Heartland Institute

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The Heartland Institute is a militant, libertarian, conservative "think tank" based in Chicago and founded by Joseph L. Bast, a former janitor and drop out of the University of Chicago. The infamous group's regular global warming conference "feels like a low-level, alt-right rally,' a journalist at The London-based paper The Independent recently noted.[1]

A report in the Paris-based newspaper LeMonde Diplomatique indicates that research in Europe shows Heartland is working with 'far right, racist groups' to advance its policy agenda globally. [2]

Leading media consider the comments, studies, and social media postings of Heartland personnel to be informational "pollution," or outright propaganda, not meriting serious consideration in the national policy debate, according to The New York Times. [3]

Popular Science reports that Heartland's disinformation campaigns have been designed to transition the discussion over global warming from the realm of science policy to the embattled and embittering 'culture war.' [4]

The controversial research organization has links to the Koch Brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, ExxonMobil, and Philip Morris, long-term financiers of the extreme libertarian, anti-government right for years. That's just the start of the scandalous heritage of Heartland. The think tank's current chairman, Joseph A. Morris, has been penalized twice in recent years by the government for his lack of ethics and had his law license suspended by the Supreme Court of Illinois.[5]

The Supreme Court noted that the Heartland Chairman is something of a case study of crookedness: "Joseph Allan Morris, Chicago Mr. Morris, who was licensed in 1976, was suspended for 90 days. He was not diligent in pursuing two separate cases, an arbitration matter and a civil lawsuit, on behalf of the same client, and also made false statements to the client about the status of the civil suit." Supra. Founder Bast was also criticized by a Texas judge for misrepresenting himself as a trained economist, and for having no credibility as a witness in a case he was hearing, Wikipedia notes.

Since Morris became Chairman, the organization's funding levels have continued to collapse, raising questions about his ethics and stewardship. And the future of the failing organization, which laid off most of its staff during recent months, according to a report in The Huffington Post. Heartland Founder Bast and Chairman Morris served together on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which sponsors the annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference in Washington D.C. [6] [7] with former Trump White House Cabinet-level officials Kellyanne Conway and John Bolton.

Heartland, even in its financially diminished state, concentrates especially on "free market environmentalism." "Smoker's rights" is another one of its favorite issues, which comes as no surprise, given past links to Philip Morris. The organization has consistently denied the link between second-hand smoke and cancer. They are also a front group for global warming denial, publishing "research" by notorious deniers Anthony Watts and S. Fred Singer, and convicted felon/science advisor Jay Lehr. No surprise, once again, as Exxon was a lead funder at one time. This unsavory combo of denialism makes them among the most dangerous, rage-filled fronts out there.

Besides anti-environmentalism, they also advocate "school choice" and "reform" (i.e. union busting), lower taxes, and health care "reform" (i.e., total end to Medicare and Medicaid for the poor and elderly). The right-wing propaganda shop has even come out against providing school lunches to poor black and Hispanic children. [8] These policy diatribes harm real people, these evidence shows. A report by PBS-TV's Frontline investigative program found that Heartland's propaganda traumatized children in the U.S. [9]

The banner on its home page displays, along with libertarian ideologues like Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, a number of historical figures including Crispus Attucks (first man killed in the Boston Massacre), Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington, John Locke, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson. Though the organization claims to identify with black American Revolutionary hero Crispus Attucks, Morris himself has engaged in some racialist politics, seeking the death penalty for a 15-year-old African-American girl in Indiana over a murder case in a brief filed with the Indiana Supreme Court. Morris's bizarre strategy failed, and the court rejected his argument.[10]

Propaganda-Spreading 'Stalkers'[edit]

Back in 2011, Heartland launched a largely discredited and ineptly written blog ClimateWiki, which is supposedly an "encyclopedia of climate change research organized by topic." It seems to be mostly copy-pasted from Wikipedia with the usual denialist "research" thrown in (Ross McKitrick, S. Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels, the Idso family, Roy Spencer, Christopher Monckton, etc.) along with some "original" content. Registration is by e-mail only and so far the only registered users are other Heartland flacks. Emily Zanotti, a disbarred, former Michigan attorney, noted cyber-stalker, and anti-Semite, of Heartland was editor of the site, and now works for The Daily Wire, an alt-right news site. [11]

In 2015 the Heartland leadership team, including the former, disgraced Washington Times reporter, publicity hack Jim Lakely, tried to halt the Paris climate change talks sponsored by the U.S.[12]

Then in 2017 Heartland executives, again led by the discredited journalist Lakely, then 'stalked' international climate experts at a conference in Europe, according to the New York Times. [13] Lakely was subsequently fired as president of Heartland, after a brief, unsuccessful tenure in the office lasting but a few months.

Chairman Morris is also notorious for representing a client who was slandered by Heartland staff who planted fake news reports about him in the media with gullible reporters, while also secretly serving as chairman in late 2019 and early 2020 of the think tank, an extreme conflict of interest as a licensed lawyer.[14]

Secret Heartland budget documents[edit]

For a detailed account, see Denialgate.

The organization has been probed by the media, and targeted by whistleblowers, for years. In February 2012, DeSmog Blog obtained budget documents from an insider[15] although the Heartland Institute claimed someone mistakenly e-mailed the documents and that one document was false.[16][17][18] Other sources seem to corroborate the authenticity of the leaked documents[19] and all of the concrete items appear in the budget, albeit with different amounts.[20] The documents have proven controversial for their detailed explication of Heartland's campaign on behalf of climate skepticism. Founder Bast was born in the Wisconsin town where the John Birch Society was headquartered, and truly lives the paranoid world view of the Birchers, as he sought revenge for years against the document leaker and spent many staff hours on the revenge plot, even time on the phone trying to persuade the FBI to join the mole hunt. [21]

Controversial climate change advertising campaign[edit]

Many know Heartland through its famous miscues. According to Environmental Health News, the think tank committed one of the most spectacular "bloopers" in the history of environmental policy nearly a decade ago. [22]Heartland Founder Bast on May 4, 2012 launched a soon-to-be discredited advertising campaign with photos of Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro with the words "I still believe in global warming. Do you?[23] (And it's not Poe's Law.[24]) Heartland said in a press release, "Scientific, political, and public support for the theory of man-made global warming is collapsing. Most scientists and 60 percent of the general public (in the U.S.) do not believe man-made global warming is a problem. (Keep reading for proof of these statements.) The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen."[25]

Amidst near unanimous outcry from the public,[26] Heartland pulled the campaign that day, saying, "We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand[note 1] what we were trying to do with this experiment. We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate."[25] As a result, Diageo (i.e., Guinness, Smirnoff, and Johnnie Walker),[27] the United Services Automobile Association,[28] State Farm[29] and several other insurers pulled their support for the think tank. The insurance companies migration reflects a "mutiny" at Heartland's Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate, especially after its head, Eli Lehrer, decided to leave Heartland. "Lehrer was largely responsible for raising $1.03 million from insurers over the last two years for programs that seek reduced government subsidies in federal flood insurance, decreased development along coastlines and increased funding for efforts to strengthen homes against natural catastrophes."[30] Later, Eli Lilly, BB&T Bank, and Pepsi also withdrew their support.[31]

Since the billboards were now empty, the Climate Reality Project posted billboards asking "Who to believe on climate: Heartland?… or EVERY National Scientific Academy in the world?"[32] The billboards were posted in advance of Heartland's annual conference.

Rebuke by Scientists[edit]

The think tank also published a fabricated endorsement of its shoddy work by one of the world's leading scientific bodies. On June 12, 2013, Heartland posted a story on its website entitled, "Chinese Academy of Sciences Publishes Heartland Institute Research Skeptical of Global Warming."[33] with the claim, "The trend toward skepticism and away from alarmism is now unmistakable… Publication of a Chinese translation of Climate Change Reconsidered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates the country's leaders believe their [failure to sign a global climate treaty] is justified by science and not just economics."[34] The Chinese Academy of Sciences strongly rebuked the piece:

The claim of the Heartland Institute about CAS’ endorsement of its report is completely false. To clarify the fact, we formally issue the following statements:

(1) The translation and publication of the Chinese version of the NIPCC report, and the related workshop, are purely non-official academic activities the group of translators. They do not represent, nor they have ever claimed to represent, CAS or any of CAS institutes. They translated the report and organized the workshop just for the purpose of academic discussion of different views.

(2) The above fact was made very clear in the Translators’ Note in the book, and was known to the NIPCC report authors and the Heartland Institute before the translation started. The false claim by the Heartland Institute was made public without any knowledge of the translator group.

(3) Since there is absolutely no ground for the so called CAS endorsement of the report, and the actions by the Heartland Institute went way beyond acceptable academic integrity, we have requested by email to the president of the Heartland Institute that the false news on its website to be removed. We also requested that the Institute issue a public apology to CAS for the misleading statement on the CAS endorsement.

(4) If the Heartland Institute does not withdraw its false news or refuse to apologize, all the consequences and liabilities should be borne by the Heartland Institute. We reserve the right for further actions to protect the rights of CAS and the translators group.[35]

Most interestingly, Heartland Institute tried to cover up the problem, retracting the story and claiming, "Some people interpreted our news release and a blog post describing this event as implying that the Chinese Academy of Sciences endorses the views contained in the original books. This is not the case, and we apologize to those who may have been confused by these news reports."[36]

Even more bizarre is that Heartland toady Anthony Watts posted a story, "Heartland’s NIPCC report to be accepted by Chinese Academy of Sciences in special ceremony."[37] It's unclear if the "special ceremony" occurred.

These Heartland ethical lapses should come as no surprise to savvy observers, as the think tank has been steeped in corruption for decades. A school chum from the 1970s with founder Bast, Morris's troubles with the law began back in the Reagan era. A report in The Washington Post indicated that Morris, his then-wife, and the wife of the Attorney General of the U.S.,were involved in an travel ethics scandal in China that rocked official Washington.[38]

Other papers covered the controversy, including the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, and the government was forced to change travel rules at DOJ to prevent further scandals. Morris was chased out of two think tanks in subsequent years in Chicago over ethics concerns.[39][40]

To promote his alt-right agenda, Morris appears on WTTW/PBS Chicago, as a non-paid interviewee, though in the past he has falsely claimed in interviews and his own bio that he was paid staff for Chicago public media.[41] Morris was investigated after his return to Chicago by the Attorney General of Illinois, when he relocated there to run for Cook County Board President -- he lost by a humiliating margin of 62-37 to John Stroger, who didn't even bother to campaign against Morris, a morbidly obese, pretentious dandy infamous for his 19th century bow ties and lingo laced with obscure Latin and Old French phrases. Financial improprieties (e.g. embezzlement) were alleged by Illinois AG Roland Burris over Morris's corrupt management of the Lincoln Legal Foundation, housed at Heartland, which was a right wing litigation and harassment op against Democratic policymakers that Morris and Bast promoted. [42]

White nationalist agitators[edit]

Morris and Heartland's agenda going forward seems to be to support the white nationalist agenda of radical, domestic insurrectionists and their allies. As Bast, a reclusive, Lenin-like iconoclast, is suffering from kidney cancer at his rural Wisconsin dacha, Morris has kicked up the volume of his public rants on behalf of the think tank, even traveling in Fall 2021 to Las Vegas to keynote a speech at a conference. [43]

The group had "the most dangerous man" in white America speak at its 2021 annual benefit dinner, anti-ACORN activist James O'Keefe, and honored him with its ill-named "Liberty Prize" for his undercover attacks on black groups and other liberals.[44]

Morris as a political candidate, backed by Heartland in 1994, had sought to relocate all of the prisoners in Cook County Jail, mostly African-Americans, on 'prison boats,' floating freely in the winter on frozen Lake Michigan, so as to get them out of the city proper. [45] So the provenance for Heartland's racialist attitudes is decades old. For his retrograde views, Morris was labeled, with arch irony, "Mr. Right" by The Chicago Reader in that investigative article. Supra. What is more, in another report in The Chicago Reader, Morris admitted, "I’m also an elder in the vast right-wing conspiracy." [46]

The government, in Heartland Chairman Morris's disgruntled view, is using false global warming concerns to expand its power over regular people, like Heartland donors and other deplorables. [47]

Even worse, the group is under his out-of-date leadership style is publishing scathing indictments of the Attorney General of the U.S. and his probes of radical school board protesters, claiming the federal government is punishing conservatives simply for their political views. [48]

Heartland has collaborated in the past closely with other alt-right, libertarian and conservative organizations, including the Cato Institute and Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser who was held in contempt of Congress for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 civil disturbances near the U.S. Capitol. Confidence trickster Lakely maintains the ties to Bannon through Heartland financier Rebecca Mercer, who financed Heartland's vocal public attacks on Pope Francis over the Catholic Church's global warming concerns, as reported by CNN, MSNBC and other major media in 2015.

The think tank is drifting further and further rightward every year, Salon magazine reports, noting that things are so desperate since the mass staff layoffs that Heartland is now asking teenage girls in Germany and the U.S. to publish the think tank's news releases on climate change on You Tube. [49]

To add to the audacity, Heartland also works with a sometime member of the U.K. House of Lords, Christopher Monckton, who claims he was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's environmental policy advisor back in the 1980s. [50] Mrs. Thatcher, however, declared another man was her advisor on that high-profile issue, according to news reports. His Lordship also stated he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. For his Baron Von Munchausen-like falsehoods, Monckton was called 'Lord of the Lies' by the Independent Australia newspaper recently. [51] Monckton has been publicly upbraided by the House of Lords for his unethical conduct. [52] [53]

Disinformation at COP-26[edit]

Heartland promoted disinformation at Glasgow, Scotland for the COP-26 climate change conference in the Fall of 2021 to spread confusion about climate change and provide cover to Republicans and UKIP politicians who seek to stop or postpone regulatory and legal reforms required to halt human-made global warming. Heartland even staged its own alternative reality conference at a secret, undisclosed location in Glasgow while government ministers from around the world met nearby at the legitimate conference.[54]

This is all part of the "fringe" group's strategy to minimize cultural concerns over global warming among opinion-makers and the general population, as well as shift blame over declining environmental conditions on to illegal immigrants and other minority groups, according to Popular Science Magazine. [55]

Liberty Prize[edit]

Besides James O'Keefe, Heartland Institute has given its Liberty Prize to other cranks of note: John Stossel (1994, global warming denial), S. Fred Singer (2008, global warming denial), and Glenn Beck (2019, crank magnet).[56] The Institute is not above giving itself a prize, founder Joe Bast (2018),[56] or above putting its prizewinners on the board of directors. Major global corporations used to finance these kinds of shenanigans, but "have withdrawn their support from denialist think tanks like the Heartland Institute; these companies are now funding academic research at big name universities that shy-away from overt climate denial," and alt-right vanity awards like the Liberty Prize.[57] Confirming this development, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, Darren Woods, told a Congressional panel this fall that the corporation "does not currently fund The Heartland Institute," and that the Big Oil company does not "support climate denial".[58]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]



  1. Understand trying to associate the scientifically literate with mass murderers? Not really.


  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/naomi-seibt-climate-denial-vegas-b1943394.html
  2. https://mondediplo.com/outsidein/brexit-climate-deniers
  3. Social Media Is Polluted With Climate Denialism by Greg Bensinger (Nov. 12, 2021) The New York Times.
  4. https://www.popsci.com/environment/climate-denier-myths/
  5. https://www.isba.org/barnews/2016/01/22/illinois-supreme-court-disbars-6-suspends-14-latest-disciplinary-filing
  6. https://ballotpedia.org/American_Conservative_Union
  7. https://relationshipscience.com/premium-plans
  8. https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/education/321021-why-cutting-back-free-school-lunches-would-be-a-favor-to
  9. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/cop26-kids-climate-change-miseducation-book/
  10. Cooper v. State, 540 N.E.2d 1216 (1989).
  11. http://www.debbieschlussel.com/16688/on-rahms-retards-comment-why-do-conservatives-pal-w-cretin-who-called-me-special-needs-kid/
  12. https://newrepublic.com/article/125254/climate-change-deniers-try-derail-paris-talks
  13. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/11/climate/un-climate-talks-bonn.html
  14. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/heartland-institute-executive-ex-staffers_n_5a5e58dee4b096ecfca834d7
  15. Heartland Insider Exposes Institute's Budget and Strategy, DeSmog Blog
  16. Heartland Institute Responds to Stolen and Fake Documents, Heartland Institute
  17. Heartland Confirms It Mistakenly E-mailed Internal Documents, DeSmog Blog
  18. http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-is-desmog-blogs-document-scanned.html
  19. Mashey Report Confirms Heartland's Manipulation, Exposes Singer's Deception, DeSmog Blog
  20. Heartland budget
  21. https://www.heartland.org/about-us/who-we-are/joseph-bast
  22. https://www.ehn.org/environmental-bloopers-2655421951.html
  23. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/05/04/the-heartland-institute-sinks-to-a-new-low/
  24. Heartland Institute Ends Experiment with ‘Unabomber’ Global Warming Billboard, Archive.org from their website in 2012.
  25. 25.0 25.1 http://climateconference.heartland.org/our-billboards/
  26. Ross McKitrick wrote in a letter to then-Heartland president Bast, who has claimed to be a military colonel: "You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers. Once you have done such a thing you have lost the moral high ground and you can never again object if someone uses that kind of rhetoric on you." [1]. Donna Laframboise, who also takes issue with the IPCC, pulled out of Heartland's conference.
  27. http://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/05/07/diageo-stops-heartland-donations-after-unabomber-billboards/
  28. http://forecastthefacts.org/press/releases/2012/5/9/forecast-facts-applauds-usaa-pulling-their-support/
  29. http://climatecrocks.com/2012/05/08/news-flash-insurance-company-flees-heartland-stable-has-heartland-bought-the-farm/
  30. http://www.eenews.net/public/climatewire/2012/05/07/2
  31. http://forecastthefacts.org/press/releases/2012/5/14/eli-lilly-bbt-and-pepsi-confirm-they-will-no-longe/
  32. http://climaterealityproject.org/2012/05/18/a-climate-reality-billboard/
  33. The article is no longer on Heartland's webpage, but a copy can be found here
  34. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/jun/14/climate-change-heartland-chinese-academy-sciences
  35. http://www.llas.cas.cn/tzgg/201306/t20130614_3866222.html
  36. http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/14/heartland-institute-statement-chinese-edition-climate-change-reconsider
  37. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/12/heartlands-nippc-report-to-be-accepted-by-chinese-academy-of-sciences-in-special-ceremony/
  38. Aides faulted for trip by Meese's Wife. The Washington Post, 25 August 1988.
  39. Concern on Meese promits trip ban. The New York Times, 2 September 1988.
  40. The Nation. Los Angeles Times, 25 August 1988.
  41. https://news.wttw.com/2021/06/21/high-court-sides-ex-athletes-ncaa-compensation-case
  42. https://www.chicagoreader.com/news-politics/mr-right/
  43. https://climateconference.heartland.org/sessions/keynote-dinner/
  44. https://www.heartland.org/events/events/37th-annual-benefit-dinner
  45. https://www.chicagoreader.com/news-politics/mr-right/
  46. https://chicagoreader.com/news-politics/misplaced-faith/
  47. https://www.ntd.com/lawyer-governments-use-climate-change-as-a-means-of-expansion_692372.html
  48. https://heartlanddailynews.com/2021/10/parents-have-peeked-behind-the-curtain-education-establishment-wants-them-punished/
  49. https://www.salon.com/2021/10/20/las-vegas-just-hosted-a-climate-denier-conference-and-it-makes-perfect-sense_partner/
  50. https://www.heartland.org/about-us/who-we-are/lord-christopher-monckton
  51. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/viscount-christopher-monckton-lord-of-the-lies-on-climate-change,15179
  52. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-19/monckton-letter/2799750?site=ballarat
  53. https://members.parliament.uk/member/1959/career
  54. https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/cop26-far-right-climate-denial-group-to-stage-alternative-summit-in-glasgow-3413352
  55. https://www.popsci.com/environment/climate-denier-myths/
  56. 56.0 56.1 About Us The Heartland Institute.
  57. Olufemi O. Taiwo, Our Planet is Heating Up. Why Are Climate Politics Still frozen? The New Yorker, 25 October 2021.
  58. Maxine Joselow and Dino Grandoni, Big Oil CEOs testify before House Oversight Committee. The Washington Post, 28 October 2021.