Heartland’s seventh climate conference, which runs until Wednesday, was a much diminished event, compared to earlier lavish gatherings which spilled out over several floors of a hotel in New York’s Time Square, and attracted up to 800 followers.
The tables were set for 270 at this year’s gala, featuring the Czech president and climate contrarian Václav Klaus, and there were well over 100 no-shows. In a further sign of Heartland’s cash crunch, meals were not included in this year’s conference package.
Sensenbrenner did not mention the billboard directly, but an aide told reporters earlier his words were intended as a criticism for Bast for leading Heartland into disaster. “How we conduct ourselves in this debate matters,” Sensenbrenner said. He went on to accuse climate scientists of being partisan, but concluded: “Civility matters.”
Other speakers were not concerned with civility, however. Britain’s leading climate contrarian Christopher Monckton got a standing ovation for telling a series of “birther” jokes.
The pressure point occurred last February when the scientist on the conference mugs, Peter Gleick, used deception to obtain confidential documents from Heartland, including a donors list and plans to indoctrinate school children against belief in climate change.
Donor flight accelerated, and Heartland has now lost some $825,000 (£523,000) in funding, according to the campaign group Forecast the Facts. Advocacy groups are meeting with some of Heartland’s biggest remaining funders to persuade them to cut their ties.
The crisis forced Heartland to seek funds from the oil and coal industry – despite earlier claims to be independent of fossil fuel interests.
Between them, the nearly 60 organisations listed by Heartland as conference sponsors have received nearly $22m from Exxon Mobil and the Koch oil billionaire family since 1998, according to an analysis by the campaign website Desmogblog.
Listed as a “gold level” sponsor of this week’s conference was the Illinois Coal Association, although Heartland told reporters the contribution was only in the hundreds of dollars.
Other allies were scarce. Only three groups set up tables at the conference. The largest was staffed by Americans for Prosperity, the ultra-conservative organisation founded by the Koch oil billionaires.
But this year’s event had a sense of desperation. Speakers spoke about being “victimised” by “warmists” and “alarmists” – scientists and politicians who accept that carbon dioxide emissions from industry are a main driver of climate change.
And after nearly 30 years in operation, it is unclear what Heartland stands for when it comes to climate change – beyond resistance to putting any kind of restraint on business.
Klaus, who made his name as an economist before his election as president, sees environmental concerns as a red menace. “It is identical to communism – identical not similar,” he warned.
John Dunn, a Heartland policy adviser, sees his role as fighting “enviro-fascist madness”. In his speech, he sought to ridicule recorded evidence of growing drought and heatwaves due to climate change. “Warm is good for people, and it’s particularly good for people as they get older,” said Dunn. “The people that warm spells kill are already moribund.” He went on to say that only extreme cold caused extra deaths.
The next speaker called for the return of the insecticide DDT, long banned in the US. “It’s cheap, it’s effective and it’s perfectly safe for humans and for all wildlife.”
A review has cleared the scientist Peter Gleick of forging any documents in his expose of the rightwing Heartland Institute’s strategy and finances, the Guardian has learned.
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.
The leaked Heartland documents included a list of donors and plans to instill doubts in school children on the existence of climate change.
A group skeptical of mainstream climate science on Friday pulled down its billboard campaign comparing climate experts to “madmen” after complaints not only by scientists but the group’s own supporters.
The annual Oxford Amnesty lectures are an important fundraiser for Amnesty International, although they are not directly organised by the human rights organisation or by the university.
This year’s theme of the lectures is Protect the Human/Protect the Planet. Gleick is an internationally recognised water expert.
However, Heartland Institute argued that Gleick should be barred from appearing at Oxford because of his admitted role in tricking the thinktank to turn over confidential documents outlining its fundraising plans and key donors.
Heartland says one of the documents is a fake, and accused Gleick of the forgery. Gleick has apologised for his role in the affair.
The documents, which revealed a project to sway teaching of science to children in kindergarten, sparked a furore about the role of Heartland and its network of paid bloggers and experts in influencing public attitudes on climate change.
The revelations were not surprising to campaigners, who were familiar with Heartland’s climate mission. However, they did bring embarrassment to some of Heartland’s corporate donors. General Motors last month pulled its funding from Heartland.
Car giant breaks off 20-year relationship with Heartland Institute in ongoing row over its role in questioning global warming
In a statement, GM said that it now runs its 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”.
The funding cut – just $15,000 a year – is small beer for the institute, which has a multi-million dollar turnover, largely from a single anonymous donor. But it is a blow to the standing of the thinktank and to the leading role it plays as an advocate of climate change scepticism.
The thinktank has long been an incubator of ideas casting doubt that the world is warming as a result of man-made pollution. In 2009 it held a conference in New York under the title “Global warming: was it ever really a crisis?”
|—||Deniergate: Grijalva Calls For Investigation Of Department Of Interior Scientist On Heartland Payroll (via ryking)|
While both emails were signed by “Maureen Martin, General Counsel,” they came from the email of Heartland’s Communications Director, Jim Lakely. Not only that, but Martin is a Senior Fellow for legal affairs, and is not listed in the Heartland staff directory as “General Counsel,” or indeed as staff of any kind. However, this apparent oversight may be intentional, as Heartland lists no legal staff of any kind (although many Heartland fellows and staff are lawyers by training).
In addition, the Lakely/Martin letter references several times that the Heartland documents have not been authenticated. The letter was emailed on February 18, four days after the documents were published on Feb. 14. That the documents were not authenticated the day after they were published is reasonable, as Lakely’s response on the 15th indicated that Heartland president Joe Bast was traveling when the documents were published. However, five days have now passed since the documents were first published on the web. In that time Bast has had the opportunity to personally threaten a 71 year-old veteran and local newspaper editor with legal action, write a letter to Heartland’s supporters requesting donations for a legal defense fund, and write a misinformation-filled attempt at a point-by-point refutation of a New York Times article.
Given this level of activity from the man who is responsible for authenticating the documents, it is no longer credible that Bast and the Heartland Institute have not had sufficient time to verify the documents. In addition, multiple sources have verified specific information contained within the documents, so it is likely that the documents are authentic. The question now becomes why the Heartland Institute has not chosen to do so.
It’s too early to say whether or not the Heartland Institute will make good on its threats, or whether it is attempting to intimidate bloggers and news outlets into retracting statements based on facts that have been independently corroborated. Lawsuits similar to those being threatened by the Heartland Institute have the potential to chill public participation in highly charged topics (and thus been labeled “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPPs), and many are thrown out by judges on First Amendment grounds.
After all, it’s not defamation if the facts being reported are true. Given the number of facts that have been independently corroborated by bloggers and journalists alike, it is likely that the bulk of the information contained within the documents is accurate.
“Bloggers around the world have been commenting on recently leaked Heartland Institute documents that reveal their internal strategies to discredit climate science. These posters are now under threat of legal action. According to the Heartland Institute ‘the individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages’”
GM donates money to the Heartland Institute, which was just caught financing climate deniers. Sign this petition to tell GM to stop funding deniers.
Leaked documents suggest that an organization known for attacking climate science is planning a new push to undermine the teaching of global warming in public schools, the latest indication that climate change is becoming a part of the nation’s culture wars.
The documents, from a nonprofit organization in Chicago called the Heartland Institute, outline plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet. “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective,” one document said.
While the documents offer a rare glimpse of the internal thinking motivating the campaign against climate science, defenders of science education were preparing for battle even before the leak. Efforts to undermine climate-science instruction are beginning to spread across the country, they said, and they fear a long fight similar to that over the teaching of evolution in public schools.
In a statement, the Heartland Institute acknowledged that some of its internal documents had been stolen. But it said its president had not had time to read the versions being circulated on the Internet on Tuesday and Wednesday and was therefore not in a position to say whether they had been altered.
Heartland did declare one two-page document to be a forgery, although its tone and content closely matched that of other documents that the group did not dispute. In an apparent confirmation that much of the material, more than 100 pages, was authentic, the group apologized to donors whose names became public as a result of the leak.
The documents included many details of the group’s operations, including salaries, recent personnel actions and fund-raising plans and setbacks. They were sent by e-mail to leading climate activists this week by someone using the name “Heartland insider” and were quickly reposted to many climate-related Web sites.
Heartland said the documents were not from an insider but were obtained by a caller pretending to be a board member of the group who was switching to a new e-mail address. “We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes,” the organization said.
The documents raise questions about whether the group has undertaken partisan political activities, a potential violation of federal tax law governing nonprofit groups. For instance, the documents outline “Operation Angry Badger,” a plan to spend $612,000 to influence the outcome of recall elections and related fights this year in Wisconsin over the role of public-sector unions.
Tax lawyers said Wednesday that tax-exempt groups were allowed to undertake some types of lobbying and political education, but that because they are subsidized by taxpayers, they are prohibited from direct involvement in political campaigns.
The documents also show that the group has received money from some of the nation’s largest corporations, including several that have long favored action to combat climate change.
“Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective,” Heartland’s confidential 2012 fundraising document bemoans. The group believes that Wojick’s project has “potential for great success,” because he has “contacts at virtually all the national organizations involved in producing, certifying, and promoting scientific curricula.” The document explains that Wojick will produce “modules” that promote the conspiratorial claim that climate change is “controversial”
The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA (now Xe), and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.
By now, you’ve surely heard of the Koch brothers, whose behind-the-scenes financing of right-wing causes has been widely documented in the past year. The DeVoses have remained largely under the radar, despite the fact that their stealth assault on America’s schools has the potential to do away with public education as we know it.