Heartland Institute: A Manifestation of the Kochtopus Empire

It is nearly impossible to discuss the vast climate change denial echo chamber and not mention the Koch BrothersKoch Industries, and what some have called the Koch Empire.

Perhaps unsurpisingly then, the origins of the Heartland Institute – whose internal documents were recently leaked to DeSmogBlog – have a direct historical link to the rise of the Kochtopus's wide-reaching climate change denial machine.

It all began in 1977 in Wichita, Kansas, with the creation of the Cato Institute.

David Padden, Cato Institute, and the Rise of Heartland

The Cato Institute was founded in 1977 and originally funded by Charles Koch, of Koch Industries fame and fortune.

It is known today for its libertarian policy stances on issues like the War on Drugsanti-interventionist foreign policy, and support for civil liberties, and perhaps most notoriously for its climate change denial and pro-polluter stance in energy policy debates. Cato's most infamous talking head today is Pat Michaels, who serves as its “Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies.”

One of the key original members of Cato's Board of Directors was David Padden, a Chicago, IL-based investment banker and then owner of Padden & Company, which now also has a spinoff called Padco Lease Corporation. Padden passed away in October 2011.

In 1984, piggybacking off of his role at Cato, Padden founded the Heartland Institute, also serving on its original Board of Directors.

Padden also served on the original Board of Directors of another organization founded that year, Citizens for a Sound Economy, now known as both FreedomWorks and Americans for ProsperityBoth of these echo chambers recieved their initial seed money from the Koch family fortune.

Padden also served as the original co-chairman with Joseph Bast at Heartland, while U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a current Republican Party candidate for the 2012 election, was the first chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Koch Empire Funds Heartland Climate Change Denial Echo Chamber

Between 1986 and 2009, the Koch Empire gave $75,000 to the Heartland Institute, according to Greenpeace USA's PolluterWatch project. During that same time period, the Empire gave just under $14 million to Cato, over $7.5 million to Citizens for a Sound Economy (now known as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity), and over $5.5 million to Americans for Prosperity, according to PolluterWatch.

Prior to his death, Padden had affiliations with all of these outfits. 

Joseph Bast, the current head of Heartland, served as Founding Director, officer, and member of the executive committee of the State Policy Network (SPN). He is on the Board of Advisors of the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), a member of SPN.

SPN received $39,000 from the Koch Empire between 1986 and 2009, according to PolluterWatch. IPI, meanwhile, does not make its funding sources publicly available, but its 2006 annual report shows that it received $50,000 from the Cato Institute that year. 

Heartland Exposed: Sowing the Seeds of Doubt

As DeSmogBlog has made clear through Heartland Exposed, Heartland, and the vast echo chamber it is a part of, are still hard at work “sowing the seeds of doubt” on climate change.

Heartland and its affiliates are a small, but vocal part of the deeply-intertwined, well-funded machine undermining democracy and delaying action to address an ever-worsening climate change crisis

And at the center of it all, lo and behold, is the Kochtopus Empire.

Explore this Prezi infographic created by the International Forum on Globalization to learn more about the tentacles of the Kochtopus:


“And re whether I’m a liar, I came to this blog from a link on Megan McArdle’s site, where I’m a long-time reader. That crowd leans quite the opposite way from this one, and I’ve said the same things about global warming there that I have here. Got a fair bit of stick for it too.”

So your foray into AGW is all of 3 weeks?

“I’m a soft libertarian who places a much bigger emphasis on fiscal and social policy than climate, so I mostly hang out with deniers.”

Well, at least you can admit that.

“The short-term unfalsifiability of the models bothers me, but this is a theory a quarter-century old, and well…the planet’s definitely warmer now than it was then, you know?”

So why not write post comments on strictly science sites like Real Climate, Skeptical Science, Tamino, Deep Climate, Deltoid etc and put the doubt to rest one way or another?

“I get shit about this on every single forum I visit, left or right, but I try to debate in actual good faith, to understand what my opponents are actually arguing”

Well, to be fair, by your own admission you occupy blogs that are positioned on the right of the political compass and your fellow residents of that blog are only pissed when you swing momentarily to the centre.

Just because we’re on the same side of the science doesn’t mean that I’m going to let tribal loyalties to Gleick take precedence over the fairly obvious fact of his fraud.”

Again, if that is your position, where is all the outrage over the dozens of denier scientists who don’t publich any papers, yet spread denial and attempt to undermine and subvert science? It seems reserved for just the pro side. You want the pro side to play fair, but give deniers a pass card in the debate.


I’ve been debating it on and off since I was in highschool(90s). I picked the references that were easy to find and from a site that isn’t mostly warmist-dominated, so that you’d know I say the same things to both sides. 

And the bloggers I read are mostly on the right, but those aren’t the only sites I visit. The site I’ve spent the most time on lately is a gaming forum, which is heavily left-dominated. 

As for outrage, fraud comes before poor scientific technique on my list of priorities. And really, why would I be bothered criticizing bad scientific technique from skeptics on this site, of all places? There’s dozens of people here who do a better job than I would. 

I don’t really care whether you are libertarian, republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, or progressive or nearly any other label applied to the political spectrum (maybe the John Birch Society would be an exemption).

While conservative philosophy value tradition and liberal philosophy values new thinking, both value truth when drawing conclusions.

One strong current of objection to addressing AGW is based on the perception that any and every solution will involve (take your pick!) a communist plot to take over every detail of your Orwellian life, job killing government regulation, or somebody telling me I can’t make my own stupid personal choice (a la libertarian arguments regarding smoking, safety regulations, health regulations, environmental regulations, etc.). The most intractable seem to the the Birchers, those perennial conspiracy theorists of the “there’s a communist behind every bush” persuasion.

My question to Alsadius would be, why can’t libertarians, like Cato, accept science and work on real solutions that may be market based, job creating, based on personal responsibility, etc.?

If the answer is yes, then, what solutions might prove to be common ground?

I have been coming around to this as the most important political question at this time, at least when considering the fate or our descendants.


“Libertarians” are a pretty broad group. I’m entirely in favour of a carbon tax, as are several of my friends, and we all considered supporting the Liberal Party in 2008 over the “Green Shift” plan, before it became obvious that it was kind of dumb and not even close to revenue neutral. One buddy actually ran for the Green Party(pre-May), and he makes me look like a socialist. There’s solutions that don’t require dropping the hammer on freedom too badly, and you’ll actually find a lot of support for those among intellectual libertarians. Carbon taxes are the most obvious, and since they’re likely sufficient to solve the problem, that’s the one I’d focus on. 

Yet, now it seems that the new third rail in politics is anything with the word “tax” in it. There are loud voices (Cato, and other right leaning tanks and the Tea Partiers) who will pounce on any tax proposal just as if it were Caesar at a reception of senators on the Ides of March.

How can a carbon tax be sold to a public that has been sold on the proposition that any t-a-x is unspeakably evil?

Here are a few ideas - add to them or critique them:

  1. a carbon tax that is revenue neutral;
  2. the time for action is now, because it is not just warming, it is ocean acidification and the collapse of food chains;
  3. a cap and trade with limited but free or nearly free emissions permits (fines can go to fund the administration or can be returned to industry for compliance or as rewards for good performance, whatever works as motivation)
  4. regulate fossil greenhouse gas emissions nearest the point of extraction as a way to most fairly assess the external costs (limits impact to the emissions that cause the carbon imbalance since it is a 100million plus year old sink, simplifies the assessments, if it is extracted it will be burned fairly soon);
  5. take actions to reduce the relative cost of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting alternative activities (subsidies, loan guarantees, R&D funding, tech transfer facilitation, etc).

an so on…

Yeah, arguing for any tax is an uphill battle for sure. 

1) Agreed, this is a necessary prerequisite for public buy-in. That said, it’s not sufficient - that line has been used about half of all tax hikes in history, and in the Canadian case in particular it was used by Dion in 2008 for his “Raise taxes $10B, cut taxes $6B, spend $4B on pet projects, and call it revenue-neutral” Green Shift. People are skeptical, but if the math works, it does make them somewhat less skeptical. 

2) This is the sort of thing that makes people think you’re hysterical and crazy. A couple of degrees is like moving from Toronto to Philadelphia. The climate is different, yes, and it’ll have some ill effects, but it’s not anywhere near catastrophic enough to wreck food chains. This sort of thing is effective in the short term, but people have been hearing it for 20 years, and it’s lost its punch. If you want to get buy-in, make it a pocketbook issue, not a “your grandchildren are doomed” issue - for better or worse, the latter don’t work. Fortunately, the pocketbook arguments for a carbon tax are pretty good - “We can stop taxing good things, like making money and consuming, and start taxing things we dislike, like pollution and global warming” is an argument that might actually have some legs. 

3) If permits are free or cheap-as-free, cap and trade is worthless. Look at 1973 - gas prices quadrupled, gas consumption went down maybe 10%. Fossil fuel demand is incredibly inelastic - if you want to drop consumption meaningfully, you need to beat the crap out of people. I’m not a huge fan of cap-and-trade at the best of times, because the corruption problems are too difficult, but if you give out so many permits that the price is near-zero, then it’s just a waste of time even if it does work. 

4) Charging the tax at point of production does require you to reimburse it upon export, but it’s certainly simplest. This is implementation, though, I’d try to keep it out of the debate altogether, because it’s the sort of thing Revenue Canada is pretty good at and nobody else cares about. 

5) This is another point we diverge on - I dislike funding pet projects, even the ones that are really good. It always leads to far more corruption and grant-chasing than progress. Trying to ease red tape and such, sure - in particular, dealing with some of the possible-future-liability issues around nuclear would be a godsend in places where it’s privately run(like the US). I’m also in favour of making electricity markets transparent enough that people who are willing to drop some extra cash for green power have the chance to do so, and can create a real market for it(because I’m sure one exists among the sort of people who’ll drop $3/L for organic milk). But other than basic research funding, trying to get too much money into an industry that can’t support itself just finds a million ways to cause insanity. 

6) Frankly, if you want it to happen, find a bloodthirsty Conservative to do it. People don’t trust anyone who looks too zealous and eager, but a politician who does something completely against stereotype will usually be trusted not to go too far with it. Nobody will ever believe a left-winger on a carbon tax, just like nobody will ever believe a right-winger’s promises to increase healthcare spending(even if we actually do it faster than they do *grumble*). Only Nixon could go to China, and all that. No idea how you’ll actually find one who’s willing and able, but if you ever do, be sure that the left keeps calling him Hitler the whole time. The public will go along with anything he says to help the environment under those circumstances.

(Yes, I am a cynic, why do you ask?)

They claimed some or all of the other documents were altered in addition to the one they now hold up as fake.


This is of course at odds with the fact that they are using those documents as evidence.


That was a day-after press release, and likely before anyone had a chance to go through them with a fine-tooth comb to check to see if anyone had added a zero somewhere. It seems like it was mostly a lawyerly play - get a counterargument out there in case you need it - and they haven’t mentioned it since. 

Frankly, it’s entirely in keeping with the way Heartland has been playing this whole mess - lawyer up, threaten to sue everybody, admit nothing, and hope it all goes away. They’re not exactly covering themselves in glory here. 

Heartland has issued conflicting claims about the documents.

Are they faked or stolen? If the strategy document has “obvious misstatements” why is it 90% consistent with the budget documents? Why doesn’t Bast come out and tell everybody what is fact and what is faked?

It just tells me that they don’t have a (wooden) leg to stand on.

Just remember, they also worked for Philip Morris to delay action on exposure to second-hand smoke and to hide the truth from the public. FUD is their stock in trade.

“What oil and coal money? We got Heartland’s donors list, there wasn’t an oil company on there who gave to climate issues. Frankly, I was stunned by that, but it’s nonetheless true.”

You obviously didnt read all the documents or are trying to sweeps facts under the table. Otherwise you would have seen this for one:

“The Charles G. Koch Foundation returned as a Heartland donor in 2011. We expect to ramp
up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to the network of philanthropists they work

Maybe you need to have another read….or maybe your first read.


Care to revise?

””    but there never was a skeptic HQ to be pounded, no big central organization”

Wow that’s a real bright spark there that pointman, thankyou captain obvious! Is that what passes for intelligence over there…….and deniers actually think that is what climate realists were thinking? Sounds like projection is on the menu.

Is that why a few days later desmog is doing an article on Cato?


You guys are confusing.

“Every one of the skeptics was a lone volunteer guerrilla fighter, who needed absolutely no logistical support of any kind to continue the fight indefinitely.”

Is that why most of them are members of the same think tanks, go to the same conferences and form other think tanks together?


“The alarmists never understood this, preferring to think that there simply had to be some massive hidden organization orchestrating the resistance.”

Soooo, Cato, Fraser, Heritage, AEI,SPPI and hundreds of other think tanks don’t exist now?

“This is why attacking the “Heartlands” of the world will never advance anything for the warm side.”

Sure it will. You keep telling yourself that. If that were the case, the denialosphere wouldn’t have gone into damage control trying to spin their way out of it.


You are hardly very persuasive. The reason it’s all little guys is becuase it’s crankery. Fortunately it’s not very widespread outside the US - look at the stats for people’s acceptance of the scientific consensus in other countries and you’ll hardly feel very confident about the battle - the science has clearly won

Ahem….let’s see:

Canada withdraws from Kyoto.  Last I checked, they are still a country.

China refuses to sign any climate bills, India, Pakistan, Afganistan, Russia…….the list is longer but the page is too short.

Funny, last I checked, those are all countries.

Canada withdrew from Kyoto for economic reasons, then the Harper government bought into the denial con. The others, China, India, Russia especially, blocked Kyoto because they felt it was unfair to them as developing countries - not because they doubted the scientific consensus on AGW.

“Canada withdraws from Kyoto.”

They have the largest deposits of tar sands in the world. What do you expect? It is in the interest of political parties funded by these operations to deny the science.

“China refuses to sign any climate bills”

While they are on track to become the next super power, they are still classed as a developing country, as most of their population is still in a subsistence type existence. Never less, they are also positioning themselves to dominate the cleantech market.

“India, Pakistan, Afganistan”

Developing countries.


Does not have a democratically elected leader.

The main players on the world stage as far as deniers go , are nearly all from the USA, Canada & Australia. In direct proportion to the amount fossil fuels those countries have and the political parties that are funded by those fossil fuel or mining companies.


The science has won the battle of rheteoric, but it hasn’t actually convinced people to do much of anything. How many countries have actually met their Kyoto targets? How many have even tried? 

“The science has won the battle of rheteoric, but it hasn’t actually convinced people to do much of anything.”

Sure it has. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here trying to proselytize. So no one has solar on their roofs? Other renewable projects don’t exist? Hybrid cars just came on the scene because of magic? Legislation that is already in place in various countries doesn’t exist now? 

“How many countries have actually met their Kyoto targets?”

How many countries now have a carbon tax, or ETS, or are in the process of implementing one? How big has the campaign by deniers and their allies in media to convince people to oppose science?


Lots of people have done minor things, yes. I’m not greatly convinced that a Hollywood celebrity who flies all over the planet buying a Prius is a great blow being struck for the environment, though. People make a lot of token gestures, and governments do the same, though most of them have more to do with high energy prices than a belief in saving the planet(which is why carbon taxes are my preferred form of anti-GW policy).

But the sort of change it would take to actually put a dent in global carbon emissions has only ever been made by economic collapse of one sort or another - the fall of the USSR, most obviously, but the current financial crisis is making somewhat of a dent as well. People aren’t willing to do that voluntarily, because they value the economy of today over the sea levels a century from now. We’ve got a long, long way to go yet before we actually do the sort of things it would take to drastically reduce emissions - and frankly, short of a technological breakthrough like fusion, I don’t see it happening until all the coal, oil, and gas are burned up. It’s not the sort of thing we want to hear, of course, but I suspect it’s true. 

“Lots of people have done minor things, yes. I’m not greatly convinced that a Hollywood celebrity who flies all over the planet buying a Prius is a great blow being struck for the environment, though.”

Every little bit counts in changing the public mindset. 10 years ago there was not a booming solar industry or hybrid cars. Now there is. It’s not a change that can happen globally at the flick of a switch. It happens slowly. Too slowly, but it’s happening.

“ though most of them have more to do with high energy prices than a belief in saving the planet”

Fine, whatever you frame of reference, adopting either approach achieves the same thing.

“But the sort of change it would take to actually put a dent in global carbon emissions has only ever been made by economic collapse of one sort or another”

If CO2 levels keep increasing at the pace they are in the oceans, we might see an collapse that will seriously affect food production world wide.  Continuing natural distaters worldwide  are already making a dent in climate change beliefs as we have seen in recent polls. More of the same and worse will only make that belief stronger.

“We’ve got a long, long way to go yet before we actually do the sort of things it would take to drastically reduce emissions”


“and frankly, short of a technological breakthrough like fusion.  I don’t see it happening until all the coal, oil, and gas are burned up.”

It might be coming sooner than you think.





Frankly, food production seems like about the last thing that would be affected. We’re pumping massive quantites of fertilizer into the air, raising the temperature a bit, and increasing resistance to drought(since plants spend less time open to the air to draw in CO2, they lose less water). For all the misery that global warming will inflict on low-lying areas or folks in the hurricane-riddled bits of the planet, food is one that we ought not to have a problem with. 

And re fusion, I’d love to see it, because it’d be the best thing to happen to humanity since the microchip if it could be made economically competitive with coal. But it’s been 20 years away for 50 years now, so I’m not holding my breath. 

Texas farmers sold their cattle because of drought. 

Sugar maple producers in northern New Englalnd have seen the sap become less sugary.

Food prices have risen across the world; people have rioted over food costs in many places.

Farming and food producing is not very adaptable. Both in history and currently, it is a highly  skilled activity that is difficult for people to change. Historically, civilizations have collapsed because of climate change.

Civilizations have collapsed because of climate change - sometimes induced by the humans.

Jared Diamond gives us the cases of the Anasazi and the Maya as two examples in his book, “Collapse.” It is recommended reading for anyone who is interested in learning from the past in order to not repeat it.

A study released last year found that even moderately higher temperatures will cause a significant increase in evaporation / transpiration in the US grain belt. This will lower yields, increase demands on scarce water resources, and further increase topsoil loss (a la dust bowl).

A February report discussed increased fires in the northern permafrost areas, releasing significant amounts of carbon in very short time spans. This was unheard of a decade ago, but now, they regularly experience lightning - which is setting of a tinderbox of peat. It has been called the “carbon bomb.”

Just curious… but how hearty are your plants?


I’m subarctic, so.. theoretically global warming is a good thing.  Not so for everyone.  Last I checked, trees don’t have legs, they have roots.

For an entertaining video watch this video about ‘Plant Food’;


but deniers are not skeptics.  The denier camp does not have an alternative explanation which accounts for all the evidence.  The deniers offer many partial alternatives each of which fails some of the tests. 

Lots of denier vote downs going on at the moment. Not sure why David got voted down. Tell the truth and you get voted down…go figure.

Out of curiousity, what do they not account for? I haven’t spent a lot of time on this debate in past - I know the broad strokes, but not all the detailed parry-and-thrust. 

fails to account for different portions of the evidence.  For example the Its the sun argument fails to account for the cooling of the stratosphere.

There is a long list on Skeptical Science.

Frequently, they argue against themselves, taking multiple inconsistent positions. This reveals that they do not have a model - they are just taking pot shots. This applies to most of the self-appointed “skeptics” but not all.

Alsadius, “food production seems like about the last thing that would be affected.” is completely wrong. Food production is affected by drought, by flooding, by excessive heat, excessive cold, or even heat or cold at the wrong moment, and by extreme weather. It’s affected by the spread of pests and diseases, which are likely to increase with global warming.

Food is going to be a problem.