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

[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 Wattsupwiththat.com 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

16 replies »

  1. “Heartland’s communications director, or any of Lakely’s staff”

    Case in point, as a mere admin assistant, even as a “coordinator” or “specialist” (glorified admin assistant titles) there have been many times I have been told to “send me a draft to get started with.” Granted, my anecdote isn’t data, merely a datum, but I’d have to be pretty spectacular to have been unique in that regard. Short of including everyone that reports to anyone with or affiliated with Heartland, their analysis is just be meaningless, imho. Identifiable turns of phrase could have originated with anyone there.

  2. I’ve been around businesspeople all my life, and once they reach a certain level, they get other people to help them write nearly everything they write. This is especially true if its going outside the company, in which corporate communications and/or marketing get involved (sometimes legal too) to put the best spin on it. It’s always a group effort.

    • Exactly. In fact, it’s rare for C Suite types to write anything for a couple of reasons. one, they’re too busy (or pretend to be, anyway) and two, few of them can actually write. So they order someone down the ladder – most decent organizations have somebody who can string a couple of sentences together, and if not they have a freelancer or agency standing by – and that person writes it. Then rewrites it six times as the honchos keep fucking with it (and often fucking it up).

      Corp comm can be funny, though. I have written things and sent them out the door with the signature of the CEO on them even though the CEO never so much as laid eyes on the piece.

    • William, I did miss that. I went looking for a response last night at both Heartland’s main site and at the Fakegate.org site and failed to find one. I’ll run a correction immediately.

  3. Your corrected version currently says: “eight internal Heartland Institute documents…. their response confirms that… the documents are authentic;”

    If you read their response they say 7 of the documents are authentic: “Documents 1-7 in the list you provided appear to be copies of confidential documents produced by The Heartland Institute and stolen by the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick.”

    They also the 8th document, the most controversial one, is not authentic “Document 8, the fake memo, is not an authentic Heartland document or draft document”

    • I downloaded personal copies of the documents from DeSmogBlog, and I could have sworn I counted eight authentic docs and one allegedly fabricated one, for a total of nine. I must have miscounted, as I do have other stuff in the same folder on my computer.

      Regardless how it happened, you are correct. I’ll correct the post accordingly.

  4. No, I think your 2nd correction is still wrong, just wrong in a different way.

    You now say: “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 crossed out) seven documents.”

    No. Check his letter. He gave them a deadline to authenticate eight documents.

    You then go on to say they authenticated the seven. No they responded to all eight (I’ve already given you some relevant quotes) – seven of the eight are in their words “apparently” authentic, but they say that one of the eight is a fake.

    I think you need a 3rd correction.

  5. I certainly hope Peter Gleick and his hypocrisy is punished. He admitted to fraud and is more likely than not the writer of the sham document. I simply cannot believe another thing from a criminal like Gleick.

    • What Gleick did was deceptive, and there’s a chance it was against the law. But thus far nothing I’ve heard indicates that charges have been filed, and he certainly hasn’t been to trial, so it’s more than a bit premature to call him a criminal.

      If you don’t want to believe anything he says ever again, that’s just fine. I would have trouble doing so myself. But let’s not forget that Gleick admitted he made a mistake publicly, something that shows Gleick has a conscience. The hacker or hackers who illegally published the CRU emails have not come forward to admit their error, indicating that they have no conscience or are afraid of living by society’s rules.

      And if you’re going to stop listening to Gleick over his hypocrisy and alleged fraud, then you need to stop listening to The Heartland Institute and their various outlets as well. The fact that they misrepresented themselves to a member of Greenpeace during the Bali conference, recorded the conversation without permission, and then posted it publicly without permission shows that they’re perfectly willing to use underhanded tactics so long as those same tactics aren’t used against them. That’s just the most recent example of Heartland’s long history of deception, dishonesty, and hypocrisy.

      Let’s add a few more people to the list of people you shouldn’t listen to, while we’re at it. Myron Ebell of the CEI should be ignored given his failure to retract or modify his opinions of Michael Mann after the National Science Foundation cleared Mann of scientific misconduct. Let’s add Steve Milloy of Junkscience.com as well, given his long and iniquitous history of science denial for hire. Let’s add Anthony Watts too, given he’s made all sorts of claims about BEST and Mann and surface stations and Climategate and has never retracted his comments that I’m aware of.

      Joe D’Aleo. Steve McIntyre. Judy Curry. And that’s just for hypocrisy.

  6. Actually, there were only six “stolen” documents. The remaining document was not “stolen” but neither is its authenticity in dispute. It’s the 990 tax return form which is publicly available in many places, including Heartland’s website.

    There were two versions of the archive at Desmogblog, and one at ThinkProgress. I think that only Demelle’s archive had all eight. By the way, ThinkProgress no longer has the disputed Climate Strategy document. I’m not sure exactly when they removed it from their archive listing. Personally, I had stopped linking or quoting from it within 24 hours of my original post, a decision validated by subsequent events I would say.

    I very much doubt it is what it purports to be, although I don’t claim to be 100% certain of its exact provenance. But let’s face it, the longer Gleick refuses to adduce evidence supporting his story that he got it in the mail, the more doubt there will be about the document.

    Gleick’s future credibility hangs even more on this question, than the deception he is already admitted to. As for Gleick’s conscience, he had already been identified as the likely “phisher”. Would he have come forward otherwise? I doubt it.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think Heartland has behaved despicably, and deserves to be criticized for their misdeeds, both past and planned (which I have done). So do all the others you mention – and I would add more to that list.

    But as far as the actual facts of this case, Heartland’s version of events is holding up better than some of their opponents. That includes all the bloggers who said Heartland must be lying when they claimed the documents had been “phished” and that one of them was a forgery, Some have even purported to have evidence of Bast authorship of the disputed climate strategy memo.

    Why cling to the disputed memo? Think Progress (and Joe Romm) know better than that.

  7. “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. ”

    That sounds about right, and is an improvement on my initial comment in #11. I don’t think either DSB or TP are showing all nine at this point, but maybe someone else is.

  8. DeepClimate – I think (?) that I agree with your count of 9. Markey’s letter however referred to only 8 documents, one of which was the dubious memo.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t believe the board minutes have ever been published. This is quite interesting, because according to Heartland’s screenshots, that is one of the documents that Gleick phished.

    If he phished it, did he forward it? That would seem unlikely that he forwarded it, because one of the recipients would surely have published it.

    So if he phished, why didn’t he forward it?

    Obviously accident is a possibility?

    Or perhaps there is another possibility?