Reply to Our Critics
AT LEFT: Environmental radicals burn torches on the front lawn of an executive at Enbridge Energy Management, a company that works on oil pipelines, in February 2014.
"There have been numerous false and malicious claims that The Heartland Institute is a front for the energy industry and is funded by 'the Koch brothers.' These statements are often made with full knowledge they are untrue; in some cases they are made without such knowledge. With this notice, the reader is informed he/she will have no defense of "innocent mistake" made because of lack of knowledge and may have legal liability for defamation."
— Legal Counsel, The Heartland Institute, June 2014
The Heartland Institute often is the target of misinformation and even outright lies about its mission, funding and donors, and members and staff. These attacks come overwhelming from left-wing advocates who object to our principled stand in defense of individual liberty and limited government.
This page rebuts some of the most widely spread attacks on our reputation. The Heartland Institute welcomes alerts from allies about other attacks that should be confronted with facts. Please contact Jim Lakely, communications director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional information about The Heartland Institute's programs, people, and funding is available in our 2014 annual report.
FAQ about The Heartland Institute
(Links immediately below navigate within this page, for your convenience.)
Q: What is The Heartland Institute?
Q: Is The Heartland Institute funded by the Koch Brothers?
Q: Is Heartland a ‘Front Group’?
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by DesmogBlog?
Q: What is 'Fakegate'?
Q: Is Heartland's position on tobacco control 'extremist' or outside the scientific mainstream?
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by The Union of Concerned Scientists?
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by MediaTransparency?
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by SourceWatch?
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by ExxonSecrets?
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by the Free Press?
Q: Why doesn't Heartland reveal the identities of its donors?
Q: Is Heartland's position on global warming 'extremist' or outside the scientific mainstream?
A: No. Neither Charles Koch nor David Koch — nor any Koch family charitable foundation — is a current or regular contributor to The Heartland Institute.
The Charles G. Koch Foundation in 2012 donated $25,000 to Heartland to support our work promoting free-market health care solutions, not climate issues. That is a paltry sum (0.36 percent) in our organization’s $7 million budget. That single donation — to support our work on health care issues — was the only Koch-connected contribution to Heartland over the last 15 years. [Important note: Heartland didn’t begin to support and promote scientists who are skeptical of human-caused climate catastrophe until 2008.]
The “Koch Brothers” generously support many nonprofit organizations that promote free markets and individual liberty. The Heartland Institute is not among them. Our policy positions, at any rate, are based on principle. We are not a “pay to play” organization.
Q: Is Heartland a 'Front Group'?
A: Yes. DesmogBlog is a front group for a PR guy named James Hoggan, whose firm James Hoggan and Associates represents renewable energy companies. Hoggan also sits on the board of the David Suzuki Foundation, one of the farthest-to-the-left foundations in North America.
A: On February 20, 2012, Peter Gleick confessed to stealing documents from The Heartland Institute with the intent of exposing its funding sources and damaging its reputation. He also disseminated a fake "climate strategy memo" that he and other environmental activists on the left claim describes Heartland's "secret strategy" to mislead the public about the true nature of climate change. At first Gleick claimed he obtained the fake memo along with other documents from The Heartland Institute. Then he claimed it came from an anonymous source before he stole the documents. Heartland has consistently and unambiguously said the memo is a forgery and was not produced by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute.
"Fakegate" is the title given to this scandal by the London Telegraph's James Delingpole.
Peter Gleick is a MacArthur "Genius Award" recipient, was chairman of the "Task Force on Ethics" at the American Geophysical Union (resigned because of Fakegate), was a member of the the board of the National Center for Science Education (resigned over Fakegate), and current president of the Pacific Institute. He is featured in a 2012 "documentary" film titled "Last Call at the Oasis."
The Heartland Institute conducted an internal investigation that showed the memo was not authored by anyone at the organization. And two external, independent investigations — one by Protek International and one by Juola & Associates — found the same. Many others have also conducted excellent investigations into this matter.
Why this scandal matters
Fakegate matters because it reveals the inner workings of the radical environmentalists who have turned climate science into a politically-driven movement. Peter Gleick is not the exception. He is not one man who made a poor choice. He is representative of the character of many of the leading voices in the global warming movement. The tactics he used to try to shut down debate – deception and outright lies – are common in the environmental movement.
This is not the first time the global warming movement has been exposed by a scandal. In 2009 and again in 2011, a whistle blower inside the University of East Anglia leaked emails showing the loudest “roosters” of the global warming movement conspiring to limit debate, hide uncertainty, and destroy data. The scandal has been called “Climategate.”
Fakegate is worse than Climategate. Climategate showed scientists violating the law as well as basic ethical standards of science, but they avoided prosecution due to a technicality. In Fakegate, Peter Gleick has already confessed to assuming a false identity to steal documents.
A flagrant violation of ethics
On February 14, DesmogBlog and ThinkProgress posted on their Web sites the stolen documents, plus a forged document allegedly describing the “secret plans” of The Heartland Institute. One day later, the Huffington Post joined the gang.
Amazingly, members of the Fakegate Gang refuse to take down the false and defamatory documents, even though almost everyone admits they are either stolen or faked. Leftist bloggers, and even some "mainstream media" outlets cite the fake memo to this day.
Why didn’t DesmogBlog, ThinkProgress, and the Huffington Post get confirmation of the documents’ authenticity before posting and blogging about them? How could they not have known that posting the documents would invade the privacy and endanger the safety of many people?
Those organizations hoped Fakegate would harm Heartland financially and stop us from pursuing our mission of advancing free-market solutions to social and economic problems — which inludes advancing scientific rigor and sound policy on the climate. They failed. The Heartland Institute increased its individual donor base three-fold in 2012.
For more information and comprehensive coverage of Peter Gleick's Fakegate scandal, visit Fakegate.org.
A: No. Heartland's long-standing position on tobacco is that smoking is a risk factor for many diseases; we have never denied that smoking kills. We argue that the risks are exaggerated by the public health community to justify their calls for more regulations on businesses and higher taxes on smokers, and that the risk of adverse health effects from second-hand smoke is dramatically less than for active smoking, with many studies finding no adverse health effects at all. These positions are supported by many prominent scientists and virtually all free-market think tanks.
We take these principled positions on tobacco control despite their being very politically incorrect and despite receiving little (and in some years no) funding from tobacco companies because they are freedom issues. The left uses junk science to demonize smokers, which then clears the way for higher taxes on smokers, restrictions on their personal freedoms, and restrictions on the property rights of the owners of bars and other businesses. This is why advocates of liberty must address tobacco control issues, even if it means losing financial support from potential donors who are anti-smoking.
Attacks on the reputations and ethics of the scientists we work, which frequently appear online, are uninformed and disheartening. Dr. Bruce Ames, Dr. James Enstrom, and Dr. Kip Viscusi, to name just three, are among the world's elite experts on cancer, epidemiology, and risk. Their accomplishments and personal integrity vastly exceed those of their critics. Just as importantly, their ideas and factual statements are readily available on our Web site and elsewhere, open to rebuttal and discussion.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to read and understand the science of second-hand smoke and the economics of excise taxes and smoking bans. Our critics ought to actually read what Ames, Enstrom, and Viscusi have written and point out their errors, if they exist, rather than engage in ad hominem attacks. It's obvious that few of them have or can.
A: Yes. The Union of Concerned Scientists is a far-left environmental advocacy group that is trying to raise funds by slandering The Heartland Institute in its fundraising pitches. It recently (August 2013) posted an inaccurate and libelous slideshow on its Web site called "Exposing the Disinformation Playbook." Heartland is prominently featured. While pretending to expose the tactics and intentions of groups that oppose global warming alarmism, it is itself filled with disinformation, contains few actual facts, employs falsehood and innuendo, and engages in ad hominem attacks.
The UCS slideshow states:
"Heartland has a long history of intentionally trying to confuse the public on behalf of corporate sponsors."
This is absolutely false, malicious, and libelous. We have never compromised our principles or altered our research findings to satisfy or attract a corporate donor. UCS cites no evidence to back up this baseless claim.
Heartland's purpose is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. In the debate over the causes and consequences of climate change, we defend the scientific method and promote legitimate, peer-reviewed research on the question of whether human activity is causing a crisis. We raise funds from some 8,300 individuals, foundations, and corporations. We have policies that strictly forbid undue influence by donors on our research and educational efforts.
Heartland’s efforts in the area of climate change include careful reporting on the debate for the past seventeen years in monthly issues of Environment & Climate News; ten international conferences on climate change attended by more than 4,000 people; scores of policy studies, reprints, and videos; widespread distribution of five books on the subject; and publication of the world’s most comprehensive critiques of the alarmist reports of the United Nations, a series of volumes under the title Climate Change Reconsidered. A third volume in that series will be released in the fall of 2015, which may explain UCS’s decision to attack us in this manner.
We urge the public to go to heartland.org/issues/environment and ucsusa.org and judge for themselves who is “intentionally trying to confuse the public”: UCS or Heartland? Which organization has produced more scholarly research and informed commentary? Which one devotes most of its attention to politicizing the issue, scaring people with misleading images and rhetoric, and attacking those who disagree? The answer will be clear within a couple minutes.
Slide 39 in the UCS slideshow states:
“Big Carbon wants to sell more coal, oil, and gas—even if it means lying about the scientific evidence showing that the resulting carbon emissions threaten our planet.”
The photo slide shows cooling towers most likely at nuclear power plants releasing steam – not carbon dioxide (which is invisible). Who is “trying to confuse the public”? Even the phrase “carbon emissions” is meant to confuse and mislead, since it is carbon dioxide and not the element carbon that is of concern to some scientists.
Slide 8 refers to Heartland Institute Policy Advisor Steve Goreham: “In February 2013, Goreham claimed that rewnewable sources of energy such as wind power don’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions when they are added to the electric grid.” Slide 9 states: "... wind power itself produces no emissions at all.”
Steve Goreham’s excellent book, The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism, is “an amusing and colorful, yet science-based, look at mankind’s obsession with global warming.” [Publishers Weekly] He clearly shows that wind turbines, because they create energy only about 30 percent of the time, require conventional power plants to be constantly ramping up and down to ensure a stable supply to the grid, in the process creating more carbon dioxide than they would in the absence of the windmills. Not a single coal-powered generating plant has been removed from the U.S. grid due to wind power. So, Goreham is right.
Slide 14 claims:
“The Heartland Institute is a prime example. For years, the organization has received funding from fossil fuel interests such as ExxonMobil and the coal magnate Koch brothers.”
For which years? How much? And did the funding influence Heartland’s work? Answers to these questions prove that this is a smear intended solely to misrepresent Heartland’s funding base and motivation.
The Heartland Institute has not received any funding from ExxonMobil (either the corporation or its foundation) since 2006. Most of our work on climate change (other than reporting on the debate in Environment & Climate News) started in 2008, after ExxonMobil stopped funding us. Heartland received a single donation from the Charles G. Koch Foundation — and none from any other foundation or corporation affiliated with either Charles or David Koch — in the last decade: $25,000 in 2012 for our work on health care policy, not climate or energy policy. Funding from fossil fuel and tobacco companies has never amounted to more than 5 percent of Heartland’s annual income.
There is absolutely no evidence, anywhere, that our relationships with Altria, ExxonMobil, the Koch Foundation, or any other donors was anything other than honorable and professional. This is merely an attempt by UCS to smear Heartland by association — helped by a mainstream media that constantly demonizes these companies.
UCS claims that “Koch Industries” funds Heartland and other groups. In fact, Heartland has never received funding from Koch Industries. but instead only extremely modest funding from a Koch foundation. UCS, which exercises its right to keep donors anonymous, says it is funded by “foundations” and takes no corporate money. But is that really true by the definition it applies to the Koch foundations? By UCS’s standards, it would be fair to say it is heavily funded by “Big Green Energy.” We have no doubt that it is.
We could go on debunking UCS’ presentation slide by slide — because nearly every one contains disinformation or outright falsehoods. But let’s close with UCS’ claim that groups such as Heartland create an “echo chamber” in which skepticism about global warming alarmism is promoted.
The truth is that Heartland is on the outside of an enormous “echo chamber” created by liberal advocacy groups such as UCS. We are trying to introduce a little truth and common sense to the public debate. It’s not easy. Groups like UCS have budgets many times larger than ours, and media bias on the global warming issue is so intense that we’ve been virtually blacklisted (except for pieces that repeat the UCS’s lies and innuendo). Al Gore compared us to racists, alcoholics, and Holocaust deniers without a single protest or complaint from the mainstream media. Who's got an echo chamber? Not us.
And speaking of funding, the Sierra Club received $25 million from Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas company; the National Academy of Sciences is getting $350 million from BP, the oil company; and Rajendra Pachauri, the disgraced chairman of the IPCC, has received more money from oil companies to support his annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit than Heartland has raised from them in all 30 years of its existence. So… should we not believe the Sierra Club, the NAS, or the IPCC?
If you are interested in learning the truth about climate change (and a wide range of other important public policy issues), subscribe to some of our free digital newsletters and other publications. You’ll be impressed by the calm and professional tone of our work, as well as our commitment to accuracy and the truth.
Think for yourself. The truth is out there, and it isn’t coming from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
A: Yes. MediaTransparency is a Web site for conspiracy theorists that grew out of attempts in the 1990s to blame liberal set-backs on what Hillary Rodham Clinton famously called "the vast right-wing conspiracy." The site was down as of September 2009, but allegations that appeared on the site in the past are still repeated by bloggers and appear on other sites.
Media Transparency had posted a list of contributions to The Heartland Institute allegedly made by "conservative" foundations totaling $2.6 million. We raised approximately $30 million during the 20 years (1986-2006) covered by the report, so these gifts account for less than 10 percent of our total income. Apparently it is up to us to point out the obvious: More than 90 percent of our income came from sources other than the 37 foundations our paranoid critics think rule the world.
A: Yes. SourceWatch is a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, a partisan advocacy group. Heartland is one of scores of free-market think tanks that are unfairly criticized on this site.
The site devotes much space to Heartland's alleged ties to Philip Morris and the tobacco industry. Roy Marden, who served on Heartland’s board of directors from 1993 to 2008, worked for Philip Morris/Altria during some of his time on Heartland's board (he retired in 2003). While on the board, he helped convince others in the company to approve contributions to us because of our opposition to high taxes on cigarettes and abuse of tort law leading up to the Master Settlement Agreement. This was not a conflict of interest: All nonprofit organizations put representatives of foundations and corporations on their boards with the expectation that they help "give or get" financial support.
Philip Morris' support never amounted to more than 5 percent of Heartland's annual budget. None of the correspondence between Marden and his colleagues at Philip Morris suggests any improper influence over Heartland's programs or positions, and indeed there was none. Heartland was speaking up for over-taxed smokers and against nanny state regulations long before Philip Morris offered any funding and before Marden joined the organization's board. None of these simple and exculpatory facts are reported by SourceWatch.
- People who disagree with our views have taken to selectively disclosing names of donors who they think are unpopular in order to avoid addressing the merits of our positions. Listing our donors makes this unfair and misleading tactic possible. By not disclosing our donors, we keep the focus on the issue.
- We have procedures in place that protect our writers and editors from undue influence by donors. This makes the identities of our donors irrelevant.
- We frequently take positions at odds with those of the individuals and companies who fund us, so it is unfair to them as well as to us to mention their funding when expressing our point of view.
- No corporate donor gives more than 5 percent of our budget, and most give far less than that. We have a diverse funding base that is too large to accurately summarize each time we issue a statement.
A: No. See our statement here. Opinion polls in the U.S. show large majorities do not believe climate change is either man-made or a serious problem. Surveys of climate scientists repeatedly find acknowledgement of great uncertainty about the scientific basis of our understanding of how the climate works and therefore of forecasts of future warming. Surveys and article-counting exercises that claim to find a scientific “consensus” invariably ask only if there is a human impact on climate, which we readily admit there could be, and not whether that effect is large relative to natural variability or likely to pose a serious problem.
More than 31,000 scientists have signed the Oregon Petition saying "there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." There is no similar petition in support of the alarmist position that has been signed by anywhere near 31,000 scientists.
Nearly 300 of the world's leading scientists spoke at one or more of Heartland’s ten International Conferences on Climate Change, These include scientists from NASA and NOAA, official state climatologists, professors from prestigious universities all over the world (including Harvard, Yale, and MIT) and officials at the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior.
Our conferences have been described by friend and foe alike as the most important and influential gatherings of global warming "skeptics" ever assembled. These conferences were covered by CNN, Fox News, ABC News, the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, La Monde, The Wall Street Journal, and many other media outlets.
Heartland's spokespersons have been invited to testify on global warming issues before Congress and in state legislatures and official government meetings in Ohio, Kentucky, Connecticut, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Arkansas, and more.These are not the activities of a group on the "extreme margin of the discourse" on global warming.
In fact, the positions on global warming expressed by spokespersons for The Heartland Institute are closer to where most scientists and economists stand than are the views of well-known alarmists such as Al Gore and James Hansen and many environmental advocacy groups. The American public understands this: A majority of the public does not believe global warming is man-made or that it is a major problem.
In short, The Heartland Institute is firmly within the "mainstream" of expert opinion on global warming. Its spokespersons are credible and respected in the national and international debate. Those who claim otherwise should be asked to document the existence of the alleged "consensus" in favor of their alarmist visions of future global warming.