DeSmogBlog v Heartland: threats of legal action, fake documents, counter claims and the battle for authenticity

Claims and counter-claims are racing through the interwebz as a good old fashioned blogging war/storm has erupted. The DeSmogBlog claims the documents leaked are authentic. Heartland have stated that at least one document – the incendiary 2012 Strategy Paper – is a “fake”.

Andy Revkin over at Dot.Earth comments on the battle for credibility currently being waged:

A blog storm began building Tuesday and broke on Wednesday as environmental groups posted a batch of documents — ranging from tax forms to lists of donors to a 2012 Heartland “climate strategy” — that appeared to expose the group’s game plan, budgets and backers in remarkable detail.

Late on Wednesday, Heartland posted a statement asserting that the strategy document was a “total fake” and the others, while appearing to be authentic, might have been altered and were, in any case, obtained through criminal means:

Steve Zwick over at Forbes comments:

Among those alleged misstatements is a paragraph that appears to corroborate the ThinkProgress report (which Heartland already confirmed), and another that identifies Forbes as a target of Heartland propaganda.  We have chosen to remove excerpts from that report until further information comes to light, but DeSmogBlog is keeping them up until they’re proven wrong.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, for DeSmogBlog has proven not only credible over the past six years, but adept at rolling out its message – something that the scientific community has generally failed to do. The blog was started by PR-man Jim Hoggan and journalist Richard Littlemore to address “the use of PR techniques and spin by politicians, scientists, and in the media” rather than the actual science of climate change, which it leaves to sites like RealClimate.

The DeSmogBlog stand by the documents:

The DeSmogBlog has reviewed that Strategy document and compared its content to other material we have in hand. It addresses five elements:

The Increased Climate Project Fundraising material is reproduced in and confirmed by Heartland’s own budget.

The “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” is also a Heartland budget item and has been confirmed independently by the author, Dr. David Wojick.

The Funding for Parallel Organizations; Funding for Selected Individuals Outside Heartland are both reproduced and confirmed in the Heartland budget. And Anthony Watts has confirmed independently the payments in Expanded Climate Communications.

At this point I am going to trust the claims of DeSmogBlog. As Zwick notes, they have proven to be a reliable source over the years with a strong track record in exposing the machinations and inner workings of the denial machine. If the document proves to be fake, then the comments should be retracted and The DeSmogBlog should  apologise.

The credibility of both DeSmogBlog of the Heartland Institute is very much on the line. It will be worth watching how it plays out.

The Heartland Institute throws out legal threats against journalists and websites

No doubt the people at the Heartland Institute understand the ramifications if these documents prove to be authentic: their “brand” will be forever compromised. Funding from wealthy benefactors and corporations will dry up. The “message” of the deniers will be severely tainted.

Via come reports that Heartland is threatening to sue journalists and websites that reproduce the documents (or even sections of them):

“…The threat was spelled out in an email sent to media outlets (including by Jim Lakely, Communications Director at the Heartland Institute. The group said it will “pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation” from “individuals who have commented so far on these documents”, prior to the Heartland Institute’s official response. It also states that one of the documents is “a total fake.”

High stakes indeed.

Updates posted as they come to hand

12.53pm – ThinkProgress Green puts together the pieces that support the authenticity of the documents:

Questions about the authenticity of the leaked Heartland Institute documents are fading, as projects described therein are confirmed. Heartland’s senior fellow James Taylor confirmed the existence of the climate-denier classroom curriculum project to ThinkProgress Green yesterday. Now, anti-science blogger Anthony Watts has confirmed that Heartland is funding his project to display weather station data, detailed in the leaked fundraising plan.

Heartland admit the existence of the classroom project. Watts confirms he receives funding… recall Watts has repeatedly claimed he has never received a “dime”!


49 thoughts on “DeSmogBlog v Heartland: threats of legal action, fake documents, counter claims and the battle for authenticity

  1. OK after 24 hours.. it is clear that US mainstream media has agreed to blackout this story.

  2. Geoff Brown says:

    Heartland Institute responds to stolen and fake documents

    FEBRUARY 15, 2012 – The following statement from The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more information, contact Communications Director Jim Lakely at and 312/377-4000.

    Yesterday afternoon, two advocacy groups posted online several documents they claimed were The Heartland Institute’s 2012 budget, fundraising, and strategy plans. Some of these documents were stolen from Heartland, at least one is a fake, and some may have been altered.

    The stolen documents appear to have been written by Heartland’s president for a board meeting that took place on January 17. He was traveling at the time this story broke yesterday afternoon and still has not had the opportunity to read them all to see if they were altered. Therefore, the authenticity of those documents has not been confirmed.

    Since then, the documents have been widely reposted on the Internet, again with no effort to confirm their authenticity.

    One document, titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy,” is a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute. It was not written by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute. It does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact.

    We respectfully ask all activists, bloggers, and other journalists to immediately remove all of these documents and any quotations taken from them, especially the fake “climate strategy” memo and any quotations from the same, from their blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.

    The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation. We ask them in particular to immediately remove these documents and all statements about them from the blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.

    How did this happen? The stolen documents were obtained by an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to “re-send” board materials to a new email address. Identity theft and computer fraud are criminal offenses subject to imprisonment. We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes.

    Apologies: The Heartland Institute apologizes to the donors whose identities were revealed by this theft. We promise anonymity to many of our donors, and we realize that the major reason these documents were stolen and faked was to make it more difficult for donors to support our work. We also apologize to Heartland staff, directors, and our allies in the fight to bring sound science to the global warming debate, who have had their privacy violated and their integrity impugned.

    Lessons: Disagreement over the causes, consequences, and best policy responses to climate change runs deep. We understand that.

    But honest disagreement should never be used to justify the criminal acts and fraud that occurred in the past 24 hours. As a matter of common decency and journalistic ethics, we ask everyone in the climate change debate to sit back and think about what just happened.

    Those persons who posted these documents and wrote about them before we had a chance to comment on their authenticity should be ashamed of their deeds, and their bad behavior should be taken into account when judging their credibility now and in the future.

    The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site at or call 312/377-4000.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      I’m impressed with the fact the deniers scream about freedom of speech, but the moment information inconveniences them they resort to legal threats.

      To wit:

      – Heartland got caught and they’re reputation is tarnished. Sure a few die hards like yourself will happily gobble up their glossy propoganda puff pieces, but corporate donors are going to desert them in droves
      – the documents they don’t dispute clearly indicate funding programs to cast doubt on the work of the IPCC
      – Heartland have admitted they wanted to develop the K-12 program to dissuade teachers from teaching science.

      Major funders have been embarassed, and they’d be angry. I imagine the cheques to Heartland are going to start drying up.

      Let’s turn our minds to the actions of the CRU hackers and Climategate, the affair you guys love. To quote Heartland on the stolen emails:

      “…The IPCC email scandal makes this a good time for reporters and other opinion leaders to take a serious look at the skeptics’ case in the global warming debate and perhaps move to the middle, where serious journalists and honest elected officials should have been all along. A good place to start is The Heartland Institute’s Web site devoted to global warming realism, at”

      Let’s sit back and think about what happened with Climategate. Shouldn’t you be taking down all the CRU emails? Given there have been eight separate enquires that have cleared the scientists, shouldn’t you climate sceptics be apologising?

      Again, I’ve gotta ask you Geoff.

      Lord Monckton…

      Member of the House of Lords or not?


      I’m letting you post freely here.

      But you’re dodging that question.

    • Ben says:

      A startling new perspective for the Heartland Institute, eh?

      Har, har.

      • klem says:

        Not starting enough it seems. The DenierGate ‘scandal’ is getting no traction with the MSM and it is already being forgotten in the blogosphere.


      • klem, I like the way you conveniently ignore the approximately 6 independent enquiries that comprehensively cleared the researchers and only drew criticism of the University’s reluctance to answer queries and share some data.

        You’d make a great creationist, if you aren’t one already, they ignore the inconvenient information too. You’re being used but you just can’t acknowledge it.

      • Geoff Brown says:


        “6 independent enquiries…..???” Look at who conducted the enquiries and see if
        a) They were independent; and
        b) Did they have an interest?


      • Geoff, you don’t get it yet. I don’t care who is saying what but I do care about science.

        The accumulated data supporting concerns about anthropogenic climate change are not in question, the only thing in doubt is the amount of change we can expect.

        Now if you wish to act as an apologist for people who are driven solely by ideology, greed and self-interest rather than science, go for it but please don’t expect to be taken seriously.

        I don’t care if you choose to pretend the reviews of the East Anglia University were not independent, it won’t change the fact that they were. You can invent your own justifications that you can invent your own facts.

        It says a lot about you that you unquestioningly accept the propaganda from an outfit like the Heartland Institute that is known to distort the facts, buy opinion and deliberately muddy the waters – but you nitpick any detail that conflict with your misconceptions. Apparently you don’t value your integrity very highly or your ability to objectively assess information.

        If you really want to know the answers to your questions, it’s very easy to find the details to all the reviews with minimal effort on your part. Run along now.

      • Geoff Brown says:

        Blair says: “The accumulated data supporting concerns about anthropogenic climate change are not in question, the only thing in doubt is the amount of change we can expect.”

        That’s where we agree.

        Do you agree that a few degrees warming would be good?

        Do you agree that there are more deaths from cold than from a few degrees warming?

        Blair, “You can invent your own justifications that you can invent your own facts.” The data show that there has NOT been warming since 1998. The data show negative temperature rise: Hadley CRUT – since 2002 (ie 10 years); NCDC also since 2002; NASA:GISS since 2003.

        10 years without warming see

      • Geoff, asking if I agree that a few degrees warming would be good is an asinine question without any specifics. Do you mean globally, locally, regionally?

        Do you have any idea of the amount of extra energy added to the system to raise the average global temperature just 1°C?

        Do you not realise that the 30,000,000,000 t of coal and oil burned each year took hundreds of millions of years to accumulate, hundreds of millions of years of solar energy slowly converted to a fossil fuel via the agency of plants and animals? Energy doesn’t just disappear, it’s converted from one form to another, in this case from chemical energy to heat energy.

        I can’t speak for other countries but I can tell you that there were more heat related deaths during Australia’s last hot summer. Australia isn’t generally associated with icy conditions. But it’s not as simple as that, Australia’s population is also growing but even so, according to the statistics boffins, the heatwave was the primary cause of extra deaths, mostly among the ill and elderly.

      • Geoff, two other points.
        1. Nobody argues against the fact that temperatures vary, we know the climate has varied drastically over millennia. What we are talking about today is the rate of change in recent times matched with the rapid increase in CO2.

        2. I’m not sure what the link you provided was supposed to demonstrate other than some dodgy science.

        A little time on Google revealed some interesting comments regarding Climate4you and its denialist author who apparently is responsible for the suspect graphs you linked to.

        See post number 22, very informative.

        Sloppy work Geoff, again you throw up extremely suspect evidence without question but choose to nitpick established science or ignore the inconvenient bits.

        I’d be more than happy to have an honest discussion with you but you seem to have a low regard for honesty and objectivity. I’d really like to think you are better than that.

      • Geoff Brown says:

        Blair asks “Do you mean globally, locally, regionally?”

        Do you think that man-made global warming is globally, locally or regionally?

        As to the burning of coal – so what? A falsified hypothesis is a falsified hypothesis. Game, set and match!

  3. john byatt says:

    here is my take,

    the confidential doco they claim is fake only exists as hard copy, not yet emailed out,

    Heartland tear it up then claim it is fake
    Info is strongly supported by other documents and confessions by Carter etc

    classic .

  4. klem says:

    Hmm, I don’t know, they sure look like faked documents to me.


  5. Skitz says:

    Frankly, Desmog are scum and crooks and should be arrested.

  6. Geoff Brown says:

    Apologies that link was wrong – this is Heartland ‘s response re the fake documents –

  7. john byatt says:

    Did Geoff just yell, look squirrel, above?

    Geoff must regard the contents of the heartland strategy paper as scandalous if true, why else would he be claiming that it is a fake,

    As the contents are verified by other documents released by the whistleblower and the information claimed to be held by desmog blog, i have one question for geoff, if the document is found to be fact will you still support the hearland institute because i believe that it would make no difference at all to you. So why do you even bother to claim that it is a fake.?

    • Geoff Brown says:

      Why bother sticking up for the vilifying DeSmearMob, John?

      Fake documnet? First read this –

      For more, try
      “We climate realists don’t think of ourselves as anti-science.

      No, really. We think we’re pro-science. That’s what we want science teachers to teach kids in schools: hard science – physics, chemistry, biology. Stuff that’s empirical. Theories that are falsifiable. Not the kind of junk science they teach in places like the school of “environmental” “science” at comedy institutions like the “University” of East Anglia. Because that’s not science at all. It’s computer-modelling, projection, which is more akin to necromancy.”
      Link –

      Pro-science and yet the fake document pushed (created?) byDeSmearMob indicates that realists are trying to indocrinate young minds. NO! Rahter teach REAL science – not voodoo science.

  8. john byatt says:

    Surely geoff does not want to get into using deaths to support his agenda,

    2003 European heat wave – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 2003 European heat wave was the hottest summer on record in Europe since … In France, there were 14802 heat-related deaths (mostly among the elderly) …
    Country-by-country – Effects on crops – Effects on the sea – See also
    European heatwave caused 35000 deaths – 10 October 2003 – New ……/dn4259-european-heatwave-caused-35000…10 Oct 2003 – August broke records for both temperature and heat-related fatalities – and worse may be to come, warn environmentalists.

  9. john byatt says:

    Geoff, do you agree that a few degrees of warming would be good,

    I though that geoff was claiming that a few degrees of warming cannot happen

    2-Degree Global Warming Limit Is Called a “Prescription for Disaster ……/two-degree-global-warming-limit-is-…6 Dec 2011 – And, two degrees has been a point of no return, a limit directly or indirectly agreed to …. That would mean lower population via death and lower …

    • Geoff Brown says:

      The MWP was 2º warmer than the late 20th century warming. The Roman warming was 2º warmer than the MWP.

      Your point is john?

      Are you still pushing the falsified AGW hoax?

      • john byatt says:

        Geoff, I am currently debating Dr Wes Allen in the Gympie Times, he
        contradicts your claim that the MWP was 2DegC warmer than the late twentieth Century,

        Dr Wes Allen. “Did I say that “global temperatures during medieval times were warmer than now”? NO.

        He is however having a bit of trouble reading Oppo et al 2011 figs 2A and 2B

        you lot are all contradicting yourselves, not a good look geoff,

        Allen seems to regard craig idso’s misrepresentation on his MWP project as more credible than what the authors of these papers are stating, see Delia Oppo refutes sceptic site nonsense regarding her paper,

      • john byatt says:

        You post an opinion piece as evidence? You are only showing info for Greenland in any case,

        Do you understand the difference between Greenland and global?

      • john byatt says:

        You never link to an actual paper nor even in this case, the opinion piece geoff, you find it and post it here, back latter What was the rest of the Arctic doing at the time geoff?

  10. john byatt says:

    Delia Oppo felt that she had been misrepresented. she sent this email

    As you can see from our Figure 2A (Similar to Figure 1 in this post which is from their press release), sea surface temperatures have risen by ~ 0.5degC at our core site since the early 1980′s, when we think our record ends. So the figure shown on these sites, which leaves out our horizontal lines showing modern SST levels, is misleading. Our figure does not lead one to conclude that past sea surface temperatures were warmer than today as is suggested on these websites.

    Clearly the fig 2A and 2B Oppo et al 2011, confirm that not only was SST 1998, 2001 and 2003 way above the MWP they were also above the 1997-2007 median

    1998 was the record SST warm pool year for the past 2000 years

  11. john byatt says:

    We are referring to the indo pacific warm pool geoff, leave the goalposts alone,

    back up, see graphs modern temp record and 2000 year record,

    No the warm pool has not cooled, variations always exist due ENSO.

    What was the warmest year by a long shot in the indo pacific warm pool ?

    1998 , do you agree geoff.

  12. Bobby says:

    To yell that the donors’ documents are real is a smokescreen. The document Heartland says is fake is the “strategy memo.” To tell me that “it’s real until proven fake” is standing the burden of proof on its head. Now, prove to me authenticity of the document, not demand proof that it’s fake. The burden of proof lies with DeSmearBlog.

    • Geoff Brown says:

      There has been a break-through. The evil one has confessed –

      From: Gordon Fulks
      Sent: Tue 2/21/2012 1:33 PM

      Hello Everyone,

      There has been a break in the Heartland stolen documents case, with a well-known climate researcher (and member of the National Academy of Sciences) admitting guilt. Andrew Revkin of the New York Times says this will be devastating for him and for the cause he espouses. FYI, Revkin writes more alarmist articles for the NYT than anyone else.

      Will Dr Peter H. Gleick face criminal charges for the theft?

  13. Geoff Brown says:

    Further to that e-mail from physicist Dr Gordon Fulks the whole dirty businees is on WUWT –

    Gleik excuses by saying: “My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate..”

    He is confused, surely. The well-funded side is the alarmist one, the alarmists who will NOT debate, the voodoo purveyors of NON-climate science.

  14. john byatt says:

    Hearland ” It has caused major and permanent damage to the reputations of The Heartland Institute and many of the scientists, policy experts, and organizations we work with.”

    Love it

  15. john byatt says:

    Geoff “The well-funded side is the alarmist one, the alarmists who will NOT debate, ”

    see 22:27:13

  16. john byatt says:

    At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

    Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.

    The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget”

    The heartland documents are confirmed as accurate geoff any problems that heartland suffer are the result of their own documents, a court case will make that very clear,

  17. john byatt says:

    desmog blog
    I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication. [emphasis added]

    So, while admitting that he impersonated a third party in order to induce Heartland to confirm its own ongoing questionable conduct, Gleick has effectively caught Heartland squarely in the headlights, proving that the Institute has dissembled and lied.

    Whistleblowers – and that’s the role Gleick has played in this instance – deserve respect for having the courage to make important truths known to the public at large. Without condoning or promoting an act of dishonesty, it’s fair to say that Gleick took a significant personal risk – and by standing and taking responsibility for his actions, he has shown himself willing to pay the price. For his courage, his honor, and for performing a selfless act of public service, he deserves our gratitude and applause.

    Heartland, in the meantime, deserves to be stripped of its charitable status and laughed out of the professional “think tank” fraternity for its amateurishness and the far-less-than-credible position that it has taken in the last week, denying its own responsibility in this “leak,” dissembling about the origin of the material and going out of its way to “fail” to authenticate documents that it knew all along were legitimate.

    • klem says:

      “Whistleblowers – and that’s the role Gleick has played in this instance – ‘

      Wow, I didn’t know you could go to jail for being a whistleblower but I guess these things happen.


      • john byatt says:

        Ask Assange about that klem, it can cost you your life,

        Then there is always the remote possibility that one day you might have something constructive to add to any of the posts here,

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