(Updated) Leaked docs reveal $8.6 million “anonymous donor” to climate-denier Heartland Institute

Update: According to Slate, “Heartland Institute won’t confirm the authenticity of the documents but nonetheless is apologizing to donors” while still claiming “fraud.” According to Politico, Heartland is claiming that at least some of the documents were “stolen.” Stay tuned; this could get interesting. –GP

A series of articles at The Guardian is examining and interpreting leaked documents allegedly obtained from an insider at the Heartland Institute, a leading funder of global warming denial “research” and high-profile denialist “conferences.”

There are many revelations in the documents, including plans for a K-12 “re-education program” designed to “teach the controversy” (my terminology in both cases, but see below) as opposed to the very alarming facts.

But the bombshell among the mortar blasts is this (h/t Digby, my emphasis and paragraphing):

Most eyes will probably fall first on the “Anonymous Donor” who, the documents show, personally funded Heartland’s “climate change projects” to the tune of $8,602,267 between 2007 and 2011.

The largest donation came in 2008 when “he” donated $3.3m – the same year that Heartland began its annual climate change conferences which have attracted just about every prominent climate sceptic since. This mystery donor has apparently pledged a further $1m for “climate change projects” during 2012.

Heartland admits in the documents that this wealthy individual sometimes provides as much as half of its entire funding from donations in a year, but there are few clues about his identity other than he has also personally funded a couple of Heartland’s non-climate projects in Illinois and Wisconsin which might suggest a personal, local interest.

There are other indications in the articles about named donors, including a man named Koch, Charles Koch:

The document entitled “2012 Climate Strategy” (pdf) is also already getting lots of attention. It shows that Heartland will “increase climate project fundraising” by “pursuing additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation” who “returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000”.

It adds: “Other contributions will be pursued for this [climate] work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.” The funding of climate sceptic [sic] thinktanks in the US by corporate vested interests such as the Koch brothers has almost become a cliché, but here we have cast-iron proof of its influence, intent and extent.

As the article says elsewhere, this “takes your breath away.” The documents were obtained by DeSmogBlog:

DeSmogBlog, which broke the story, said it had received the confidential documents from an “insider” at the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago. The blog monitors industry efforts to discredit climate science.

See the articles (here and here) for efforts to verify them.

Is one of the Koch Bros the high-dollar “Anonymous Donor”? It’s not clear, though both articles feature the Kochs prominently elsewhere. It’s certain they have the money, as well as the crazed intentions.

Of special interest in the documents is the decision to disrupt the teaching of global-warming in grade school and high school (so-called “K-12” schools). The Guardian quotes the Heartland source document — “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” (again my emphasis and paragraphing):

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms.

We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science.

His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

As I said, “teach the controversy” — the same playbook as tobacco-denialism and creationism. This is Dr. David Wojick, by the way. Note the faux-government cred in the quote above.

Think there are side deals to sweeten that $100,000 he’s getting? Loans to the wife at very low interest to help with some special project (like next year’s vacation)? Speaking gigs? A word in the ear at a “Welcome to the Upper Class” academy for the wee ones?

How would we ever know? And how foolish would we be not to suspect, given the millions floating around that joint? Your call on the answers, but ever the realist, I have my thoughts. (By the way, with his background I could write those “20 modules” in six weeks; seriously.)

Global warming denialism — if you don’t have a conscience, the pay is certainly excellent. There’s no question the big-dollar funding is available from some interested parties.

Think they’ll personally benefit? They think they will. Me, I wonder where they’ll hide when it all comes crashing home.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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