The latest episode in the Heartland Institute’s so-called “Fakegate”scandal, in which Pacific Institute Director Peter Gleick admittedly obtained embarrassing private documents under false pretenses, features an “open letter” from Heartland to the Board of Directors of the Pacific Institute.
The letter contains a number of helpful suggestions as to which rocks the Institute’s hired independent investigator should look under in his effort to uncover the truth behind Gleick’s actions. It includes a series of links to emails exchanged between Gleick and Heartland prior to the leak. Heartland had invited Gleick to debate their anti-warming hired gun, Fox news regular, and distinguished non-scientist James M. Taylor at their 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.
In his email response, Gleick said,
In order for me to consider this invitation, please let me know if the Heartland Institute publishes its financial records and donors for the public and where to find this information. Such transparency is important to me when I am offered a speaking fee (or in this case, a comparable donation to a charity). My own institution puts this information on our website.
Heartland’s Communication Director Jim Lakeley responded by saying,
I’m sure you’ve seen James M. Taylor’s response to the funding questions at Forbes.com — a question he has answered publicly many times. In short: We used to publicly list our donors by name, but stopped a few years ago, in part, because people who disagree with The Heartland Institute decided to harass our donors in person and via email.
Gleick declines, citing his “belief in transparency, especially when your Institute and its donors benefit from major tax breaks at the expense of the public.”
Clearly it was this belief in transparency that led to his decision to leak the documents containing the names of the donors.
Heartland’s letter goes on to include additional links to the emails Gleick used to obtain the documents, the forged document, and what they refer to as Gleick’s “partial confession.” The letter goes with a series of questions that strongly insinuate that Gleick was responsible for creating the fake two-page strategy memo.
Perhaps if Heartland had chosen earlier to embrace transparency as passionately as they appear to have embraced it now, they might have succeeded in getting Gleick to come to their party. But then, that was before the cat was out of the bag.
The letter and the Fakegate website make it clear that Heartland is trying to milk this controversy for all its worth. The website claims that:
Fakegate matters because it reveals the inner workings of the radical environmentalists who have turned climate science into a politically-driven movement. Peter Gleick is not the exception. He is not one man who made a poor choice. He is representative of the character of many of the leading voices in the global warming movement. The tactics he used to try to shut down debate – deception and outright lies – are common in the environmental movement.
Choice of language is important here. Climate scientists are suddenly “radical environmentalists” because they believe that the survival of all the living creatures that the planet supports is more important than next quarter’s dividend. But the statement about “the character of many of the leading voices” is shameless drivel. Sure Gleick may have lied to Heartland, but unlike them, he did not lie to the public about the most serious crisis to ever confront mankind.
Yes, Gleick lost his patience when confronted with the enormity of the opposition that the scientific community now faces in its efforts to reach the scientifically unsophisticated American public with what is admittedly a complex and somewhat abstract message. The revelation that Heartland would now be using their millions in fossil fuel donations to target schoolchildren with their latest misinformation campaign was likely what pushed him over the edge.
Clearly, Heartland is whipping up this froth of righteous indignation in hopes of seizing the moral high ground here. Maybe they might even win over a few confused supporters, but their main objective is surely to provide air cover to those donors who, having had their identities revealed, might otherwise be embarrassed enough to stop donating.
[Image credit:Tim_in_Ohio: Flickr Creative Commons]
RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Now available onKindle
Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.