The Heartland Institute has been using its corporate funding to create an echo chamber of experts-for-hire, subsidiary think tanks and websites which all work together to rebroadcast information in Heartland's manufactured controversy about climate change.
In the last week, Heartland has been able to rely on this network - and on its own considerable skill as a propaganda machine - to deflect responsibility for the recent revelations of its own improprieties.
The Heartland Valentine's Day document dump included Budget and Fundraising documents that confirm, for example, that in addition to keeping a stable of pseudo experts on retainer to challenge the world's foremost authorities on climate change, Heartland also makes large and regular investments in other organizations, such as the web-based climate-change denier (and weather man) Anthony Watts.
Watts, in turn, has stepped up this week as the Heartland public relations department, putting his WUWT site at Heartland's disposal for the release of statements and generally defending his benefactor and attacking its detractors.
Heartland's documents show that its largest regular payment to a single individual goes to Craig Idso, whose oil-funded Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (CSCDGC) is, like Heartland's own institute, a tax dodge masquerading as an educational or research organization.
Given that donations to Heartland count as “charitable” deductions, it would be interesting to know if anyone is claiming a second deduction on Heartland's follow-on “donation” to Idso's CSCDGC. For that matter, is there a third potential deduction when Idso passes the money along to Robert Ferguson at the Science and Public Policy Institute - another policy hothouse whose “educational” output appears to be exclusively PR that aligns closely to the interests of Heartland's major funders.
Neither Idso nor Ferguson (who set up his SPPInstitute with foundational funding from Exxon) have taken a prominent role in defending Heartland in the past week, although Christopher Monckton, the SPPInstitute's Chief Policy Advisor and arguably the most discredited climate change denier in the English language, penned a guest post that ran on the Heartland PR site, WUWT.
Most impressive, however, in Heartland's campaign to spin this reputational catastrophe was its creation of the website www.fakegate.org.
Here is an organization that, after 10 days has still not found time to authenticate the documents that it broadcast (stupidly) to Dr. Peter Gleick. (Check the emails on the Fakegate lsite; Gleick wrote and said, “Could you please add … this personal email address to to the Board mailing list for all future Board communications?” and the credulous staff at Heartland said, sure. Say what you will about the ethical questions surrounding Gleick's actions, this was not exactly a sophisticated hack.)
Yet, in less than a week, it picked the its favourite meme “fakegate,” and ran up an entire website inlcuding everything from a section dedicated to inciting people to harass Heartland critics to a solicitation for funding for Heartland's “legal defence.”
Funny, people usually only need a legal defence is someone has sued them - or if they have done something illegal. Is there something we're missing?