Koch-funded Ex-GOP Congressman Tim Huelskamp to Lead Climate Science Denial Group Heartland Institute

Read time: 4 mins
Tim Huelskamp

A former Republican congressman with a history of rejecting action on climate change while accepting funding from the fossil fuel industry has been picked as the new president of the Heartland Institute.

Tim Huelskamp, a prominent Tea Party figure, will take over from current president and institute founder Joseph Bast, who said he would stay on as CEO until some time in 2018.

Despite financial backing from groups affiliated with the Koch brothers, Huelskamp lost his March 2016 primary race, ending almost 20 years in Kansas state and federal politics.

According to Federal Election Commission disclosures, the oil and gas industries and groups affiliated with Koch Industries have been among Huelskamp’s most enthusiastic financial supporters.

According to data from OpenSecrets, Huelskamp's top donor is Koch Industries and he has received the highest lifetime campaign contributions from the Oil and Gas industry, totally over one-quarter of a million dollars. Below are career totals added up by OpenSecrets.

Industry Total Contributor Total Indivs PACs
Oil & Gas $252,393 Koch Industries $40,900 $3,400 $37,500
Retired $209,441 Watco Companies $36,200 $36,200 $0
Crop Production & Basic Processing $196,178 American Bankers Assn $35,000 $0 $35,000
Republican/Conservative $167,254 B&G Production $34,400 $34,400 $0
Leadership PACs $152,163 House Freedom Fund $34,025 $250 $33,775
Health Professionals $124,755 National Assn of Home Builders $32,500 $0 $32,500
Misc Manufacturing & Distributing $102,850 Russell Stover Candies $32,200 $32,200 $0
Commercial Banks $93,600 Vess Oil Corp $30,000 $30,000 $0
Real Estate $75,310 Hodgdon Powder $28,700 $28,700 $0
Railroads $67,848 Onyx Collection $25,500 $25,500 $0
Agricultural Services/Products $65,700 KMG Tool $24,400 $24,400 $0
General Contractors $59,647 Berexco Inc $23,700 $23,700 $0
Food & Beverage $59,550 National Auto Dealers Assn $22,500 $0 $22,500
Home Builders $58,900 Citizens United $22,000 $0 $22,000
Securities & Investment $55,286 Every Republican is Crucial PAC $20,000 $0 $20,000
Misc Finance $53,250 AT&T Inc $19,500 $500 $19,000
Livestock $51,025 American Medical Assn $19,000 $1,000 $18,000
Insurance $50,613 National Assn of Realtors $19,000 $0 $19,000
Retail Sales $44,700 Ariel Corp $18,900 $18,900 $0
Lawyers/Law Firms $42,422 Ag Services $18,250 $18,250 $0

Data exported from the FEC lists funding from PACs including ExxonMobil's PAC, the National Rifle Association's, R.J. Reynolds, and a wide range of other industry groups. View the complete data of political contributions to Huelskamp's committee, “Kansans for Huelskamp,” as retrieved and analysed by DeSmog (.xlsx).

In 2010, Huelskamp signed the “No Climate Tax Pledge” — an initiative of Americans for Prosperity, a think tank founded and funded by David Koch, the petrochemical billionaire.

The pledge was to “oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”

In 2015, Huelskamp said he did not believe that climate change science was “settled” and has said the Pope was wrong to attribute climate change to greenhouse gas emissions.

Heartland's Denial

The Heartland Institute is one of the most prominent pushers of climate science denial and is part of a network of conservative “free market” think tanks spreading doubt about the links between dangerous climate change and fossil fuel burning. The institute has also supported the tobacco industry.

While the institute rejects claims it is a front group, one of its senior fellows, coal industry veteran Fred Palmer, told DeSmog in February 2017 that he was “reaching out to the fossil fuel community right now and raising money for Heartland.”

Since 2008, Heartland has accepted more than $5 million from the foundation of Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire. 

Mercer was a key financial backer of Donald Trump's election campaign and Mercer's daughter, Rebekah, was a member of the committee tasked with shaping the new Trump administration.

Both Robert and Rebekah attended Heartland’s most recent conference for climate science deniers, held in Washington, D.C.

Heartland's Bast was invited to the White House Rose Garden to hear President Trump announce the U.S. intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

DeSmog has also highlighted how Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt's current calls for a “red team” to supposedly critique the fundamentals of climate science has been a talking point of the Heartland Institute for about eight years.

In 2012, many of Heartland’s corporate supporters pulled their cash after an offensive billboard campaign. The institute had run a picture of terrorist and murderer Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski with the words “I still believe in global warming. Do you?”


On the Heartland Institute website, Huelskamp said he was “honored and excited” to have been chosen as the incoming president.

He said: “Since I have already been successful in driving innovative policies at both the state and federal level, I am confident that I can lead Heartland toward even greater success in promoting the cause of freedom in every state, and now in Washington, D.C.”

Main image: Tim Huelskamp. Credt: United States Congress, public domain.

Get DeSmog News and Alerts