The President and CEO of Heartland is Joseph Bast. A prominent conservative, Bast has been recognized by the State Policy Network, is a member of the board of the American Conservative Union, and has written a number of books, including ones titled Why We Spend Too Much on Health Care and Climate Change Reconsidered. Bast might be most well-known for his emphatic defense of the tobacco industry. In a 1998 op-ed, Bast claimed that “moderate” smoking does not raise a smoker’s risk of lung cancer, and there are “few, if any, adverse health effects” connected to it. A year after the op-ed was published Bast wrote in a fundraising letter to a Phillip Morris executive that “Heartland does many things that benefit Philip Morris’s bottom line, things that no other organization does.” In 2014 Bast denied ever claiming that cigarettes were not harmful, until confronted with his own op-ed.
In 2012, leaked internal documents revealed Heartland’s strategy to undermine climate science, including plans to create a school curriculum, with assistance from the Charles Koch Foundation, designed to “cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet.” The documents also discussed “Operation Angry Badger,” described by the New York Times as “a plan to spend $612,000 to influence the outcome of recall elections and related fights … in Wisconsin over the role of public-sector unions.”
Also in 2012, the Institute launched and then quickly pulled a billboard ad campaign comparing people who believe in climate change to murderers like Charles Manson and the “Unabomber,” Ted Kaczynski. The Kaczynski billboard featured a giant photo of his face next to the words, “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” The billboard was taken down after a number of corporations pulled their support from the organization.
Heartland has hosted nine “International Conferences on Climate Change.” The conferences bring together climate change skeptics to, as the New York Times described, “challenge what has become a broad scientific and political consensus: that without big changes in energy choices, humans will dangerously heat up the planet.” The most recent conference invited people to “come to fabulous Las Vegas to meet leading scientists from around the world who question whether ‘man-made global warming’ will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare. Learn from top economists and policy experts about the real costs and futility of trying to stop global warming.” Heartland has highlighted its conferences in its quarterly publication, QPR, the latest edition of which boasted about the most recent conference “busting myths” about climate change. QPR cited contributing panelists from organizations like the conservative Christian Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, accusing experts who believe in climate change of being “radical environmentalists” and “climate alarmists.”
Heartland also continues its crusade to get misinformation into public school text books. It pressed the Texas public school system to accept changes to new text books, which include “false information regarding climate change and ozone depletion.” One passage written by Heartland reads, “Scientists who study the issue say it is impossible to tell if the recent small warming trend is natural, a continuation of the planet’s recovery from the more recent ‘Little Ice Age,’ or unnatural, the result of human greenhouse gas emissions.”
Heartland has also argued that climate change could be beneficial to the earth. The group’s communications director told Mother Jones that “the net benefits of warming are going to far outweigh any negative effects.” The Institute even published an entire study arguing that claim, and that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and warmer temperatures “benefit nearly all plants.”
In addition to its continuing climate change denial, Heartland has started to campaign against the production of green renewable energy. It has joined groups including the Americans for Prosperity and ALEC to push “more than a dozen states” to consider proposals that would “weaken or eliminate green energy mandates and incentives.” The group’s senior fellow for environmental policy even took credit for persuading “most of ALEC’s state legislators and corporate members to push for a repeal of laws requiring more solar and wind power use on the basis of economics.” With their massive business interests’ billions of profits dependent on oil, the Kochs have been heavily motivated to block any regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and tax credits for alternative energy, and to assist with Heartland with its anti-climate agenda.
In 2013, the most recent year for which financial information is available, the group took in over $3.6 million in contributions and grants, and spent more than $5 million on is operations, including $2.1 million on distributing its publications, such as QPR, the group’s quarterly newsletter sent to donors, as well as printing and mailing thousands of its climate denial books. The Conservative Transparency database has identified more than $24.7 million of the group’s contributions since 1986, including $11 million of its contributions since 2009. Since 2009, the bulk of its money has come from Donors Capital Fund, a conservative donor-advised fund; the Mercer Family Foundation run by hedge fund manager Robert Mercer; and the Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking, run by investor William A. Dunn.