Questionable Motives

February 15, 2012

What is the Heartland Institute and why should we care how it gets its funding?

The Heartland Institute is supposedly a non profit think tank whose self-described mission is to “discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” Finding solutions for problems? That sounds quite reasonable, doesn’t it? The problem is, that simply isn’t quite true; it’s goal is to lobby for corporate concerns regardless of the problems caused by these activities.

It’s major area of activity is to influence the The United States’ 8,300 state and national elected officials and approximately 8,400 local government officials in ways agreeable to its sponsors over issues it deems important… such as sustained criticisms against legitimate climate science and public education that attempts to deny parents the right to public money to pay for private schooling… schooling that includes altered curriculum to favour the corporate message.  As they explain:

people devote time to learn about subjects only if they believe acquiring specific knowledge will benefit them personally. Often, this seems unlikely. Consequently, most people choose rationally to remain ignorant about many public policy issues. The Heartland Institute has overcome the problem of ‘rational ignorance’ by inventing publications busy elected officials and the public will actually read and come to trust. Our publications are highly effective and inexpensive vehicles for communicating messages on public policy.

One might be tempted to think that a non profit doesn’t have any major sponsors so it would be less likely to follow a corporate, for profit, mission against governmental oversight and regulation wherever it may be found. One might be right… except this certainly doesn’t pertain to the Heartland Institute. It’s funding has been revealed at desmogblog to be very much a public relations arm of specific corporate interests.

According to its website, its mission is “to discover and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems”. Sourcewatch tells us that the Institute campaigns in support of:

  • “Common-sense environmentalism”, such as opposition to the the Kyoto Protocol aimed at countering global warming
  • Genetically engineered crops and products;
  • The privatization of public services;
  • The introduction of school vouchers;
  • The deregulation of health care insurance;

and against:

  • What it refers to as “junk science” (science that that could indicate a need for regulation);
  • Tobacco control measures such as tobacco tax increases (the Institute denies the health effects of second-hand smoke);

Regarding its current funding and responding to that assigned mission, Heartland’s central concerns are about disseminating anti-climate science messages and funding anti-climate science contrarians:

We expect to push up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.”

Heartland’s influence can be heard in misleading soundbites issued by legislators over climate science findings, which explains why it is commonly referred to as a global warming denial machine working hard to find funding for high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the ‘alarmist’ AGW (anthropomorphic global warming) message.

Forbes Business magazine and other business press are favored outlets for Heartland’s dissemination of climate denial messages, and the group is worried about maintaining that exclusive space. They note in particular the work of climatologist Dr. Peter Gleick:

Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.”

The Heartland Institute has a corporate sponsored agenda to fool people into supporting bad public policies by undermining good science to promote short term, short-sighted, unsustainable, harmful corporate interests. That – and not solutions to social and economic problems – is its real mission.

(h/t Cedric)

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20 Comments »

  1. This denier funding is peanuts. These documents show clearly that the constant claims of ‘well funded climate denialism’ were never true. Alarmists simply made them up.

    For years I never really knew if deniers were well funded or not. Now I know they never were well funded.

    Its the greenies who have been well funded all along.

    Thank you Desmogblog. Nice work

    Comment by klem — February 15, 2012 @ 11:46 am | Reply

    • That you now recognize climate denial from this ‘non profit’ organization is in truth a funded activity by profit organizations with a vested interest to disseminate poor information to fool people is a small step in the right direction. Attempting to divert the issue about human caused climate change to be about how well funded are those who agree or disagree with good science is absolutely typical of those who don’t want to face reality and who are unwilling to be a part of any real solution; instead, you want to remain part of the problem. I don’t think that’s something to be proud of nor the kind of foolishness you should want to advertise about the quality of your character.

      Comment by tildeb — February 15, 2012 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

    • Wow I have no idea what your convoluted and unfocused reply actually meant.

      Perhaps it indicates something about the quality of your character as well.

      cheers

      Comment by klem — February 17, 2012 @ 7:39 am | Reply

      • That doesn’t surprise me, klem. It involves comprehension – an area of yours that does not seem to be a strength. But that’s okay. With practice and a willingness to learn, I’m sure you’ll improve but you may want to hold back a bit on declaring your ignorance as if it were a source of pride worth sharing.

        Comment by tildeb — February 17, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  2. The problem I have with entities such as the Heartland Institute is that they are not up-front about who provides them with funding or how the money is spent. (at least, I haven’t been able to discover it yet) This lack of transparency exists on all sides of just about every issue facing our society, and is detrimental to our ability, as a society, to decide what is best for us, as opposed to corporations or other so-called “special interests”.

    Comment by Davey — February 15, 2012 @ 8:43 pm | Reply

    • On the one hand, climate science has been very open. You can link to most studies and read the peer reviews. The accumulated findings are thus very clear: AGW is real and it’s a growing problem we must address in concrete ways. The longer we do nothing, the greater the problem, the higher the costs. There is no agenda here. Certain groups that report on some findings may or may not have an agenda but that is the kind of side issue that diverts us from what the science clearly reveals. Some of the kinds of responses for concrete actions may or may not contain agendas but that, too, is the kind of side issue that diverts from what the science clearly reveals.But the first order of business is to accept that we have a problem, that the problem of global warming directly and adversely causes climate change, and that the problem is getting worse from our collective inaction. The solutions need widespread public discussions but we can’t even get there when politicians able to implement change are penalized by their supporters for doing so. Politicians need a mandate and it’s our job as responsible citizens to allow change to begin.

      On the other hand, when strong and organized denialists are able to pretend this is a he says/she says thing and majorities of voters agree that perhaps the science is not clear, that perhaps there really isn’t a problem, that maybe the problem isn’t as pressing as concerned and informed climate scientists say we should be, then they’re winning the public relations battle by impeding our ability to make necessary and timely changes. When you suggest that all sides in this false debate are equivalent, then you aid and abet only the denialist side.

      Comment by tildeb — February 15, 2012 @ 11:11 pm | Reply

      • “When you suggest that all sides in this false debate are equivalent, then you aid and abet only the denialist side.”

        Exactly right. This whole molehill-sized ‘scandal’ is blowing up in Desmogblogs face as we speak.

        That’s why I say: Thank you Desmogblog. Nice work.

        cheers

        Comment by klem — February 17, 2012 @ 7:43 am

  3. klem is busy shouting “squirrel”. It won’t work.

    “This Phillip Morris denier funding is peanuts. These documents show clearly that the constant claims of ‘well funded tobacco denialism’ were never true. Alarmists simply made them up.

    For years I never really knew if the Tobacco Institute was well funded or not. Now I know they never were well funded. Its the medical scientists who have been well funded all along.”

    Fred Singer “The Denial Machine” Clip

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — February 15, 2012 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  4. The Heartland Institute is going into damage control…and doing it very badly.
    They evidently have no idea how the internet works.
    Fun for the whole family.

    Link

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — February 15, 2012 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

    • That’s too funny!

      Comment by tildeb — February 15, 2012 @ 11:14 pm | Reply

      • Just give it a few more days. It’s going to become even funnier.

        cheers

        Comment by klem — February 17, 2012 @ 7:46 am

  5. I keep reading and rereading this sentence, “The Heartland Institute has overcome the problem of ‘rational ignorance’ by inventing publications busy elected officials and the public will actually read and come to trust” and stopping at the word “inventing.” How exactly does someone invent publications. Heartland betrays itself and confirms its mission is BS with this one word: inventing.

    Comment by Veronica Abbass — February 16, 2012 @ 12:09 am | Reply

    • Yea you’re right, they should have used the word ‘creating’ instead of inventing.

      Once the lefty’s hear the word create, they get all mushy and will beleive every word of it. Lol!

      Comment by klem — February 17, 2012 @ 7:48 am | Reply

      • klem

        I’d be more likely to “beleive” if you spelled the word “believe” correctly. Hint: The word “believe” has a lie in it.

        Comment by Veronica Abbass — February 17, 2012 @ 10:33 am

  6. Aw, klem is upset. Four frantic posts in a row.
    Poor klem.

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — February 17, 2012 @ 9:30 am | Reply

  7. “Earlier this week, a leak from a radical right-wing think tank lead to shocking revelations: the Heartland Institute is developing an alternate school curriculum to push climate change denial onto our children. Discrediting climate science is a core mission of Heartland, which retains a $300,000 staff dedicated to undermining the findings of the UN climate body, the IPCC.

    Now it wants to take that fight to our schools and “re-educate” our kids to doubt the science behind climate change.

    On Tuesday, information surfaced that General Motors is giving tens of thousands of dollars to the Heartland Institute. For General Motors, which manufactures the Chevy Volt and claims it wants to “proactively address the concerns posed by climate change,” this is hypocrisy in the extreme.

    While General Motors has a mixed record on global warming,…”

    Link

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — February 19, 2012 @ 1:00 am | Reply

  8. Ken, over at his blog Open Parachute, has an interesting post about some letters from different professions sent to the Heartland Institute.

    Comment by tildeb — February 19, 2012 @ 9:39 am | Reply

  9. See this Canadian Atheist article
    http://canadianatheist.com/2012/03/04/against-science/

    I

    Comment by Veronica Abbass — March 4, 2012 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

  10. tildeb

    Please contact me by email.

    Comment by Veronica Abbass — March 5, 2012 @ 10:43 am | Reply


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