The Heartland Institute: updates on the documents, memo authorship, and another example of hypocrisy [Corrected]

Posted on March 16, 2012


[Update When I corrected the number of documents that Heartland authenticated on March 15 from eight to seven, I missed a few other places where minor corrections and updates were needed. I’ve updated this first section to make it clearer that Heartland authenticated the seven internal documents that were published.

See also the 3/19/12 Editor’s Note at the bottom of the post.]

Today is March 16. 31 days ago, on Valentine’s Day, eight seven internal Heartland Institute documents that revealed the Institute’s 2012 budget, 2012 and 2011 donors, and their plans for climate disinformation for the coming year, were published without permission. 21 days ago, Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey, ranking member on the House Committee on Natural Resources, gave Joseph Bast of The Heartland Institute a deadline of today to authenticate those eight seven documents.

[Correction: When this post was written, Heartland’s response to Markey had not yet been published. However, Heartland did respond to Markey’s requests. The following section has been updated accordingly.]

Bast and The Heartland Institute refused to comply with Markey’s request and deadline. As such, we can now assume that Heartland’s silence means that

On March 15, Bast and The Heartland Institute responded to Markey’s request. Their response confirms that:

  1. the seven internal documents are authentic;
  2. those documents are accurate and correctly describe the subjects contained within the documents; and
  3. those documents have not been changed since they were obtained and published.

This means that Heartland can no longer use the excuse that the documents hadn’t been authenticated as a means to divert attention from their funding priorities and donors.

Given the significance of the internal Heartland documents, the more journalists dig into the Institute’s recent history and donors, the better.

Allegedly fabricated memo authorship still unknown despite claims to the contrary

In other Heartland news, Anthony Watts of the climate disruption denying website posted a stylometric analysis of the allegedly fabricated “strategy memo” by Dr. Patrick Juola of Duquesne University. Unfortunately, a close reading of the analysis reveals a number of caveats that essentially negate the conclusion of the analysis itself.

First, Juola assumes that the author must be either Heartland President Joseph Bast or the document leaker Peter Gleick. This is a significant oversight, as people in positions of authority often get assistance writing documents from administrative assistants, subject matter experts, and public relations experts. Bast’s administrative assistant, the editor of Heartland’s Environment and Climate News magazine James M. Taylor, and communications director Jim Lakely should have been included in the analysis as well, as a minimum.

In addition to people associated with The Heartland Institute, people associated with Gleick should have been considered too. Some examples could be his fellow board members at the Pacific Institute, any number of other scientists who are outspoken on climate issues, and any associates of Gleick’s who happen to be climate activists.

Second, the text obtained from both Bast and Gleick may not have been written by Bast or Gleick. The Bast texts selected by Joula might have been written by Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, or any of Lakely’s staff, instead of by Bast himself. S&R knows that at least one of the Gleick text samples provided by Watts was not written entirely by Gleick. There’s no evidence that Juola did the necessary quality control on each of the text samples to ensure that the samples were actualy written by the authors in the analysis.

Third, the “strategy memo” is only 717 words long, of which at least 266 were identified by Heartland as being largely cut/paste or paraphrases of text from the eight other authentic documents. This means that the analysis had no more than 451 words upon which to run the analysis. Juola’s own reference material (see the black circles in the graph above) points out that, for so few words, the percentage of correct attributions is between 20 and 25%. This means that, even if we knew who the author was, the analysis would only identify the author via stylometry 20-25% of the time.

And fourth, Juola claims that Gleick and Bast appear to have very similar writing styles even excluding the allegedly fabricated “strategy memo.”

All of these caveats combined mean that Juola used too small of an author sample, didn’t independently quality control his text samples, and had too few words to draw any conclusions. Yet Juola did draw a conclusion, writing that Gleick was “more likely than not” the author of the memo. Given all the caveats, this conclusion cannot be supported.

Until such time as the actual author of the memo admits his or her authorship, we will not be able to say whether the “strategy memo” actually is, or is not, fabricated.

Heartland’s hypocrisy reaches new depths

According to Cindy Baxter of Greenpeace, someone associated phoned her at 4 AM local time during the Bali climate conference in 2007, identified himself as someone working with a small US NGO, and asked for some information. That someone was associated in some way with The Heartland Institute, because James M. Taylor wrote a blog on the conversation and linked to the recorded audio file.

Baxter did not give permission to have the conversation recorded, and she did not give permission to have the audio published. Yet someone associated with Heartland did both, possibly breaking wiretap laws in the process. After lying to Baxter about his identity.

If this sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that – it’s almost identical to what Gleick did in order to acquire the authentic Heartland documents he leaked to journalists and climate activists on Valentine’s Day.

To date, S&R has identified repeated examples of hypocrisy at The Heartland Institute. Heartland has demanded that websites remove the authentic Heartland documents but refuse to call on climate science denying websites to remove the illegally published Climategate emails. Heartland has demanded that other websites not comment on their internal documents, but they continue to write about the Climategate emails themselves. Heartland has demanded that other website behave ethically when Heartland’s own behavior shows a pattern of deception and dishonesty. And now, Heartland is threatening a lawsuit for actions that they themselves have done in the past.

Heartland claims that they’re not being hypocritical.

They’re wrong.

[Ed. Note (3/19/2012): When Gleick forwarded the Heartland documents to various people and the documents were originally published, there were a total of nine documents – seven that Gleick acquired by misrepresentation, one that was publicly available, and one that Heartland claims is fraudulent. Since then, the number of documents that are publicly available has changed depending on the website. Some have removed the allegedly fraudulent document. Others have removed a board directory that was included in the seven internal Heartland documents. Others have removed both, and some have removed neither. As such, any number of Heartland internal documents between six and eight could be justified, depending on what source the reader has looked at most recently.]

Image Credits:
Peter Sinclair
Maciej Eder