Pacific Research Institute

Secret Climate Denial Finance: Koch and Others Hide tens of Millions through Donors Trust & Donors Capital Fund

  • Posted on: 14 February 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

For those familiar with the effort of ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers to bankroll a network of organizations denying basic climate science, a new article in the Guardian offers some revelatory information on the secret funding network that outweighs even top denier sugar daddies like Koch and Exxon.

Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, based out of the DC suburb of Alexandria, VA, have sent $118 million to the 'climate denial machine' from 2002-2010, according to a Greenpeace analysis featured in the Guardian. The graph above, from the article, illustrates the significance of this money as compared to giants like Koch and Exxon.

Of course, the Koch brothers are part of the Donors Trust network, using the DONORS groups to hide their own giving to a variety of corporate front groups. Because of the obscurity provided by DONORS, we don't know exactly who is getting exactly how much of the Koch payments to Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.

An accompanying article by the Guardian shows how the DONORS groups provide large portions of organisations' entire budgets, such as the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, which even among climate deniers is notably anti-scientific.

The support helped the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (Cfact), expand from $600,000 to $3m annual operation. In 2010, Cfact received nearly half of its budget from those anonymous donors, the records show.

The group's most visible product is the website, Climate Depot, a contrarian news source run by Marc Morano. Climate Depot sees itself as the rapid reaction force of the anti-climate cause. On the morning after Obama's state of the union address, Morano put out a point by point rebuttal to the section on climate change.

CFACT is among over a dozen organizations that get 30%-70% of their total budgets from the two DONORS groups. As we reported on PolluterWatch last October using 2010 IRS tax filings:

  • Americans For Prosperity Foundation got $7.6 million from DONORS groups in 2010, 43% of its budget. AFP Foundation is chaired by David Koch and has received millions in direct funding from Koch foundations since the Koch brothers founded it.
  • Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) got $1.3 million from DONORS in 2010, 45% of its budget.
  • Cornwall Alliance (through the James Partnership) got $339,500 from DONORS in 2010, 75% of its budget.
  • Heartland Institute got $1.6 million from DONORS in 2010, 27% of it's budget, which came from Chicago billionaire Barre Seid (see p. 67).
  • State Policy Network got 36% of its 2010 budget ($4.8 million) from DONORS. SPN members include just about every climate-denying organization and every conservative think tank in the country, including AFP and Heartland.

Koch is clearly embarrassed by the negative publicity (see press roundup below). Koch "Facts," the company's PR website that lashes back at unfavorable reporting on Koch, attempted to respond to the flood of press on the DONORS groups without mentioning them by name. Similarly, Donors Trust president Whitney Ball has done her best to keep Donors Trust and Koch from being synonymous. To be clear--they are not, but the Kochs and their operatives are key players in the Donors network, with people like Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute and Steven Hayward of the Pacific Research Institute helping oversee DONORS operations, including millions in funding to their own organizations.

Greenpeace has more coming on Donors Trust, Donors Capital Fund, Koch Industries and the ongoing misinformation pumping out of the climate denial machine. Stay tuned. Key articles on Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund:

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Climate Denial University? The Heartland Institute's Toxic Presence in Higher Education

  • Posted on: 12 April 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see investigation and ongoing updates.

As Greenpeace questions universities about payments to faculty members from the Heartland Institute for its campaign to discredit climate science, we have made some interesting discoveries. Our newest letter is to the University of Missouri concerning professor Anthony Lupo, who leads the schools Global Climate Change Group and is slated to receive a total $18,000 from the Heartland Institute from 2011-2012 as a consultant for "Climate Change Reconsidered" reports. As you would expect from a Heartland Institute project, these reports are designed to confuse the scientific conclusions of 97% of climate researchers around the world.

While credible climate scientists and institutions have understood global warming for decades now, Anthony Lupo's position on climate has fluctuated significantly. A thorough article in the Kansas City Pitch back in 2008 revealed the following evolution of Dr. Lupo's public statements on global warming:

  • In 1998, Tony Lupo boasted that climate skeptics outnumbered the consensus view that global warming is happening and caused by people, proclaiming, "there is no scientific consensus whether global warming is a fact and is occurring." This is despite the fact that in 1995 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." Dr. Lupo has participated in the IPCC as a reviewer, one of the few scientists involved who rejects the IPCC's research conclusions.
  • In 2000, Dr. Lupo cited an influential oceanographer calling for more study on global warming in "recent statements"...after the oceanographer had been dead for nine years.
  • In 2005, Dr. Lupo contradicted his previous op-ed statements and told the Kansas City Star that "the climate is warming" but that the warming was not "unprecedented."

  • In 2007, Dr. Lupo said that because of increasing global surface temperatures, "Columbia's [Missouri] probably become a more ideal place to live." This notion is consistent with that of industry apologist Craig Idso, who coordinates the work of Heartland's Climate Change Reconsidered reports.

Our new letter to Mizzou quotes Dr. Lupo this year telling the Columbia Daily Tribune that he still doubts humans are the primary cause of global warming, contrasting the explicit climate statements of scientific institutions he is affiliated with, such as the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorology Society. Anthony Lupo's work for the Heartland Institute even flipped a long-time climate skeptic columnist at the Daily Tribune, who publicly explained why the scandal convinced him that global warming is indeed occurring.

Questions posed to other schools have unearthed more potentially scandalous activity. First and foremost, we want to know why the Heartland Institute has Michigan Technological University (MTU) professor David Watkins listed in their budget. When we wrote to MTU asking if Watkins had disclosed his Heartland payments, they were shocked at the association. Turns out, Watkins is neither a climate skeptic nor a Heartland Institute contractor, something the Heartland Institute has not explained.

As Michigan Tech made it clear they want nothing to do with Heartland's junk science, Harvard University again confirmed that career climate denier and Heartland contractor Willie Soon has no formal affiliation with the school beyond office space on their campus. This hasn't stopped Willie from claiming he's a "natural scientist at Harvard" while dismissing the dangers of mercury pollution in the Wall Street Journal. Last year Greenpeace revealed that Willie Soon is exclusively funded by fossil fuel interests like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Southern Company, a major contributor to mercury air pollution from its coal plants.

Moving southwest, a meeting with Greenpeace student activist Erica Kris prompted an "investigation" at Arizona State University (ASU), although there was no third party involved to prevent bias. ASU's longtime climate skeptic Robert C. Balling continues to reject conclusive scientific evidence that humans are the primary cause of global warming and was listed as a recipient of prospective payments in Heartland's leaked budget for work on their "Climate Change Reconsidered" reports. According to Arizona State Vice President for Academic Personel Mark Searle, who conducted the review of Dr. Balling's disclosure forms to the school, Balling isn't going to review Heartland's latest climate denial report:

"With respect to any consulting work with the Heartland Institute, other than the previously reported $1000 honorarium Dr. Balling received for giving a speech some years ago, he has not received any compensation from them. The purported budget from the Heartland Institute was prospective and was not a commitment and Dr. Balling told me he has not engaged in any such activity."

Historically, Dr. Balling has taken plenty of money from fossil fuel interests, which brings in funding not only to Balling's predetermined "research," but hundreds of thousands of dollars in overhead payments to Arizona State University (see Balling's 1997 testimony to the Minnesota News Council). Balling teamed up with oil industry scientist Pat Michaels at the Exxon- and Koch-funded Cato Institute to write three books that have served as faux counter-arguments to settled science. Two of those books were published by Cato, while The Heated Debate was published by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), another cog in the climate denial machine. Balling claimed to know "nothing" about the Pacific Research Institute even though PRI and published his book promoting global warming doubt:

"I know nothing of their history. I'm aware that they have been a conservative public policy group. But I did not investigate who these people were that asked me to prepare a book for them." --From Ozone Action's Ties that Bind [PDF]

Dr. Balling has reluctantly owned up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fossil fuel funding as well as direct research support from Exxon [PDF] and the Kuwaiti government [PDF] to downplay global warming. As part of an extremely small group of PR scientists for hire, both Michaels and Balling worked for the Western Fuels coal coalition and its fraudulent Greening Earth Society project, led at the time by Peabody coal lobbyist Fred Palmer.

Given his history as an oil and coal industry consultant who ignores 97% of working climate scientists worldwide, why doesn't Arizona State consider it a problem for Dr. Balling to promote his political positions as if they were factual? What about his role in ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability, of which climate change research and mitigation is listed as a top priority? What about his attempts to directly influence policy based on scientific misinformation? ASU's Office of Research Integrity and Assurance lists "Objectivity in Research" among its responsibilities to "support for the responsible conduct of research." Freedom of expression does not equate to freedom to repeatedly misrepresent scientific fact on behalf of industry policy groups like Cato, Pacific Research and Heartland.

Although Heartland's reputation has become increasingly toxic, most recently indicated by General Motors announcing it would stop sending money to Heartland, they haven't given up. Perhaps Heartland President Joseph Bast would be lost in a world where he's not paid to promote tobacco products, deny global warming, and force junk science into classrooms.

You can continue to follow Greenpeace's Investigation of Heartland Institute Leaked Documents on PolluterWatch.

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Advice for Koch's PR team

  • Posted on: 22 March 2011
  • By: Cindy Baxter

Koch Industries' facebook page - was posting such a clear link to well-known deniers the wisest PR move?

Memo to:      the Koch PR team
From:           Polluterwatch
Re:               over-zealous PR unlikely to help your clients

Dear Koch PR team

It's good to know who you are now – thanks to a story over at Politico.  But perhaps we can offer you a little bit of advice? 

We note that you’ve been getting to work on your new Koch account, placing stories in the New York Times about funding cancer research and the like. (Good distraction tactics!).

We also note how active you’ve been on the Koch Industries, Inc Facebook page

We understand that the brief from the Kochs is to fight back against the terribly bad name they’ve been getting over the last year.

And while we know the Koch brothers fund the deniers (as documented in this Greenpeace report), we also know that they’ve made you go to great lengths to distance them from any involvement. Major fail for you then when Wikipedia found out that your web guys, New Media Strategies, had created sock puppets to edit out the links and banned them from the site. Ouch!

But did you take another step too far last week?  A new post appeared on Koch Industries’ facebook page on 19 March saying:

      “A Berkley scientist explains how activist scientists managed to "hide the decline" in recent global temperatures.
"You're not allowed to do this in science,"   Richard Muller explains.”

It links to a puff piece on Power Line by serial denier Steven F Haywood (more on him later),  promoting one Richard Muller’s denier views on climategate.  

ClimateProgress has unearthed what Muller is up to – he’s co-chairing the rather prestigious-sounding “Berkely Earth Surface Temperature Study” – another recipient of Koch Funding. 

Seems the whole project is a ruse to challenge Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick findings from the early 1990’s – a challenge raised by the so-called "climategate" scandal.  As Think Progress points out: 

     "why would Berkeley want to be associated with the Kochs?"

And why investigate the Hockey stick findings, which have been backed up by at least five other studies?   The deniers have focussed on the Hockey Stick argument (that shows global temperatures spiking upward, like a hockey stick) as their benchmark for whether global warming is happening and whether it’s caused by human activities. But this is despite strong signals from different areas of science that all point in the same direction

That’s the same Richard Muller who has, as Climate Progress points out:

      "has actually worked to undermine credibility in well-established science.”

(Latest:  Climate Progress has now discovered that the Berkley project is not turning out the way Muller and the Koch’s want it to go – turns out that their preliminary results show that the temperature records are dead right.  Oops!  Findings are summarised: 

     “We are seeing substantial global warming” and “None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming.”

The presence of Muller and climate-scientist-turned-denialist Judith Curry is bad enough.  

But Haywood? Do you not know who this guy is?  If ever there was a Koch-funded climate denial mouthpiece, it’s Steven F Haywood.  He’s a fellow at four of the Kochtopus-funded think tanks.  They’ve all had quite a bit of funding from your clients 1986-2009:
Reason Foundation ($2,536,521),
Heritage Foundation ($4,110,571),
Pacific Research Foundation ($1,515,800) and
American Enterprise Institute (only $150,000 from Koch but Exxon gave them $2.8 million).  

So the total Koch money to Hayward’s groups is $8,312,892.  Add Exxon’s $4,341,000 and that adds up to a massive $12.65 million of denial punch.  

No wonder you guys were excited about linking to his piece. But was it wise?  Does Koch really want to be openly associating itself with Hayward and Muller – and “climategate?”   This is the first time we’ve seen such an open association by Koch to undermining the climate science.   Very useful for us – but doesn’t this rather undermine the Koch’s ongoing denial that they are linked with these climate deniers?

And finally, while we’re discussing your Facebook page, another word of advice: if you’re going to promote stories that you’ve managed to place in blogs, perhaps drip them out slowly?  

During the Wisconsin protests, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group led the tea party in support of Scott Walker and Koch became a lightning rod for protestors. (Bet that got you going).

Nice work lining up all the bloggers to support Koch - but posting them all in one day on Facebook?   Six posts in just a few hours? 4th March was a busy day for you.  But seriously, if you’re going to go on the offense, maybe make it a little less obvious?  

We know you must be paid an awful lot by this client – are they really getting their money’s worth?  Or did you leave your Facebook promotion up to New Media Strategies? 
 

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Servants of Oil Increase Funding and Misinformation in Prop 23 Battle

  • Posted on: 25 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Following voter opposition to Proposition 23 and the recent surge in funding to counter the oily measure, Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro (who "are not oil companies," by the way)  have respectively added $1 million and $500,000 to the fight.  The dirty energy proposition would victimize clean energy jobs and development, not to mention legislative innovation and an already struggling climate.

There has been a lot of confusion about how Prop 23 relates to jobs, as the oil industry has cultivated fears of job loss through some questionable studies.  The Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, which is funded by the likes of Art Pope and the Koch brothers, has crafted a report designed to create hysteria among economically-wary Californians (read: most Californians), claiming formidable implications on jobs and state economic output. 

The funny thing, and by funny I mean dishonest, is that this report conveniently avoids looking at the economic benefits of the climate law that Prop 23 would cripple.  It also fails to mention that by the end of the decade, Proposition 23 will make California electricity cost 33% more.  And it also doesn't note that the report's author has worked for the Cato Institute, which Charles Koch founded and David Koch remains a Board member, and the Manhattan Institute, yet another think tank funded by the likes of Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.  For a deeper look, check out what Rebecca Lefton has to say about the Pacific Research Institute's selective look at California's climate law.

Beyond publishing their own flawed report, the Pacific Research Institute is also promoting another attack-study to help sell Prop 23.  This publication has been heavily scrutinized--to the point of invalidity--by California's Legislative Analyst's Office, the Business Alliance for a Green Economy, and two professors from Standford University and UCLA.

This is not the first time that the Pacific Research Institute has used flawed studies to attack clean energy progress, as they continue to do with the heavily-touted, heavily-debunked "Spanish study."  Pretty typical for one of the Kochtopus' many tentacles.

For an excellent map of the oil money fueling Proposition 23, refer to Dirty Energy Money.

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