andy rarely reads the articles, or, at least, as outlined above, only reads them sufficiently far as to reach some word-cue in order to regurgitate some vaguely-related nugget of chum from his engorged crop in a comment, hopefully derailing the thread and any serious discussion in the process, and giving him some of the attention – even if it’s only completely negative – he doubtlessly feels he was wrongly deprived of as a child.

        Trolls are sad, sad people.

    1. Yup, I get that Rob

      – but I do truly think that the only reason Heartland doesn’t have any of this on its site is because it built a new one, not because it believed it had done anything wrong.

      1. That was my thought too. It’s four years ago and they probably just cleared out all the old stuff from their site.

        If someone asked me for files from 2007 I’d be scratching my head too.

  7. This post came to my attention today.

    This line specifically is of interest:

    Cindy Baxter admitted having a copy of the media list but wouldn’t hand it over because “it wasn’t public”… Eh? What’s she doing with a copy then?
    There’s no hard evidence of a ‘scam’ by Heartland.

    The next post entitled Baxter Reality might also be of interest.

    1. ‘Interesting’? Seriously? How about ‘dreary’? ‘Nasty’, perhaps?

      He needs to look a little closer to home if he wants to find some venomous and vituperative hippies.

      OK; can we settle on ‘silly’?

      And are you referring to the noteworthy logic-fail in the quotation you’ve given us when you refer to the subsequent article ‘also’ being ‘of interest’?

      I suspect this may well be the most attention that blog ever gets. Poor Charles Darwin (and Oscar Wilde for that matter), but they’re both well beyond caring, anyway.

  8. GM discontinues funding to Heartland.

    “Yep, it’s true,” said Greg Martin, a GM spokesperson. “Dan Akerson was giving remarks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and the issue of GM’s very modest and previous contribution to Heartland came up, and Mr. Akerson said he’d look into it. And we’ve looked into it, and we’ve decided to discontinue it.

    “As Dan said at the Commonwealth Club, GM’s operating its business as if climate change is real.”

    Further, the article states

    The development is fallout from the release of Heartland Institute funding documents in February.

Leave a Reply