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Free Market Think Tank Says Documents 'Exposing' Climate Change Denialism Were Stolen, Faked

"We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses..."

  • On Tuesday, unconfirmed documents allegedly revealing budgets, strategy and fundraising for The Heartland Institute -- a free-market think tank -- were leaked.
  • These documents were analyzed by many to reveal what they considered evidence that The Heartland Institute was involved in a scheme to deny climate science that would support man-made global warming.
  • On Wednesday, The Heartland Institute responded stating that the documents were stolen and faked while others were altered. 
  • It believes the documents were taken, leaked and altered to "defame and discredit The Heartland Institute."
  • The institute has said it considered the theft of the documents and reportage of the leak as constituting civil and potentially criminal offenses. 

Yesterday, The Heartland Institute -- a think tank seeking to promote free market ideals -- was accused by many groups of "cast[ing] doubt on the settled science" and "discredit[ing] the established science on climate change" through leaked documents revealing some of the organization's alleged strategic plans and sources of funding.

Today, The Heartland Institute has responded saying that some of the documents that have led to these accusations were stolen and others were completely faked or altered.

DeSmogBlog broke the original story on Tuesday writing the documents "[exposed] the heart of the climate denial machine." The Huffington Post's Shawn Lawrence Otto explains in his post, "Climate Denial Bombshell," that the leak of documents was both unauthorized and from an anonymous source who sent them from a Gmail account, which was immediately deleted after sending the documents to bloggers covering climate change.

Here are just a few alleged quotes -- released in similar fashion to the Climategate scandals -- from the documents, whose authenticity has not been confirmed by the institute (via DeSmogBlog):

  • “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. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.”
  • “Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.”
  • “Efforts might also include cultivating more neutral voices with big audiences (such as Revkin at DotEarth/NYTimes, who has a well-known antipathy for some of the more extreme AGW communicators such as Romm, Trenberth, and Hansen) or Curry (who has become popular with our supporters).”

The Guardian writes that the documents confirm what environmental groups have suspected about the free-market think tank:

[...] that Heartland itself is a major source of funding to a network of experts and bloggers who have been prominent in the campaign to discredit established science.

However, The Heartland Institute wrote in a statement that the documents claimed to be the institute's budget, fundraising information and other strategic plans were stolen, one was completely falsified and others may have been altered. The institute believes the falsifying of some of these documents was not anyone at Heartland and that whomever did it did so to "defame and discredit The Heartland Institute".

Here's more from the statement:

The stolen documents appear to have been written by Heartland’s president for a board meeting that took place on January 17. He was traveling at the time this story broke yesterday afternoon and still has not had the opportunity to read them all to see if they were altered. Therefore, the authenticity of those documents has not been confirmed.

Since then, the documents have been widely reposted on the Internet, again with no effort to confirm their authenticity.

[...]

The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation. We ask them in particular to immediately remove these documents and all statements about them from the blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.

The Heartland Institute then goes on to explain that some of the insider documents were taken "by an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to 're-send' board materials".

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