Green group admits to illegally obtaining documents

February 21, 2012

The president of a green research group, the Pacific Institute, has admitted to illegally obtaining documents on climate change from the Heartland Institute and releasing them to journalists.

Peter H. Gleick, a water and climate analyst, wrote on the Huffington Post Tuesday that he posed as another person to acquire documents from Heartland:

At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute's climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute's apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues.

The documents released included a strategy memo Gleick says was mailed to him by an anonymous source. Heartland has said the strategy memo is forged. The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle found a number of discrepancies with the memo, including misreporting the amount of money the Charles G. Koch Foundation had given to Heartland in 2011 and the intended use for the donation. The memo claims Koch donated $200,000 to Heartland for climate change research; Koch has said the donation was for $25,000 and designated for health care research.