We Berate, You Deride – A closer look at the background of Steven J. Milloy, executive director of DemandDebate.com

Posted on November 27, 2007


Steve Milloy Fox NewsYesterday we looked at a survey produced by DemandDebate.com that claims to show a complete lack scientific consensus on global heating. And I illustrated that the survey was so crippled by bad methodology, poor question design, and selection biases that it could have only one purpose – anti-global heating propaganda. Today we turn our attention to Steven J. Milloy, DemandDebate.com’s executive director, focusing on the people and organizations he’s been associated with over the years.

The first significant mention of Mr. Milloy is when he was working for a think tank known as the National Environmental Policy Institute. This think tank was originally funded using money from corporate polluters including Exxon, Bethlehem Steel, and Shell Oil. NEPI’s raison d’être was to encourage public mistrust of scientific studies that hadn’t been funded by the polluters themselves, and according to SourceWatch.org, NEPI activities were very effective. Mr. Milloy was the NEPI’s Director of Science Policy Studies and worked with a number of people, including Robert W. Hahn and Kenneth P. Green.

Since his time at NEPI, Robert W. Hahn has become a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and is the founder and executive director of The AEI-Brookings Joint Center. Over the years, Mr. Hahn has published extensively as an economic expert, pointing out that net neutrality is bad for business and thus bad for the U.S. and that EPA regulations on mercury were too expensive given the expected increase in child IQ as a result of lower mercury exposure (see Mr. Hahn’s C.V. here). In addition, he’s signed on to Amici Curiae briefs including one that sought to convince the Supreme Court that the EPA should not regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants, a position that was rejected 5-4 by the Supreme Court. Given that Mr. Hahn is a libertarian conservative, these opinions aren’t exactly surprising, but they do provide a glimpse into the political leanings of one of Mr. Milloy’s former associates, and thus suggests some details of Mr. Milloy’s own political views.

Kenneth P. Green, on the other hand, is a much more malignant former associate of Mr. Milloy’s. Like Mr. Hahn, Mr. Green is a scholar for the AEI, but he has also worked for the Reason Foundation, and Canada’s Fraser Institute. The Reason Foundation has been backed by both Phillip Morris and ExxonMobil to argue against tobacco regulations and second-hand smoke legislation and to oppose global heating and greenhouse gas legislation respectively. And while Mr. Green was at the Fraser Institute, ExxonMobil paid $120,000 specifically for his work opposing global heating legislation and science. But most damning is Mr. Green and the AEI’s offer of a $10,000 “honoraria” to any scientist willing to go on record against the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report:

We are hoping to sponsor a paper by you and Prof. North that thoughtfully explores the limitations of climate model outputs as they pertain to the development of climate policy (as opposed to the utility of climate models in more theoretical climate research). In particular, we are looking for an author who can write a well-supported but accessible discussion of which elements from climate modeling have demonstrated predictive value that might make them policy-relevant and which elements of climate modeling have less levels of predictive utility, and hence, less utility in developing climate policy. If you are interested in the idea, or have thoughts about who else might be interested, please give Ken Green a call at 202-862-4883 at your convenience.

If you and Prof. North are agreeable to being authors, AEI will offer an honoraria of $10,000….
(source: Letter dated July 5, 2006 from Ken Green and Steven F Hayward of AEI to Prof. Steve Schroeder, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University)

The Guardian newspaper broke this news on February 2, 2007, and there has since been an official AEI response to the accusations of bribery. Given that a $10,000 honoraria represents a significant percentage of the U.S. average faculty salary (over 13% of the average US pay for all classes of faculty in the U.S. according to this NEA report, namely Table 10 on page 20), I find the AEI’s protests unconvincing, and the grossly unethical letter and honoraria cast significant doubt on the ethics of another of Mr. Milloy’s former associates.

In addition, the American Enterprise Institute has been generously funded by Philip Morris and ExxonMobil, and its current membership includes former UN ambassador John Bolton, Lynne Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz (disgraced former head of the World Bank), and John Yoo (architect of President Bush’s lawless imprisonment and torture policies), among others.

While Mr. Milloy was at NEPI, he also worked with an organization knowns as the Air Quality Standards Coalition (AQSC), a group that has since become the Foundation for Clean Air Progress (FCAP). The AQSC and FCAP both are entities created by major polluters and the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller and and operated for a while by the conservative political insider and corporate lobbyist C. Boyden Gray.

The Washington Post reported on June 17, 1997 that FCAP participates in a “multimillion-dollar campaign to turn back EPA regulations for smog and soot. … The nerve center behind the attack is a coalition of more than 500 businesses and trade groups that calls itself the Air Quality Standards Coalition. Created specifically to battle the clean air proposals, the coalition operates out of the offices of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based trade group. Its leadership includes top managers of petroleum, automotive and utility companies as well as longtime Washington insiders such as C. Boyden Gray, a counsel to former president George Bush.
(source: PRWatch’s correction about a link between Burson-Marsteller and Global Climate Coalition)

Burson-Marsteller has a record of using fake news reports to garner attention, creating astroturf lobbying groups like FCAP to lobby on behalf of clients, and using Philip Morris’ money to try and discredit EPA science on second-hand smoke. Burson-Marsteller is also the new PR firm for Blackwater USA.

Mr. Milloy also founded the The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), later renamed The Advancement of Sound Science Center. TASSC was created by APCO Associated using money provided by Philip Morris (PM) specifically to work with PM as a “public affairs” group for “Consumers/Special Constituents” (see page 9) on issues such as the safety of second-hand smoke. There are many documents in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library that tie PM to TASSC via APCO, including this plan for launching TASSC sent from APCO to PM and this discussion of PM’s funding of TASSC’s 1994 budget. In brief, an organization that Mr. Milloy founded (TASSC) was created by Philip Morris via a public relations firm in order to “encourage the public to question the validity of scientific studies” and to “establish an image of a national grassroots coalition” (source, pages 2 & 3).

For more information on TASSC and it’s connections to both Philip Morris and ExxonMobil, check out the many references in the Wikipedia entry, Mother Jones, and ExxonSecrets.org. Also check out the list of members of the Cooler Heads Coalition, including four organizations directly tied to Mr. Milloy and at least two more tied to him via the same financial backers (which we’ll be discussing in detail tomorrow).

So far, we’ve seen that Mr. Milloy’s early career has him distorting scientific data and methods to serve the political desires of ExxonMobil, Philip Morris, Shell, and other polluters.. But his saga of deceit doesn’t end there. When asked to be a judge for the 2004 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Journalism Awards, he refused to reveal a conflict of interest that would have disqualified him from being a judge, namely his involvement with the Cato Institute as an adjunct scholar (as reported by Paul D. Thacker in Environmental Science and Technology – Online and SEJournal, Fall 2005, starting on page 4). Additionally, Mr. Milloy continues to distort and misrepresent facts in his position as adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Mr. Milloy distorts a British judge’s ruling about the documentary An Inconvenient Truth in ways that make the judge’s ruling sound dramatically anti-Gore. In fact, Mr. Justice Burton says specifically the following:

I turn to AIT, the film. The following is clear:
i) It is substantially founded upon scientific research and fact, albeit that the science is used, in the hands of a talented politician and communicator, to make a political statement and to support a political programme….

While Mr. Justice Burton points out that there are “errors” (and yes, he includes the quotes to indicate that the errors he found may or may not be actual scientific errors) in An Inconvenient Truth, those “errors” do nothing to detract from the broadly accurate portrayal of global heating by Mr. Gore. Mr. Justice Burton says specifically that “[he has] no doubt that Dr. Stott, the Defendant’s expert, is right when he says that: Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.” Yet Mr. Milloy’s presentation focuses almost exclusively on the “errors” and conveniently neglects any mention of Mr. Justice Burton’s legal opinion regarding “causes and likely effects.”

It’s also interesting to note that the Competitive Enterprise Institute itself has received over $2 million in funding from ExxonMobil since 1998 and has been in the forefront of the global heating debunker crowd.

In addition to founding and directing TASSC, Mr. Milloy has also founded other websites. In addition to DemandDebate.com and JunkScience.com, Mr. Milloy also founded Consumer Distorts, StopLabelingLies.com, IGF-1, Milk, and Cancer, and the Aspartame Archives. While Consumer Distorts has been subsumed into JunkScience.com since its founding in 1999, it was originally created to publicize the “distortions” used by Consumers Union in their testing of products and their political advocacy. Here’s Consumers Union’s response. StopLabelingLies.com is still in operation, and from the About Us page, Mr. Milloy is still associated with it (via the Citizens for the Integrity of Science, the organization that also funds JunkScience.com). The examples of so-called “labeling lies” make it clear that StopLabelingLies.com is more interested in distorting facts than it is in actually understanding the labeling laws. In the process of investigating Mr. Milloy’s criticism of Horizon Organic dairy product labels, I discovered that StopLabelingLies.com perverted Horizon Organic’s actual claims about their dairy products. The exact wording used by Horizon is “Produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth hormone, or dangerous pesticides.” This statement doesn’t say that the milk contains “no hormones” as StopLabelingLies.com claims, only that the milk is produced without the added hormones commonly present in non-organic milk. Similarly, the Horizon Organic label doesn’t say that there are “no pesticides” or “no antibiotics” in the milk as StopLabelingLies.com also claims, but rather that the milk is produced without the use of either. This means that the cows were not injected with antibiotics and that the fields were not treated with, as Horizon Organic says, “synthetic fertilizers, dangerous pesticides or other toxic and persistent chemicals” (a requirement for USDA organic certification, a certification that Horizon Organic has earned).

Finally, if we look at DemandDebate.com itself, we find that it is also devoted to developing anti-global heating propaganda. For example, the first of the “We Debate, You Decide” series of educational videos is a mock debate between Al Gore and various global heating deniers. However, because Mr. Gore won’t actually debate these deniers, DemanDebate.com sampled small video segments of Mr. Gore’s presentations and statements, took them out of context, and then used each sample as a prelude to the opinion of one or more global heating denier. However, this cannot be considered a debate in any sense of the word since there is no exchange of views or opinions – it’s a monologue from DemandDebate.com to the viewer in an attempt to assassinate Mr. Gore’s character. DemandDebate.com is also being used by Mr. Milloy as a mouthpiece for another of his organizations, the Free Enterprise Education Institute (currently hosted at JunkScience.com), by trumpeting a report calling on the SEC to force corporations to reveal how much global heating mitigations will cost them. Finally, DemandDebate.com touts a correction to the U.S. temperature since the late 1800s that makes 1934 the hottest year on record in the U.S. Unfortunately for Mr. Milloy, I personally have debunked this particular bit of misinformation: Changes in U.S. climate data does nothing to debunk global heating.

Given the amount of disinformation and outright propaganda that Mr. Milloy and his various associates have issued over the years, it is inconceivable to consider him a source of accurate scientific information of any kind. Given this conclusion, the fact that his IPCC survey was slop at best is hardly a surprise.

Yesterday: Part 1 – DemandDebate.com’s survey on the scientific consensus surrounding global heating
Tomorrow: A look at Steven J. Milloy’s current affiliates and backers

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