Dr. Phil Plait just posted this regarding the leak of some documents from a group called the Heartland Institute. There is some skepticism as to the authenticity of these documents.

Are these legitimate documents produced by the Heartland Institute?

  • 1
    Note: Dr Plait doesn't claim that they are authentic documents, putting in a number of provisos: "what are claimed to be", "what Heartland allegedly wants to do", "if they prove to be authentic." – Oddthinking Feb 15 '12 at 16:11
  • As this is related to a recent event, and politically motivated forgeries are not uncommon, possibly the best move is to wait until some evidence has been gathered, before attempting to form an opinion. – Oddthinking Feb 15 '12 at 16:13
  • Even if the documents are authentic, "keep opposing voices out" is hardly "embarrassing", compared with warmists' idea to imprison or even kill any heretics climatedepot.com/a/1096/… – vartec Feb 15 '12 at 16:27
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Heartland has issued a press release confirming that a number of documents had been emailed to a third party. They claim that one of them (the 2012 Climate Strategy [PDF]) is faked (though obviously they're very involved in the topic).

Several companies which are listed as donors in the documents - specifically, Microsoft, General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline and Diageo - have confirmed that they gave money to Heartland for non-climate related activities.

According to the Fundraising Plan [PDF]:

Heartland has agreed to help Anthony raise $88,000 for the project in 2011. The Anonymous Donor has already pledged $44,000. We’ll seek to raise the balance.

And from the 2012 Budget [PDF]:

Payments to ItWorks/IntelliWeather to create web site featuring data from NOAA’s new network of surface stations. First payment of $44,000 in January, second of same amount contingent on fundraising around mid-year.

Anthony Watts, writing about the releases, has confirmed that he has received $44,000 for the project mentioned, and that there is a second amount planned, contingent on funding:

Heartland simply helped me find a donor for funding a special project having to do with presenting some new NOAA surface data in a public friendly graphical form, something NOAA themselves is not doing, but should be. I approached them in the fall of 2011 asking for help, on this project not the other way around.

and:

REPLY: Actually it is $44K, and the phase 2 to keep it running may/may not be funded. Try hiring a good programmer for a year and purchasing the relevant equipment for $44K – Anthony


Also in the Fundraising Plan:

Wojick would produce modules for Grades 7-9 on environmental impact (“environmental impact is often difficult to determine. For example there is a major controversy over whether or not humans are changing the weather”), for Grade 6 on water resources and weather systems, and so on.

We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $5,000 per module, about $25,000 a quarter, starting in the second quarter of 2012, for this work. The Anonymous Donor has pledged the first $100,000 for this project, and we will circulate a proposal to match and then expand upon that investment.

Heartland has confirmed this project, though not the details or the level of funding:

We are concerned that schools are teaching climate change issues in a manner that is not consistent with sound science and that is designed to lead students to the erroneous belief that humans are causing a global warming crisis. We hope that our efforts will restore sound science to climate change education and discourage the political propaganda that too often passes as “education”.


Many of the details in the Climate Strategy (which was, according to Heartland, faked) also appear in the other documents. The drop in funding from the Anonymous Donor from 2010 to 2011 is documented in the Fourth Quarter Financial Statement [PDF], and the expected increase in the Budget.

The Climate Strategy states that:

We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests

However, according to the Fundraising Plan, Koch gave $25000 in 2011, with $200,000 projected in 2012.

The funding to Dr Wojick is also listed in the Fundraising Plan.

We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $5,000 per module, about $25,000 a quarter, starting in the second quarter of 2012, for this work. The Anonymous Donor has pledged the first $100,000 for this project, and we will circulate a proposal to match and then expand upon that investment.

The Climate Strategy lists $388,000 in 2011 funding for the NIPCC, along with monthly payments to Craig Idso, Fred Singer, and Robert Carter. These amounts can all be found in the budget. I could not find any particular mentions of plans to focus more on publishing in Forbes, or of cultivating relationships with Revkin or Curry in the other documents (which are mostly financial in nature, so this is not particularly surprising). Finally, the funding for Anthony Watt's project has, as I mentioned earlier, already been confirmed.


The details in the document that is, according to Heartland, faked, contain one detail (the amount of funding from the Koch foundation) which is inconsistent with the other documents, and one (increased focus on Forbes magazine, Andy Revkin and Judith Curry) not found elsewhere. The rest of the details in that document, however, are matched in at least one of the others. Many of these (for example, the funding to Watts) had not previously been publicly available, which is strong reason to believe that whoever authored the Climate Strategy memo had access to the other documents.

Several days after the releases, Peter Gleick, a climate scientist at the Pacific Institute, came forward as the person responsible for releasing the documents. According to Gleick, he received the Climate Strategy memo anonymously in the mail and then assumed the identity of a Heartland staffer to solicit documents that could confirm the details. This is consistent with Heartland's statements about how the documents were leaked.

Many of the details revealed in the documents. Seth Borenstein conducted an investigation and confirmed a number of additional details. Again, the results were all in one direction: everyone mentioned in the leaked documents that Borenstein contacted confirmed the information in the documents.

Because Heartland was not specific about what was fake and what was real, The Associated Press attempted to verify independently key parts of separate budget and fundraising documents that were leaked. The federal consultant working on the classroom curriculum, the former TV weatherman, a Chicago elected official who campaigns against hidden local debt and two corporate donors all confirmed to the AP that the sections in the document that pertained to them were accurate. No one the AP contacted said the budget or fundraising documents mentioning them were incorrect.

At this stage, it seems highly unlikely that any of the other documents were altered - Heartland hasn't made any attempt to refute any of the revelations, and they have passed every attempt at verification to date. The Climate Strategy memo, meanwhile, must have been written by someone with access to the other documents - i.e. either Gleick or Heartland. Right now, there isn't enough evidence to say one way or another.

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