The Heartland Institute

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Not to be confused with the institute of the same name affiliated with the Heartland Film Festival.
The Heartland Institute
Founder(s) David Padden
Focus Questioning scientific consensus on climate science; government policies on the environment, energy, health care, education, budgets, taxes, telecoms, and finance.
Key people President and CEO: Joseph L. Bast
Chairman: Herbert J. Walberg
Budget Revenue: $5,329,115
Expenses: $5,444,312
(FYE December 2012)[1]
Slogan Ideas that Empower People
Location One South Wacker
Chicago, Illinois, USA

The Heartland Institute is an American conservative and libertarian public policy think tank based in Chicago. The Institute was founded in 1984 and conducts research and advocacy work on issues including government spending, taxation, healthcare, education, tobacco policy, global warming, hydraulic fracturing, information technology, and free-market environmentalism.

The Heartland Institute is a prominent supporter of global warming skeptics,[2] and is "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism," according to the New York Times.[3] It "does not promote denial of a changing climate, but rather skepticism of the scientific consensus that anthropogenic (man-made) global warming is a grave threat to the planet."[4] It is skeptical of the view that human activity is either driving this change or is a significant danger to the planet.[5] It argues that many of the policies to fight global warming would be damaging to the economy.[6]

History, leadership, and impact[edit]

In its early years, Heartland Institute focused on policies relevant to the Midwestern United States. Since 1993 it has focused on reaching elected officials and opinion leaders in all 50 states. In addition to research, Heartland features an Internet application called "Policybot"[7] which serves as a clearinghouse for research from other conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the libertarian Cato Institute.

In the 1990s, the group worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question serious cancer risks to secondhand smoke, and to lobby against government public-health reforms. Starting in 2008, the Institute has organized conferences to discuss and criticize the scientific opinion of global warming.

The Institute files with Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and has a full-time staff of 29,[8] including editors and senior fellows,[9] as well as 222 unpaid policy advisors.[10] Heartland's Form 990 in 2013 reported revenues of $5.3 million.[11] The Institute's president and CEO is Joseph L. Bast.

According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Heartland is number 69 (of 70) of "Think Tanks with the Most Significant Impact on Public Policy".[12]


The policy orientation of The Heartland Institute has been described as conservative and libertarian.[13] According to The Heartland Institute, it advocates free market policies.[14][15][16][17]

Global warming[edit]

The Heartland Institute is "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism," according to the New York Times.[3] According to The Economist, the Heartland Institute is "the world's most prominent think-tank promoting scepticism about man-made climate change."[18]

The Heartland Institute disagrees with the scientific consensus on climate change, but does not dispute that climate change itself is occurring. Rather, it argues that:

  1. The amount of climate change is not catastrophic; in fact it might be beneficial.[19][20]
  2. Human activities that have led to increased carbon emissions are not driving climate change.[21]
  3. The economic costs of trying to prevent climate change far exceed the benefits. [22]

The institute is a member organization of the Cooler Heads Coalition, which describes itself as "an informal and ad-hoc group focused on dispelling the myths of global warming."[23]

In Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway wrote that the Heartland Institute was known "for its persistent questioning of climate science, for its promotion of 'experts' who have done little, if any, peer-reviewed climate research, and for its sponsorship of a conference in New York City in 2008 alleging that the scientific community's work on global warming is fake."[24]

Since 2008, Heartland has published the work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international group of scientists who analyze the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other published, peer-reviewed studies that relate to climate change.[25] The aggregated work of the NIPCC is known as "Climate Change Reconsidered" and concludes, in contradiction to the IPCC, that human emissions will not lead to dangerous global warming and climate change.[26]

In 2008 a bibliography written by Dennis Avery was posted on Heartland’s Web site, titled "500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares”.[27][28] In late April 2008, Heartland reported that the web site DeSmogBlog had "targeted The Heartland Institute in late April 2008, and in particular two lists posted on Heartland’s Web site of scientists whose published work contradicts some of the main tenets of global warming alarmism."[28] The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the work of Jim Salinger, chief scientist at New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, was "misrepresented" as part of a "denial campaign".[29] In response to criticism, The Heartland Institute changed the title of the list to “500 Scientists Whose Research Contradicts Man-Made Global Warming Scares.”[28] Heartland did not remove any of the scientists' names from the list.[28][29] Dennis Avery explained, "Not all of these researchers would describe themselves as global warming skeptics"..."but the evidence in their studies is there for all to see.”[28][nb 1] Their "reply to critics" page states, "Heartland posted a bibliography of peer-reviewed articles, originally produced by Dennis Avery for the Hudson Institute, that question one or more of the fundamental assumptions of the global warming alarmists e.g., whether the Medieval Warm Period was global, whether it was warmer than the second half of the 20th century, etc." and concludes, "The important point at the base of this controversy is that the published work of many scientists, even those who publicly support the alarmist position in the global warming debate, supports the view that most or all of the modern warming is due to natural causes."[13]

In 2013 the Institute falsely portrayed a translation of one of its documents on global warming by the Chinese Academy of Sciences as a major shift towards skepticism by China's leaders.[30][31] This was despite a preface in the translation saying it was to help them understand the public debate and was not an endorsement of the position contained in the document.[32][33][34][35]

International Conferences on Climate Change[edit]

Between 2008 and 2014 the Heartland Institute organized nine International Conferences on Climate Change, bringing together hundreds of global warming skeptics.[2][36] Conference speakers have included Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT; Roy Spencer, a research scientist and climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville; S. Fred Singer, who is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute[37] and was founding dean of the School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences at the University of Miami and founding director of the National Weather Satellite Service; Harrison Schmitt, a geologist and former NASA astronaut and Apollo 17 moonwalker; Dr. John Theon, atmospheric scientist and former NASA supervisor; and Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon, a part-time employee of the Solar and Stellar Physics (SSP) Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.[38] In the first conference, participants criticized the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore.[39][40] The BBC reported that the heavily politicized nature of the Heartland conferences led some "moderate" climate skeptics to avoid them.[41] The 7th International Conference was the main subject of the October, 2012 documentary, Climate of Doubt, by Frontline, a public television series of original, in-depth documentaries.[42]

At the conclusion of the 2012 7th International Conference, held at the Chicago Hilton, Heartland president Joseph Bast announced that the organization might discontinue the conferences.[43] The eighth conference was held in Munich, Germany between November 30th and December 1st, 2012.[44] The ninth conference was held during July of 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.[45] The tenth conference is scheduled to take place in Washington D.C. June 11 and June 12, 2015.[46]

May 2012 billboard campaign[edit]

On May 4, 2012, the institute launched a digital billboard ad campaign in the Chicago area featuring a photo of Ted Kaczynski, (the "Unabomber" whose mail bombs killed three people and injured 23 others), and asking the question, “I still believe in global warming, do you?”[47] The institute planned for the campaign to feature murderer Charles Manson, communist leader Fidel Castro and perhaps Osama bin Laden, asking the same question. In a statement, the institute justified the billboards saying "the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen."[48] The billboard reportedly "unleashed a social media-fed campaign, including a petition from the advocacy group Forecast the Facts calling on Heartland’s corporate backers to immediately pull their funding," and prompted Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) to threaten to cancel his speech at the upcoming seventh International Conference on Climate Change organized by Heartland.[49][50] Within 24 hours Heartland canceled the campaign, although its President refused to apologize for it.[nb 2] The advertising campaign led to the loss of substantial corporate funding,[51] the resignation of two of the Institute's 12 board members,[52][53] and the resignation of almost the entire Heartland Washington D.C. office, taking the Institute's biggest project (on insurance) with it.[54] Subsequent to their resignation, the staff of the former Heartland insurance project founded the R Street Institute.[55]


Heartland has long questioned the link between second hand smoke and lung cancer and the social costs imposed by smokers.[56] In 2006, it published Please Don't Poop in My Salad: And Other Essays Against the War on Smoking, an anthology of essays written over the 1990s and 2000s that broadly defends smokers.[57]

In the 1990s, the Heartland Institute worked with Philip Morris to question the link between secondhand smoke and health risks.[58] Philip Morris used Heartland to distribute reports that Philip Morris had commissioned; Heartland published a "policy study" which summarized a jointly prepared report by the Association of Private Enterprise Education and Philip Morris.[59] The Heartland Institute also undertook a variety of other activities on behalf of the tobacco industry, including meeting with legislators, holding "off-the-record" briefings, and producing op-eds, radio interviews, and letters.[60]


The Heartland Institute is a critic of current federal, state, and local budgets and tax codes. Several of Heartland Institute's budgetary views include privatization of federal services to a competitive marketplace, changing the tax code to a more simplified version of the current code, and implementing Taxpayer Savings Grants.


The Heartland Institute supports the availability of charter schools, providing education tax credits to attend private schools, expanding federal vouchers for low-income students to attend a public or private school of their family's choosing, and the Parent Trigger reform that started in California. The Heartland Institute argues that market reforms should be introduced into the public education system to increase competition and provide more options and greater choice for parents and their children.[61]

In 2014, Heartland published Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn - and why teachers don't use them well co-authored by Heartland president Joseph Bast, which argues that the public education system should embrace incentives and rewards to spur student achievement.[62][63]


The Heartland Institute advocates for free-market reforms in healthcare and opposes federal control over the healthcare industry. Heartland supports Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), replacing federal tax deductions for employer-based healthcare with a refundable tax credit to allow individual choice over health insurance, removing state and Federal healthcare regulations aimed at providers and consumers of healthcare, and reducing litigation costs which are associated with malpractice suits.[64]

In 2010, Heartland published the book, The Obamacare Disaster, by Peter Ferrara, which opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[65]

Hydraulic fracturing[edit]

The Heartland Institute advocates in favor of hydraulic fracturing, a well-stimulation technique in which rock is fractured by a hydraulically pressurized liquid made of water, sand, and chemicals. .[66]


The Heartland Institute publishes four monthly public policy newspapers aimed at state legislators. These include:

A 2014 survey by Victory Enterprises found that 74 percent of state legislators read at least one of these newspapers either "sometimes" or "always."[69]

The Institute's "Tea Party Toolbox" webpage, which includes The Patriot’s Toolbox,[70] seeks to promote the Tea Party movement.[71][72]


The Heartland Institute does not disclose its funding sources. According to its brochures, Heartland receives money from approximately 5,000 individuals and organizations, and no single corporate entity donates more than 5% of the operating budget,[73] although the figure for individual donors can be much higher, with a single anonymous donor providing $4.6 million in 2008, and $979,000 in 2011, accounting for 20% of Heartland's overall budget, according to reports of a leaked fundraising plan.[74] Heartland states that it does not accept government funds and does not conduct contract research for special-interest groups.[75]

MediaTransparency reported that Heartland received funding from politically conservative foundations such as the Castle Rock Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.[76] In 2011, the Institute received $25,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.[77] The Charles Koch Foundation states that the contribution was "$25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade".[78]

Oil and gas companies have contributed to the Heartland Institute, including over $600,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2005.[79] Greenpeace reported that Heartland received almost $800,000 from ExxonMobil.[29] In 2008, ExxonMobil said that they would stop funding to groups skeptical of climate warming, including Heartland.[79][80][81] Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, argued that ExxonMobil was simply distancing itself from Heartland out of concern for its public image.[79]

The Heartland Institute has also received funding and support from tobacco companies Philip Morris,[82] Altria and Reynolds American, and pharmaceutical industry firms GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Eli Lilly.[74] State Farm Insurance, USAA and Diageo are former supporters.[83] The Independent reported that Heartland's receipt of donations from Exxon and Philip Morris indicates a "direct link"..."between anti-global warming sceptics funded by the oil industry and the opponents of the scientific evidence showing that passive smoking can damage people's health."[39] Heartland responds that science is being misused in both cases by advocacy groups to justify unnecessary and costly regulations.[84]

As of 2006, the Walton Family Foundation (run by the family of the founder of Wal-Mart) had contributed approximately $300,000 to Heartland. The Heartland Institute published an op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal defending Wal-Mart against criticism over its treatment of workers. The Walton Family Foundation donations were not disclosed in the op-ed, and the editor of the Courier-Journal stated that he was unaware of the connection and would probably not have published the op-ed had he known of it.[85] The St. Petersburg Times described the Heartland Institute as "particularly energetic defending Wal-Mart."[85] Heartland has stated that its authors were not "paid to defend Wal-Mart" and did not receive funding from the corporation; it did not disclose the $300,000+ received from the Walton Family Foundation.[85]

In 2012, following the February 2012 document leak (see below) and a controversial advertising campaign, the institute lost substantial funding as corporate donors sought to dissociate themselves from the institute. According to the advocacy group Forecast the Facts, Heartland lost more than $825,000, or one third of planned corporate fundraising for the year. The shortfall led to the Illinois coal lobby sponsoring the institute's May 2012 climate conference – the "first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry".[54] However, according to Heartland's IRS Form 990 for 2012, contributions and grants for the year still exceeded contributions and grants for 2011 by 9.9 percent.[86]

February 2012 document misappropriation[edit]

In February 2012, environmentalist scientist and president of the Pacific Institute, Peter Gleick, obtained internal Heartland Institute documents by deceptive means, and divulged them, together with an additional document titled, "Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy"[87][88] that he later claimed to have received from an unknown source, to public websites,[89] actions which the Mercury News reported "shocked the scientific community, concerned funders of the Pacific Institute and tarnished his reputation."[90]

The documents contained the 2012 Heartland budget, a fundraising plan and board materials.[91] The documents disclosed the names of a number of donors to the institute – including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, tobacco companies Altria and Reynolds American, drug firms GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Eli Lilly, Microsoft, liquor companies, and an anonymous donor who had given $13 million over the past five years.[16][92] Some of the documents also contained details of payments to climate skeptics and financial support to skeptics' research programs, namely the founder of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), physicist Fred Singer ($5,000 plus expenses per month), geologist Robert M. Carter ($1,667 per month) and a pledge of $90,000 to meteorologist Anthony Watts. Carter and Watts confirmed receiving payments.[92] The documents also indicated that the institute planned to provide materials to teachers in the United States to undercut the teaching of global warming in schools.[77][92] The documents also appeared to disclose Heartland's plans for "Operation Angry Badger", in which $612,000 was to be allocated for activities related to Wisconsin's recall elections.[77] None of the documents were independently authenticated.[93]

Heartland maintained that the documents, which were first published on Desmogblog, were fraudulently acquired and declared that the last document, generally known as the "Climate Strategy Memo",[77][94] was a fake that had been fabricated with the purpose of defaming and discrediting the institute.[95][96] A subsequent computer forensics report commissioned by Heartland and conducted by Protek International concluded that "the Memo did not originate on the Heartland System... and was never present there prior to its February 14 posting online."[97][98] In support of Heartland's claims of forgery, The Atlantic editor Megan McArdle concluded that the offending document's mismatched metadata, unprofessional writing style and references to specific individuals made its authenticity extremely unlikely.[99]The Daily Telegraph journalist James Delingpole dubbed the controversy over the Memo "Fakegate."[100]

Following an inquiry, the Pacific Institute reinstated Gleick from a three month leave of absence over the controversy, an action that "implicitly backed Gleick's assertion that he was not responsible for creating a document labeled a fake by Heartland." The Heartland Institute called Gleick's reinstatement a "whitewash".[101][102]

In the wake of the release, several environmental organizations called on General Motors and Microsoft – companies that had donated to the institute in the past – to sever their ties with Heartland; additionally, scientists previously attacked by Heartland called on it to "recognise how its attacks on science and scientists have poisoned the debate about climate change policy."[16]

On February 16, Gleick resigned as chair of American Geophysical Union's Task Force on Scientific Ethics.[103] On February 20, 2012, Gleick said he was mailed the disputed strategy memo from an anonymous source. He admitted obtaining the other documents from Heartland by deceptive means, "in a serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics", and stated that "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, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved."[89]

Call for US House ethics investigation[edit]

On February 22, 2012, Congressman Raúl Grijalva requested a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing to investigate whether alleged Heartland payments to Indur Goklany, a senior adviser to the Interior Department, violated Federal ethics rules. Greenpeace also requested an investigation into this allegation on the same date.[104] Golklany told Politico he had previously cleared his activities with his department's ethics unit. On February 28, 2012, the Committee announced that it was planning to ignore Congressman Grijalva's request.[105]


  1. ^ Heartland’s president, Joseph Bast, wrote "They have no right – legally or ethically – to demand that their names be removed from a bibliography composed by researchers with whom they disagree. Their names probably appear in hundreds or thousands of bibliographies accompanying other articles or in books with which they disagree. Do they plan to sue hundreds or thousands of their colleagues? The proper response is to engage in scholarly debate, not demand imperiously that the other side redact its publications."[28]
  2. ^ President Joseph Bast issued a statement saying: "We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment. We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate."[49]


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°52′54″N 87°38′11″W / 41.8816°N 87.6363°W / 41.8816; -87.6363