Corporate Exodus From Heartland Institute Continues As USAA and Insurers Bail

Brendan DeMelle DeSmog

In the wake of the outrageous Heartland Institute billboard campaign equating everyone who acknowledges the science of global warming with “murderers, tyrants, and madmen,” many of the group’s corporate donors are fleeing away, lest their public reputations get sullied by Heartland’s recklessness.  

Today, Forecast The Facts announced that USAA, a Fortune 500 financial services company, has denounced the Heartland Institute and pulled its funding. A USAA spokesperson announced their decision on Facebook, saying, “In light of recent personnel departures at Heartland, we decided to end our support for the organization.” 
Earlier the group announced the withdrawal of around two dozen insurance companies, most notably State Farm, who have now ditched Heartland, joining GM, AT&T, Diagio and what’s sure to be a continuing list of defections. E&E ($ubscription required) has a great recap of the fallout in the early wake of the billboard disaster, and The Guardian covered the insurance industry exodus today.   
Bravo to these companies for dumping Heartland. It is ridiculous to describe everyone from the Pentagon, President Obama, religions leaders and a majority of global citizens as “mostly on the radical fringe of society.” In Heartland’s twisted worldview, we’re all “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”
This type of reckless behavior isn’t new at Heartland, in fact it’s par for the course for their leadership. The billboard idea illustrates Heartland’s core mentality.

This is just the latest in a long string of embarrassing, anti-science acts in Heartland’s 25+ years. 

As Eli Rabett Brian Schmidt explained yesterday, back in 2006, Heartland President and CEO Joseph Bast compared Al Gore to the Unabomber:
July 2006 column by Heartland President and CEO Joseph Bast:

The Inconvenient Truth About Al Gore

….I have difficulty taking Gore seriously on environmental issues ever since it was reported that Ted Kaczynski, the murderous “Unabomber,” kept a heavily marked-up copy of Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, in his tar-paper shack and liberally borrowed from it when writing his anti-humanity treatise. There’s even a Web site ( that offers a quiz to see if you can tell Gore’s words from Kaczynski’s. I bet you can’t.

Was that a cheap shot? Maybe….

The Unabomber also was absolutely sincere in his belief that technological progress was an evil that had to be stopped, with violence if necessary. Fortunately, Kaczynski didn’t have access to the incredible powers of the Presidency of the United States. Unfortunately, Al Gore still aspires to that post.
The Heartland team’s decision to plaster the Unabomber on a billboard is proof that the group is growing increasingly desperate. After being really careless with their internal documents and opening the curtain for the world to see how they operate, now they pull this crazy stunt. 
Even after several of their closest allies and fellow travelers expressed disgust with the billboard campaign, Heartland remains unapologetic about comparing climate realists with mass murderers.
Here is some video footage of the short-lived Unabomber billboard. 

This organization is off its rocker. Consider that Heartland’s climate position is so extreme that even ExxonMobil and Koch Industries stopped funding their climate denial work years ago. 

But the latest round of corporate donor defections appears to pose a big problem for Heartland’s future. 
Leo Hickman writes in The Guardian today that the loss of the $1 million in insurance industry funding to Heartland is a huge blow to the fundraising plans laid out in their exposed internal documents: 
The drop-off in funds could wreck Heartland’s ambitious plans of increasing its fundraising by 67% in 2012, from $4.6m to $7.7m.
Heartland watchers have suggested the thinktank may be running short of funds, especially after moving into expensive new premises.
The defecting companies between them contributed more than 15% of Heartland’s budget last year. Companies such as State Farm were among the thinktank’s biggest single donors.
This was the reaction by Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) to the billboard: 

“Recent revelations of the Heartland Institute’s radical position on climate change as portrayed on the new billboard featuring Ted Kaczynski made our association with other parts of your organization untenable.”
ABIR’s membership includes 22 of the world’s largest insurance and reinsurance companies, including XL Group.  ABIR and XL Group had provided $160,000 in the past two years to Heartland’s work on insurance issues.

Heartland’s D.C. staff who worked on insurance and other issues are reportedly considering heading for the hills, perhaps mindful that they’ve lost credibility in Washington on their other issues because of the extremist climate denial work done in the Chicago headquarters.

Eli Lehrer – Heartland’s insurance expert – has worked with the insurance industry and environmental organizations including Friends of the Earth, National Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club in the Smarter Safer Coalition to reform national flood insurance and the Green Scissors initiative to cut anti-environmental government subsidies.

No longer – all those insurers have bailed, Lehrer has bailed, and the coalitions with green groups have disowned Heartland. (USAA‘s Facebook announcement surely referred to Lehrer’s departure as the reason for their decision to leave.) 

Rightfully so. At this point, one has to be more than a little crazy to ignore the wide and deep scientific consensus on climate change. When people cling to belief in the face of science, it shows how out of touch they are with reality. 

But even in the wake of this astonishingly ugly billboard campaign, Heartland’s Denial-a-Palooza conference sponsors are standing with the group. 

Competitive Enterprise Institute will still co-sponsor, the Reason Foundation is still sponsoring, as is CFACT, the Ayn Rand Institute and other ideological allies. 

Steve Milloy the Junkman described the billboards as “fact-based.” Really.


That’s an understatement.
People should contact these remaining companies  – has a petition, Sierra Club has another – and ask why they support Heartland’s reckless climate denial. A key reason this many of Heartland’s corporate donors pulled out is because everyday people stood up and made their voices heard.

The exodus of corporate donors getting cold feet about funding Heartland is similar to what’s happening at ALEC – these extreme industry front groups are shedding support among companies with reputations to consider. ALEC’s lost at least 15 corporate sponsors and around 30 legislators.


There are lots of other corporations still funding Heartland – it’s time for them to immediately follow suit.
Drug companies
Eli Lilly
Tobacco companies
Communications companies
Time Warner Cable 
Golden Rule Insurance
Koch Industries
Brad Johnson (now at Forecast The Facts) created a Pinterest page with the logos and amounts recently donated to Heartland.
Brendan DeMelle DeSmog
Brendan is Executive Director of DeSmog. He is also a freelance writer and researcher specializing in media, politics, climate change and energy. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, Grist, The Washington Times and other outlets.

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