DeSmog Blog’s Bogus Exposé of the Heartland Institute

by Marlo Lewis on February 17, 2012

in Blog, Features

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Updated February 18, 12:34 a.m.

Earlier this week, the climate hysterics at DeSmog Blog and ThinkProgress tried (but failed) to manufacture a scandal by posting board-meeting and fund-raising documents stolen under false pretenses from the Heartland Institute, the Illinois-based free-market think tank. You can read Heartland’s response to the document heist here.

In the climate debate, Heartland is perhaps best known as organizer and host of six international climate conferences and as publisher of Climate Change Reconsidered: The Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

The Heartland conferences transformed the disparate ranks of climate-alarm skeptics into a confident, energized, networked movement. The NIPCC report and related publications not only debunk Al Gore’s “planetary emergency” but also provide the only comprehensive, fully-documented alternative to the alleged “scientific consensus” represented by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

So it’s not hard to understand why eco-bloggers are desperate to sully Heartland’s good name and damage the Institute’s funding. But, it turns out, one of the documents is a fake, one of the facts headlined in the exposé is an error, and all that the documents show is what everybody already knows: Heartland seeks financial support from like-minded individuals, foundations, and corporations to combat climate alarmist propaganda, and, to its credit, generously seeks to help fund other worthy organizations to build the larger movement of which it is a part.

DeSmog at first tried to make hay out of the supposed revelation that Heartland received a $200,000 donation from Koch Industries. This is scandalous only if you subscribe to the following ‘logic’: Oil is evil, therefore Koch is evil, therefore anyone who gets Koch donations is evil (or at least tainted). If the DeSmoggers really feel this way, then I would ask that they please stop driving vehicles that run on hypocrisy.

In any event, the $200,000 figure is wildly inaccurate, casting grave doubt on the authenticity of the document, titled “Confidential Memo: Heartland 2012 Climate Strategy,” in which it appears. As DeSmog now acknowledges, Koch gave Heartland $25,000 in 2011, not $200,000, and the donation was for Heartland’s health care program, not its climate science program. Extra, extra read all about it, Koch funds 0.5% of Heartland’s $4.6 million budget!

Heartland says the strategy memo is a forgery. Megan McCardle of The Atlantic reports that electronic analysis of the document indicates it was created by someone living in the Pacific time zone, unlike the other documents (aside from the IRS 1099 form), which were created in the Central time zone, where Heartland is headquartered.

The same faux strategy memo also has Heartland stating that “it is important to keep opposing voices out” of Forbes magazine. DeSmog accuses Heartland of rank hypocrisy:

Note the irony here that Heartland Institute – one of the major mouthpieces behind the debunked ‘Climategate’ email theft who harped about the suppression of denier voices in peer-reviewed literature – now defending its turf in the unscientific business magazine realm.

But there’s no there, there if, as Heartland avows and evidence suggests, the strategy memo is a fake. Besides, the supposedly incriminating statement makes no sense. How in the world could Heartland keep opposing views out of Forbes? Is Heartland the think-tank tail that wags the financial-empire dog? The fake memo implies that when Heartland President Joe Bast says “jump,” Steve Forbes says “How high?” If the DeSmoggers believe that, then I’ve got some carbon offsets I’d like to sell them.

Citing one of the genuine documents, DeSmog Blog spotlights the monthly stipends Heartland paid to Craig Idso, Fred Singer, and Robert Carter — author/editors of the 800-page NIPCC report and the 400-page interim (follow up) report. Why are these payments anybody else’s business? And how exactly are they the stuff of scandal? Here in America, people don’t usually work for free. IPCC-affiliated scientists also get paid. The difference is that IPCC scientists are funded via coerced contributions (taxes) whereas NIPCC scientists are funded via private voluntary donations. That makes NIPCC funding morally superior.

Finally, DeSmog Blog and ThinkProgress accuse Heartland of hypocrisy because the organization, which applauded the leak of the climategate emails, now decries as criminal and despicable the theft and publication of its internal documents.

If I catch the gist of this criticism, DeSmog and ThinkProgress think government-funded researchers have a right to practice secret science whereas privately-funded organizations have no right to privacy.

In any event, here’s the obvious fact that DeSmog and ThinkProgress ignore. Government-funded research is subject to freedom of information laws; the internal deliberations of privately-funded research and advocacy groups are not. As we know from the climategate emails, Phil Jones and the gang at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) stonewalled FOIA requests for years to prevent independent researchers from checking their data and methodologies. That was a bona fide scandal.

Leaking the CRU emails — whistle blowing — was the only way to (a) produce documents responsive to valid FOIA requests, and (b) expose CRU’s willful evasion of FOIA.

There is no analogy between climategate and the theft of the Heartland documents because (1) Heartland has no legal obligation to share its internal deliberations with the public, and (2), unlike collusion to evade FOIA, strategizing about fund raising is not a crime!

Henri Suyderhoud February 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

As the British would say, it is patently obvious that DeSmog and ThinkProgress are trying very hard to emulate the CRU leak that remains one of the biggest scientific behavior scandals of the time. As shown today, those that believe (note: not really KNOW) that Humans are responsible for climate change, are resorting to deceit to discredit those who oppose them. This is an act of desperation, fueled by their inherent sense of collective guilt that drives the whole climate change issue, for which Man must be made responsible and therefore, punished. Humans shall not enjoy life, or at least not untill they pat dearly for that privilege. Hence, preach doom and destruction unless we completely change our lives and embrace regulated austerity. That is their mantra.

renewable guy February 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Heartland’s only intention is to discredit the science and the scientists in any and every legal and maybe hidden illegal ways possible. Given the true credibility of science and scientists, AGW is the bad boy down the road the whole world has to deal with. Heartland is vigorously obscuring that with the same tactics when working for the tobacco companies.

F D Fernandes February 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

The idea, that Hartland needs to oppose Forbes, does not compute. I read Forbes, and Forbes has run some AGW kiss-up ads from BP and the like, but it’s editorial content is more likely to be on the skeptic side. Otherwise, I couldn’t stand to read it.

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