It's been a rough couple of months for the Heartland Institute, the nation's top climate change-denying think tank. First, the climate researcher Peter Gleick indulged in a sneaky bit of espionage to snag the group's confidential budget and other internal documents, which he promptly released to the public.
After those docs revealed that Heartland was backed by some pretty mainstream corporations and that it was planning to lobby to change public school curricula to discount climate science, controversy ensued. A couple major donors, including General Motors, jumped ship, and an acrimonious war of words took place between Heartland and the climate activist community. A group called Forecast the Facts, led by campaign director Brad Johnson, stepped up the pressure on companies that remained.
Then, just a couple months later, Heartland decided that it'd probably be a good idea to put up gigantic bilboard ads in Chicago that compared anyone who believes in climate change to the Unabomber. Perhaps they were seething from what they regarded as attacks from "climate alarmist" groups, but for whatever reason, the top management signed off on this thing, and controversy numero two took root.
And this time the response was much further reaching: Major staff resigned. Big corporate donors withdrew funding. Speakers who'd planned on attending Heartland's annual climate denialpalooza of a conference backed out.
In a fiery blogpost on the Heartland website, the organisation's president Joseph Bast admitted Heartland's defectors were "abandoning us in this moment of need".Essentially, Heartland is in the process of transforming into exactly what its critics have always imagined it was: A far-right mouthpiece for the fossil fuels industry devoid of moderate voices.
Over the last few weeks, Heartland has lost at least $825,000 in expected funds for 2012, or more than 35% of the funds its planned to raise from corporate donors, according to the campaign group Forecast the Facts, which is pushing companies to boycott the organisation.
The organisation has been forced to make up those funds by taking its first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry. The main Illinois coal lobby is a last-minute sponsor of this week's conference, undermining Heartland's claims to operate independently of fossil fuel interests.
Its entire Washington DC office, barring one staffer, decamped, taking Heartland's biggest project, involving the insurance industry, with them.
To make matters worse for them, Heartland's accusations that Gleick had forged one of the key documents in the cache he released has been deemed false. A review from the Pacific Institute has reportedly determined that Gleick did not forge the doc in question, a particularly explosive "strategy" document that famously suggested "cultivating" New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin.
O how the mighty fall.