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Heartland Institute

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The Heartland Institute is a militant, libertarian, conservative "think tank" based in Chicago with links to the Koch Brothers,[1] Richard Mellon Scaife, ExxonMobil (Big Oil), and Philip Morris (Big Tobacco), i.e., the usual suspects.[2] Although they specialise in climate change denial their message is tailored to appeal to a broad selection of reactionary groups.[3] Their slick pamphlets and glamourous yearly conferences might give you the idea that they are a respectable institution, seeking to just ask questions about government policy. Under the nice façade, however, you will find a run of the mill propaganda factory, producing half-truths and outright lies.[4] If you disagree with them that's just because you are a godless liberal.[5]

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.[6] Morris, alongside Heartland founder Joseph L. Bast, 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.[7] with former Trump White House Cabinet-level officials Kellyanne Conway and John Bolton.

Their other projects include protecting "smoker's rights"; the organization has consistently denied the link between second-hand smoke and cancer.[8] 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.[9] A report by PBS-TV's Frontline investigative program found that Heartland's propaganda traumatized children in the U.S.[10]

Propaganda-spreading 'stalkers'[edit]

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 Michigan attorney, noted cyber-stalker, and anti-Semite was editor of the site, and she now works for The Daily Wire, an alt-right news site.[11]

In 2015 the Heartland leadership team, including publicity hack Jim Lakely, tried to halt the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.Wikipedia[12] Then in 2017 Heartland executives, again led by Lakely, 'stalked' international climate experts at a conference in Europe.[13] Lakely was subsequently fired as president of Heartland, after a brief, unsuccessful tenure in the office lasting but a few months.

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,[14] although the Heartland Institute claimed someone mistakenly e-mailed the documents and that one document was false.[15][16][17] Other sources seem to corroborate the authenticity of the leaked documents[18] and all of the concrete items appear in the budget, albeit with different amounts.[19] The documents have proven controversial for their detailed explication of Heartland's campaign on behalf of climate skepticism.

Controversial climate change advertising campaign[edit]

Many know Heartland through its famous miscues. The think tank committed one of the most spectacular "bloopers" in the history of environmental policy nearly a decade ago.[20] 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?"[21] (And it's not Poe's Law.[22]) Heartland said in a press release:[23]

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.

Amidst near-unanimous outcry from the public,[note 1] 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 2] 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."[23] As a result, Diageo (i.e., Guinness, Smirnoff, and Johnnie Walker),[26] the United Services Automobile Association,[27] State Farm[28] 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."[29] Later, Eli Lilly, BB&T Bank, and Pepsi also withdrew their support.[30]

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?"[31] The billboards were posted in advance of Heartland's annual conference.

Rebuke by Scientists[edit]

The think tank also published fraudulent endorsement that they claimed was 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."[32] 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."[33] The Chinese Academy of Sciences strongly rebuked the claim by Heartland:[34]

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.

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."[35]

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."[36] It's unclear if the "special ceremony" occurred.

White nationalist agitators[edit]

Morris and Heartland's agenda going forward seems to be to support the white nationalist agenda. 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 inappropriately-named "Liberty Prize" for his undercover attacks on Black groups and other liberals.[37]

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.[38] 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.[38] What is more, in another report in The Chicago Reader, Morris admitted, "I’m also an elder in the vast right-wing conspiracy."[39]

The government, in Morris's disgruntled view, is using false global warming concerns to expand its power over regular people, like Heartland donors and other deplorables.[40]

Even worse, the group published 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.[41]

Heartland has closely collaborated in the past 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 2021 U.S. coup attempt. Heartland maintains these ties through the Mercer family, who have financed a number of similar organisations over the years.[42]

To add to the audacity, Heartland also works with a self-proclaimed member of the UK House of Lords, Christopher Monckton,[43] who also claims he was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's environmental policy advisor back in the 1980s.[44] Mrs. Thatcher, however, declared another man was her advisor on that high-profile issue. "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 Independent Australia.[45] Monckton has been publicly upbraided by the House of Lords for his unethical conduct.[46][47]

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.[48] 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.[5]

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).[49] The Institute is not above giving itself a prize, founder Joe Bast (2018),[49] 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.[50] Confirming this development, the CEO of ExxonMobil, 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". There is reason to be skeptical of this though due to the company's decades of hypocrisy.[51]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]



  1. 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."[24] Donna Laframboise, who also takes issue with the IPCC, pulled out of Heartland's conference.[25]
  2. Understand trying to associate the scientifically literate with mass murderers? Not really.


  1. Leak Offers Glimpse of Campaign Against Climate Science by Justin Gillis & Leslie Kaufman (15 February 2012) The New York Times.
  2. Inside the insidious world of climate-change denial The Independent 1 November 2021
  3. How US climate deniers are working with far-right racists to hijack Brexit for Big Oil Le Monde 20 June 2019
  4. Social Media Is Polluted With Climate Denialism by Greg Bensinger (12 November 2021) The New York Times.
  5. 5.0 5.1 4 new myths about climate change—and how to debunk them by Sara Kiley Watson (4 December 2021) Popular Science.
  6. Illinois Supreme Court disbars 6, suspends 14 in latest disciplinary filing Illinois State Bar Association 21 January 2016
  7. American Conservative Union Ballotpedia
  8. Scientific Evidence Shows Secondhand Smoke Is No Danger The Heartland Institute 1 July 2008
  9. Why cutting back ‘free’ school lunches would be a favor to families by Teresa Mull (24 February 2017) The Hill. "Teresa Mull is a research fellow in education policy at The Heartland Institute."
  10. Kids and Climate Change: Who’s Learning What — or Not — and Why? by Patrice Taddonio (12 November 2021) PBS Frontline.
  11. On Rahm’s “Retards,” Meet His “Conservative,” Anti-Semitic, Airheaded, Lesser Counterpart Debbie Schlussel 4 February 2010
  12. Climate Change Deniers Try to Derail the Paris Talks by Jonathan M. Katz (7 December 2015) The New Republic.
  13. A Shadow Delegation Stalks the Official U.S. Team at Climate Talks by Lisa Friedman (11 November 2017) The New York Times.
  14. Heartland Insider Exposes Institute's Budget and Strategy by Richard Littlemore (14 February 2012) DeSmog.
  15. Heartland Institute Responds to Stolen and Fake Documents by Jim Lakely (15 February 2012) Heartland Institute (archived on 17 February 2012).
  16. Heartland Confirms It Mistakenly E-mailed Internal Documents by Richard Littlemore (15 February 2012) DeSmog Blog.
  17. Why Is Desmog Blog's Document Scanned, Not Digital? Quark Soup by David Appell 15 February 2012
  18. Mashey Report Confirms Heartland's Manipulation, Exposes Singer's Deception by Richard Littlemore (14 February 2012) DeSmog Blog.
  19. Denialgate - Internal Heartland Documents Expose Climate Denial Funding Network by dana1981 (15 February 2012) Skeptical Science.
  20. A month-by-month cavalcade of eco-bloopers: From a "crappy" tour bus incident to laid off canaries, here are 12 top environmental gaffes. by Peter Dykstra (31 October 2021) Environmental Health News.
  21. The Heartland Institute sinks to a new low by Phil Plait (4 May 2012) Slate.
  22. Our Billboards 7th International Conference on Climate Change, Heartland Institute (Archived on 4 May 2012).
  23. 23.0 23.1 The Heartland Institute's change of heart by Steve Benen (7 May 2012) NBC News.
  24. McKitrick Letter to Heartland by Ross McKitrick (May 4, 2012 at 4:22 PM) Climate Audit.
  25. Why I Won’t Be Speaking at the Heartland Conference by Donna Laframboise (May 5, 2012) Big Picture News.
  26. Diageo Stops Heartland Donations in Wake of Unabomber Billboard by Jessica Lyons Hardcastle (7 May 2012) Environmental Leader.
  27. Forecast the Facts Applauds USAA for Pulling Their Support from Heartland Institute (9 May 2012) Forecast the Facts (Archived on 9 May 2012).
  28. News Flash: Insurance Company Flees Heartland Stable. Has Heartland Bought the Farm? Climate Denial Crock of the Week 8 May 2012
  29. Heartland faces a mutiny amid furor over billboard campaign by Evan Lehmann (7 May 2012) E&E Publishing (archived on 9 May 2012).
  30. Eli Lilly, BB&T, and Pepsi Confirm They Will No Longer Fund the Heartland Institute, Bringing the Total Number of Defections to Eleven Forecast the Facts 14 May 2012 (archived on 15 May 2012).
  31. A Climate Reality Billboard by Maggie L. Fox (18 May 2012) The Climate Reality Project (Archived on 20 May 2012).
  32. Chinese Academy of Sciences Publishes Heartland Institute Research Skeptical of Global Warming by Joseph Bast, Craig Idso, S. Fred Singer & Robert M. Carter (12 June 2013) The Heartland Institute (Archived on 23 October 2013)
  33. The Heartland Institute's skeptical Chinese fantasy by Dana Nuccitelli (14 June 2013) The Guardian.
  34. The Statements on the Chinese Translation of the Climate Change Reconsidered—NIPCC Report (14 June 2013) The Chinese Academy of Sciences (Archived on 19 June 2013).
  35. Heartland Institute Statement on Chinese Edition of 'Climate Change Reconsidered' by Jim Lakely (14 June 2013) Heartlander Magazine (Archived on 31 October 2013).
  36. Heartland's NIPCC report to be accepted by Chinese Academy of Sciences in special ceremony by Anthony Watts (12 June 2103) Watts Up With That?
  37. Events - 37th Annual Benefit Dinner Heartland Institute (Archived on 16 March 2021).
  38. 38.0 38.1 Mr. Right by Grant Pick (3 March 1994) Chicago Reader.
  39. Misplaced Faith by Joseph A. Morris (19 February 1998) Chicago Reader.
  40. Lawyer: Governments Use Climate Change as a Means of Expansion by Melina Wisecup (23 October 2021) NTD.
  41. Parents Have Peeked Behind the Curtain, Education Establishment Wants Them Punished Heartland Daily News 11 October 2021
  42. The Mercers, Trump mega-donors, back group that casts doubt on climate science by Matea Gold & Chris Mooney (27 March 2017) The Washington Post.
  43. A letter to Viscount Monckton of Brenchley from the Clerk of the Parliaments — News from Parliament by David Beamish, Clerk of the Parliaments (15 July 2011) (archived from July 20, 2011).
  44. Christopher Monckton of Brenchley The Heartland Institute
  45. Viscount Christopher Monckton: Lord of the lies on climate change by Steve Bishop (11 June 2021) Independent Australia.
  46. House of Lords takes Monckton to task ABC News 18 July 2011
  47. Viscount Monckton of Brenchley MPs and Lords - UK Parliament
  48. COP26: Far right climate denial group to stage 'alternative' summit in Glasgow by Martyn McLaughlin (10 October 2021) The Scotsman.
  49. 49.0 49.1 About Us The Heartland Institute.
  50. Our Planet is Heating Up. Why Are Climate Politics Still frozen? by Olufemi O. Taiwo (25 October 2021) The New Yorker.
  51. Big Oil CEOs testify before House Oversight Committee by Maxine Joselow & Dino Grandoni (28 October 2021) The Washington Post.