Heartland Double Standard: Institute Tried to Scam Greenpeace for Internal Documents

Heartland Double Standard: Institute Tried to Scam Greenpeace for Internal Documents
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A Heartland Institute front man* phoned a Greenpeace activist and lied about his identity in an effort to get her to turn over UN climate conference documents to which he had no legitimate access. Heartland senior fellow James Taylor then boasted about the scam in a press release decrying what he described as Greenpeace’s preferential access to UN information.

Now, in a belated act of optimism, Greenpeace’s Cindy Baxter has written a letter to Heartland (attached below) requesting an explanation for the double standard. Baxter is asking, in effect, why Heartland thinks it’s completely okay for them to misrepresent themselves, repeatedly, and to celebrate the misrepresentations of others who are attacking climate scientists, but then gets all righteous when someone suckers them into handing over their entire budget and fundraising policy for 2012.

The Heartland misrepresentation about which Baxter is now complaining occurred in 2007 at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Bali. The Heartland caller phoned Baxter at four in the morning (Bali time), claiming to represent a U.S. environmental organization and asking if she would hand over the UNFCCC media list – which Heartland clearly had failed to secure through legitimate means.

Baxter demurred, after which Taylor sent out a press release, recounting the conversation, linking to a (possibly illegal) recording that Heartland had made of the phonecall, and “exposing” the fact that Greenpeace has a better working relationship than Heartland with just about everyone in the climate, diplomatic and scientific communities.

At the time, Baxter brushed off the incident as nothing more than you would expect from an organization that exists to take money from tobacco firms and oil moguls and then misrepresent the health risks of smoking and the science of climate change.

But lately, Baxter has grown annoyed by the double standard. Heartland, which naively emailed the whole briefing package for its January Board of Directors meeting to a complete stranger (which turned out to be the climate scientist Peter Gleick), has been apoplectic about Gleick’s trickiness in seducing them into performing that St. Valentine’s Day Striptease (the documents were all released on February 14). Heartland President Joe Bast (who must still be trembling at the knowledge that his job is on the line, for the incompetence of his security measures if not for getting caught playing board members against one another), has said that in claiming in an email to be a Heartland board member, Gleick had committed a “crime” that was unforgiveable.

Yet Heartland holds itself to no such standard. In addition to the Taylor misrepresentation above, Heartland also financed a disingenuous climate video in 2008 called Unstoppable Solar Cycles: The Real Story of Greenland. In the process of shooting that work of fiction, the film crew had misrepresented itself and the ultimate purpose of the film to its subjects in Greenland, including one Rie Oldenburg, curator of the Narsaq Museum. Oldenburg said the Heartlanders told her the film was about Greenland history and made no mention at all that it was an attack on climate science that was being prepared for distribution to school children in America.

Joe Bast also thought it was perfectly acceptable – in fact a public service – when someone broke into the East Anglia University Climatic Research Unit and stole thousands of personal emails, thereafter cherrypicking and distributing out-of-context quotes in an effort to attack the credibility of the correspondents.

Given this history, it was more than an act of optimism for Baxter to write Heartland for an explanation. Heartland doesn’t explain. They never apologized to Rie Oldenburg. They have never responded to DeSmogBlog queries about their board package (even though Bast insists that we should have waited for a response before releasing the documents).

Finally, they have not apologised to Dr. David Watkins, a perfectly legitimate scientist who was embarrassed to be listed – incorrectly – among the brigade of climate science-denying “experts” whom Heartland keeps on retainer. (Watkins called and wrote to Heartland, pointing out that they had never paid him – and that he would not accept their money – and asking for an explanation. They have neither answered his phone calls nor written in response.)

There is, apparently, one standard for legitimate organizations and scientists, but not one that Heartland has any intention of meeting.

*An earlier iteration of this post identified the caller as James Taylor – perhaps incorrectly. While Taylor may well have been the perpetrator (he was the signatory on the resulting press release), Cindy Baxter points out that, especially given that the caller originally lied about his identity, she could not say with any certainty whether it was Taylor or someone else calling on Heartland’s behalf.

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