Corporate donors distance themselves from Heartland Institute in wake of ‘Deniergate’


Three companies tied to the Heartland Institute have issued statements rejecting the right-wing think tank’s support for the climate skepticism movement.  Software giant Microsoft,  British beverage company Diageo and multinational healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)  have each issued statements after a number of alleged internal documents surfaced revealing Heartland’s climate skepticism support. The Heartland institute continues to claim that some of the documents were stolen and that one was fabricated.  While the think tank has yet to prove its claims about the documents’ supposed theft and fabrication, it is now using the embarrassing ordeal to raise funds and take aim at “activists.”

Key Points

Statements and numbers involving Microsoft, Diageo and GSK:

  • Numbers: The documents suggest Microsoft paid $59,908 (£38,227) to Heartland in 2011, GSK paid $20,000 in 2011 and $30,000 the year before, while Diageo gave $10,000 in 2010 and is expected to provide $10,000 in 2012.
  • Diageo statement: from Mother Jones story, “Diageo provided a small contribution [nearly two years ago] to Heartland Institute – related to an excise tax issue,” said a spokeswoman for the UK drink company. “We vigorously oppose climate scepticism and our actions are proof of this. We will be reviewing any further association with this organisation.”
  • Microsoft statement: “Microsoft believes climate change is a serious issue that demands immediate, worldwide attention and we are acting accordingly,” added a spokeswoman. “We are pursuing strategies and taking actions that are consistent with a strong commitment to reducing our own impact as well as the impact of our products.”
  • GSX statement: “GSK absolutely does not endorse or support the Heartland Institute’s views on the environment and climate change,” she said. “We have in the past provided a small amount of funding to support the Institute’s healthcare newsletter and a meeting.”

Heartland’s latest fundraising effort & anti-activism stance revealed in an email:

  • “We are creating a legal defense fund to support litigation, starting immediately, to demand that false and defamatory material be removed from blogs and web sites and publications, and that the true criminals in this case be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
  • “We promise anonymity to many of our donors because nobody wants the risk of nutty environmentalists or Occupy Wall Street goons harassing them. We know that privacy is important to you.”
  • “If you understand the importance of our efforts and you stand with us, please consider giving at this critical time to ensure we can continue this important fight of exposing climate truth.”
Heartland’s theft and fabrication claims and the response:
  • Heartland continues to say that the Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy, is “a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute,” however Richard  Littlemore of DeSmogBlog found that “many of the projects listed in the contested climate strategy document, including the alternative curriculum and plans to fund a team to debunk UN climate reports, are confirmed separately in Heartland’s budget document.
  • Independent reports maintain that, “the digital properties of some of the documents – although not the one on climate strategy – suggest the author was Joseph Bast, chief executive and president of the controversial think tank.”
  • An Associated Press report states: ““Because Heartland was not specific about what was fake and what was real, The Associated Press attempted to verify independently key parts of separate budget and fundraising documents that were leaked. The federal consultant working on the classroom curriculum, the former TV weatherman, a Chicago elected official who campaigns against hidden local debt and two corporate donors all confirmed to the AP that the sections in the document that pertained to them were accurate. No one the AP contacted said the budget or fundraising documents mentioning them were incorrect.”
  • The Heartland Institute seemed to both confirm that Bast was the author, while simultaneously casting doubt the authenticity of the exact same documents saying: “The stolen documents appear to have been written by Heartland’s president for a board meeting that took place on January 17,” the organisation’s statement said. “He was travelling at the time this story broke yesterday afternoon and still has not had the opportunity to read them all to see if they were altered. Therefore, the authenticity of those documents has not been confirmed.”
  • Climate skeptic Anthony Wass has also confirmed Heartland is funding a project with his Watts Up With That website, as suggested in the leaked documents.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation issued a statement supporting the Heartland Institute, but has also made the effort to explain its funding didn’t involve climate skepticism campaigns by saying, “The Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade.


More coverage of ‘Deniergate’:

Notable Tweets:

Richard Black (@BBCRblack): NY Times on ‘DenierGate‘ again as link dropped out – worth a read

Kelly Rigg (@KellyRigg): Companies funding Heartland – now might be a v good time to pull out b4 yr brands are further damaged. @Microsoft @GM#deniergate

New Scientist (@NewScientist): Leaked files expose #Heartland Institute’s secrets #deniergate

Steve Horn (@Steve_Horn): Via @DiscoverMag: A look behind the curtain of the @HeartlandIInst#DenialGate h/t @DeSmogBlog #DenierGate

TckTckTck (@TckTckTck): The @NYTimes weighs in on the Heartland Institute’s leaked documents #climate #deniergate

Elaine McKewon (@Elaine_McKewon):  Think tanks should be required to disclose funders & how much they pay #sceptic “scholars”. The public has the Right to Know.#deniergate

As this story continues to develop The Tree will continue provide it’s partners and branches with updates.