Reply to our Critics
Anonymity allows bloggers and other participants to post vicious, libelous statements without fear of recrimination. There is no pretext of objectivity in the blogosphere and no journalistic morality. Instead, it has evolved into a platform for hateful, offensive attacks on institutions and individuals from all corners of society.
— 39th Trend/Forecasting Report, The Dilenschneider Group, September 2009
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 2012 annual report.
Q: What is The Heartland Institute?
A: The Heartland Institute is a national nonprofit research and education organization, tax exempt under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, headquartered in Chicago, and founded in 1984. It is not affiliated with any political party, business, or foundation.
Heartland's mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Such solutions include parental choice in education, choice and personal responsibility in health care, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services, and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets do a better job than government bureaucracies.
Q: Is Heartland a "Front Group"?
A: No. The Heartland Institute is a nonprofit organization entirely devoted to advancing its mission. Heartland doesn't adopt positions to raise money. If it did, it would avoid controversial positions on such topics as global warming, the war on drugs, and smoking bans. The following facts show that Heartland is not a "front group":
A long history:
Heartland was created in 1984 by a small group of individuals who shared a deep concern over the growth in the size and power of government. They incorporated The Heartland Institute as a nonprofit charitable organization to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Joseph Bast
, Heartland's original executive director, is still there ... now as president and CEO.
Diverse funding base: Heartland has grown slowly over the years by cultivating a diverse base of donors who share its mission. Today it has approximately 5,000 supporters. In 2012 it received 50 percent of its income from foundations, 28 percent from individuals, and 18 percent from corporations. No corporate donor gave more than 5 percent of its annual budget.
Academic fire power:
More than 200 academics and professional economists serve as policy advisors
to The Heartland Institute, including members of the faculties of Harvard University, The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Georgetown University, Pepperdine University, Vanderbilt School of Law, and scores of other respected universities.
Credible with policy makers: A telephone survey conducted in 2011 found 79 percent of state legislators and 66 percent of municipal officials read one or more Heartland newspapers "sometimes" or "always." Nearly half (45%) of state legislators and one-third (33%) of municipal officials reported a Heartland publication changed their opinion or led to a change in public policy. Approximately 200 elected officials -- Democrats as well as Republicans -- serve on Heartland's Board of Legislative Advisors.
Heartland has been endorsed
by some of the country's leading scholars, public policy experts, and elected officials. Dr. Milton Friedman called Heartland "a highly effective libertarian institute." Cato Institute president Edward Crane says Heartland "has had a tremendous impact, first in the Midwest, and now nationally." Former CO Governor Bill Owens says "The Heartland Institute is one of the country's best free-market think tanks."
Policies regarding donors:
The Heartland Institute enforces policies
that limit the role donors may play in the selection of research topics, peer review, and publication plans of the organization. Heartland does not conduct contract research. These policies ensure that no Heartland researcher or spokesperson is subject to undue pressure from a donor.
Institutional autonomy: No one on Heartland's board of directors works for the tobacco, oil, or automobile industries. Walter Buchholtz, a former member of Heartland's board, was never a "public relations advisor" for The Heartland Institute -- that was his title with ExxonMobil, not Heartland. Roy Marden retired from Philip Morris long ago and left Heartland's Board in 2008. Tom Walton retired from General Motors in 2008 and from Heartland's board in 2009. Heartland's board of directors has 12 members, some of whom were founding members of the organization.
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by 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.
The site claims Heartland's eight international conferences on climate change
were not "real" conferences at all, but rather PR stunts. In fact, hundreds of scientists and academics spoke at the conferences and more than 3,000 people attended. We do not script the remarks of speakers at our conferences or even see their presentations before they deliver them. People with opposing views, including Al Gore and James Hansen, are routinely invited but they boycott our events, afraid to lose debates in front of their peers. The exception has been Dr. Scott Denning of Colorado State University
. (Global warming alarmists virtually always lose debates with climate realists.)
Attendees at Heartland's climate change conferences have told us they are "more scientific" than conferences they attend that are hosted by scientific groups! The papers are more detailed and the presentations more substantive, there is lots of disagreement among panelists, and there are always Q&A sessions. This is in sharp contrast to the increasingly politicized sessions hosted or funded by the IPCC and other government agencies ... which is to say, virtually all other conferences held on climate change.
DesmogBlog has also claimed that Heartland published a list of scientists who we claim are "skeptics" on global warming who in fact are not. (See our replies here
.) This is a gross and shameless misrepresentation of the truth. Heartland posted a bibliography
of peer-reviewed articles, originally produced by Dennis Avery for the Hudson Institute, that question one or more of the fundamental assumptions of the global warming alarmists e.g., whether the Medieval Warm Period was global, whether it was warmer than the second half of the 20th century, etc. Avery subsequently published, and Heartland posted, two lists of the names and institutional affiliations of the authors of these articles, being careful to explain that "not all of these researchers would describe themselves as global warming skeptics, but the evidence in their studies is there for all to see."
DesmogBlog attempted to generate controversy by recruiting alarmists whose names appeared in the lists to ask that their names be removed. Avery rightly refused to do so, explaining that the scientists have no right "legally or ethically“ to demand that their names be removed from a bibliography composed by researchers with whom they disagree. As a courtesy, Heartland changed the headlines of some of the news releases we had used to announce the release of the lists, but the names of all the authors remain in the lists.
The important point at the base of this controversy is that the published work of many scientists, even those who publicly support the alarmist position in the global warming debate, supports the view that most or all of the modern warming is due to natural causes. This is simply a fact, and an embarrassing one to global warming alarmists. No amount of PR spin can hide this.
Q: What is "Fakegate"?
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.
Q. Is Heartland's position on tobacco control "extremist" or outside the scientific mainstream?
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.
Q. Can you reply to specific accusations made by The Union of Concerned Scientists?
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 sixteen years in monthly issues of Environment & Climate News; eight international conferences on climate change attended by more than 3,000 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 September, which may explain UCS’s decision to attack us in this manner.
We urge the public to go to www.heartland.org/issues/environment and www.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 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 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. Whose 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 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), visit www.heartland.org/subscribe and sign up for free digital subscriptions to some of our 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.
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by MediaTransparency?
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.
Mediatransparency 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.
The truth is that we solicit the support of these foundations, and they contribute because they agree with our free-market philosophy, not because we are part of some vast right-ring conspiracy.
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by SourceWatch?
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. A former board member, Roy Marden, indeed worked for Philip Morris/Altria during some of his time on Heartland's board, and he helped convince others in the company to approve contributions to us because of our opposition to high taxes on cigarettes, the abuse of tort law leading up to the Master Settlement Agreement, and other tobacco-related issues. 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.
Similarly, SourceWatch reports contributions to Heartland by ExxonMobil and implies improper influence, but again presents no evidence of this occurring. Walter Buchholtz was a public relations advisor for ExxonMobil during his service on The Heartland Institute's Board of Directors, and like Marden, he helped persuade his company to contribute to Heartland. He never exerted improper influence on any Heartland staff, and his company never gave more than 5 percent the organization's annual receipts.
ExxonMobil has not contributed to Heartland since 2006. Indeed, gifts from all energy companies - coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear - combined did not exceed 5 percent of Heartland's budget in 2007 or 2008. The fact is, Heartland has received negligible amounts of funding from fossil fuel companes over the years. Our positions have always been — and always will be — based on principle, not funding.
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by ExxonSecrets?
A: Yes. ExxonSecrets is a project of Greenpeace, the radical environmental group that raised $336 million in 2011 and spent $221 million on programs and $107 million on fundraising. For comparison, The Heartland Institute generally raises and spends about $6 million a year and only $420,000 on fundraising. Climate and environment is about a third of what we do, but it is all that Greenpeace does. According to Matthew Nisbet
, Greenpeace’s “organizational wealth has helped institutionalize an ideological bias that threatens progress on issues like climate change and food security.”
The "Factsheet" on Heartland at ExxonSecrets (last viewed in September 2009) is loaded with errors, from the very first sentence (we were founded in 1984, not "the 1990s") to the outdated lists of directors, to the false assertion that Walt Buchholtz, a former board member, "serves as Heartland's Government Relations Advisor," a deliberate misreading of a tax form filed several years ago. (Buchholtz was never a member of Heartland's staff.)
The site presents a list of gifts from ExxonMobil to Heartland, apparently based on annual reports from ExxonMobil, but fails to mention that the gifts never exceeded 5 percent of Heartland's annual budgets, makes no mention of Heartland's policies that separate donors from our researchers and writers, and presents no evidence at all of an improper relationship. It should matter that Heartland gets 95 percent of its income from energy consumers and only 5 percent from energy producers, but this fact doesn't appear on ExxonSecrets.
While the first gift to Heartland reported on the ExxonSecrets site appears to have been made in 1998, the site fails to report that Heartland was questioning the science behind the global warming scare since 1994. And although ExxonMobil hasn't contributed to Heartland since 2006, Heartland greatly increased its concentration and publication output on global warming since then.
Q: Can you reply to specific accusations made by the Free Press?
A: Yes. The Free Press is an liberal advocacy group calling for greater government control over the Internet and other communication technologies. Heartland, in contrast, has published several studies and commentaries documenting the anti-consumer implications of municipal ownership of broadband systems, "network neutrality," and other regulatory schemes. Naturally, the Free Press doesn't like us.
In August 2009, Free Press's "campaign director," Timothy Karr, called Heartland "a poster child for deception. This coin-operated 'think tank' specializes in aping industry talking points to downplay global warming, oppose health care reform and attack Net Neutrality. Its Fortune 500 clients include Philip Morris USA, the ExxonMobil Corporation and major telecommunications companies."
Gosh, all that because we oppose municipalities wasting taxpayer dollars on redundant broadband systems and new restrictions on how internet service providers can price access to their networks? In fact, our positions on climate change, health care, and net neutrality are all consistent with our free-market perspective and pre-date or post-date any industry funding. We do not tailor our views to raise funds, a point well illustrated by the fact that one of the two (!) funders Karr names no longer supports Heartland precisely because of our principled stand on a major issue.
There is nothing phony about The Heartland Institute, as our history, diverse donor base, academic backing, and credibility among elected officials all prove. What is phony is the Free Press, which faults us for not revealing the identities of our donors yet redacts the names and amounts of gifts on their own 990 forms to the IRS.
Q: Why doesn't Heartland reveal the identities of its donors?
A: For many years, we provided a complete list of Heartland's corporate and foundation donors on this Web site and challenged other think tanks and advocacy groups to do the same. To our knowledge, not a single group followed our lead.
After much deliberation and with some regret, we now keep confidential the identities of all our donors for the following reasons:
- 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.
If you do not approve of this policy, your argument is not with us but with those who would abuse a sincere effort at transparency. We urge anyone who sees the need for objective research and commentary on public policy issues to join us as a Member or donor.
Q: Is Heartland's position on global warming "extremist" or outside the scientific mainstream?
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 “