Fakegate: Heartland Replies to Greenpeace

March 27, 2012

CHICAGO, IL March 26, 2012: Recently, a Greenpeace activist named Cindy Baxter suddenly recalled that “someone calling himself ‘John’ and saying he was with a US environmental NGO” recorded a brief phone conversation with her more than four years ago, while she was at a United Nations’ climate conference in Bali. She now says the episode is comparable to Fakegate – the theft of corporate documents from The Heartland Institute and their circulation, along with a fake memo purporting to describe Heartland’s “climate strategy,” by disgraced climate scientist Peter Gleick.

We respectfully disagree.

Heartland acknowledges that it issued a news release on December 6, 2007 deploring the conduct of the United Nations’ media office during a climate conference taking place in Bali. A link to the alleged recorded conversation with Baxter appeared in that news release.

The point of the news release was that the United Nations’ media office had collected names and contact information for all the journalists registered to cover the conference, and then gave that list only to a select list of liberal environmental groups to inundate with their news releases. In a March 14, 2012 letter to Heartland, Baxter now admits she had received the U.N. media list in Bali. Evidently, she also admitted this in the taped conversation.

Baxter presents no evidence that anyone from The Heartland Institute posed as “John.” No one here remembers the details of the alleged incident. The person overseeing our communications program (over whose name the December 6, 2007 press release was sent out) left Heartland a week after the alleged incident (for unrelated reasons). The audio file was quickly taken off Heartland’s Web site. We have searched our archives for the partial audio file but cannot find it.

James M. Taylor, a Heartland senior fellow and managing editor of Environment & Climate News, is quoted in the news release, but the quotation does not show any involvement with or even awareness of the alleged recorded phone message. Taylor is quoted saying:

“‘This is a sad day for the UN, but not unexpected. They have purposefully rejected any dissenting opinions. Now that the science has reversed on them, the UN is resorting to bully tactics and manipulation to achieve their political goals,’ said James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute. ‘The first victim of global warming was science and truth with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Now it appears every aspect of the UN has become politicized.’”

Of course, we stand by the accuracy of that observation even now, more than four years later.

Baxter’s claim that this event is comparable to the ongoing global warming scandal called Fakegate is incredible. Here is a brief summary of what happened in Fakegate.

On January 27, a prominent climate scientist named Peter Gleick stole the identity of a member of Heartland’s board of directors. During the next 14 days, Gleick used that false identity to obtain a series of confidential corporate documents. The stolen documents showed Heartland has a broad base of donors, addresses a wide range of topics, was planning a series of exciting new projects, and is deeply committed to its mission of “discovering, developing, and promoting free-market solutions to social and economic problems.”

Finding no “smoking gun,” someone -- either Gleick or a conspirator – produced a fake memo purporting to be Heartland’s “climate strategy” containing false statements apparently intended to defame the organization. On February 14, Gleick added the fake memo to the stolen documents and sent them to 15 media sources and blogs, including a few of his fellow radical environmentalists, claiming they all came from Heartland.

Many of Gleick’s allies immediately posted and blogged about the stolen and forged documents, without giving Heartland a chance to confirm or deny their authenticity. Liberal reporters in the mainstream media went into a feeding frenzy, quoting almost exclusively from the fake memo.

On February 20, Gleick confessed to using deception to obtain the stolen documents and claimed he received the fake memo “in the mail” from an anonymous source. Peter Gleick, by the way, is not some low-level environmental activist. He is president of the Pacific Institute, an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Foundation “genius award” recipient, and until recently was chairman of the ethics committee of the American Geophysical Union.

In the weeks following “Fakegate,” Gleick’s allies at 350.org, the League of Conservation Voters, and Citizen Engagement Lab launched a campaign of harassment against the donors identified in the stolen documents, hoping to cripple Heartland’s educational efforts by discouraging donors from renewing their support. At the same time, Greenpeace started attacking the climate scientists who were named in the stolen documents, sending letters to their employers demanding that they be reprimanded or fired for daring to conduct independent research on climate change. Both of these campaigns against free speech and rational debate continue today.

In conclusion, we can see only one thing Fakegate has in common with Cindy Baxter’s story: Both incidents exposed the moral corruption of the global warming movement.


The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

For more information on this scandal, visit Fakegate.org and Heartland.org. Media questions and requests for interviews may be directed to Tammy Nash at tnash@heartland.org and 312/377-4000 or Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org.