The Heartland Institute

SOURCE:  Wikipedia, captured 2020-06-30

  • Founder: David Padden
  • Founded: 1984 (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)
  • Founder: David H. Padden (also Founding Director, Cato Institute)  |  Memorials (dec. 2011-10):
  • Type: 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization
  • IRS Form 990: 2016  |  2017  |  2018
  • Budget (FYE December 2015): Revenue: $4,398,175 | Expenses: $5,770,366
  • Budget (FYE December 2016): Revenue: $5,480,656 | Expenses: $5,524,414
  • Budget (FYE December 2017): Revenue: $5,994,969 | Expenses: $5,471,048
  • Budget (FYE December 2018): Revenue: $5,848,674 | Expenses: $4,998,562
  • Location: Arlington Heights, Illinois, United States
  • Focus: public policy; climate change denial; disinformation source [e.g. note this biography on Director Steven J. Milloy]
  • Key people: Board of Directors
  • Website:
  • See also (climate change denial):  Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow  |  Competitive Enterprise Institute  |  Cooler Heads Coalition


    The Heartland Institute was founded in 1984 by Chicago investor David H. Padden, who served as the organization's chairman until 1995. Padden had been a Director of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C., since its founding as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974. Padden was also a former director of Citizens for a Sound Economy,  the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty,  the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Center for Libertarian Studies. At age 26, Joseph Lee Bast became The Heartland Institute's first employee. Bast's wife Diane was The Heartland Institute's publications director.

    In the 1990s, The Heartland Institute worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question serious cancer risks to secondhand smoke, and to lobby against government public-health regulations. Starting in 2008, The Heartland Institute has organized conferences to question the scientific consensus on climate change.

    After the election of U.S. President Barack Obama in November 2008, The Heartland InstituteTea Party movement. According to the organization's director of communications, speaking at the sixth International Conference on Climate Change in 2011: "The support of the Tea Party groups across the country has been extremely valuable." The Heartland Institute was among the organizers of the September 2009 Tea Party protest march, the Taxpayer March on Washington. In support of the Tea Party movement, The Heartland Institute offered free literature and other assistance to Tea Party activists, created a website "," and distributed a free book, The Patriot's Toolbox.


    The Heartland Institute says it has a full-time staff of 29, including editors and senior fellows, as well as 222 unpaid policy advisers. The Heartland Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity . The Heartland Institute reported revenues of $4.8 million in 2013.

    In 2020-03, The Heartland Institute laid off staff, reportedly in response to financial issues.

  • Staff  [source: The Heartland Institute]

    Policy positions

    According to The Heartland Institute, it advocates free market policies. The policy orientation of The Heartland Institute has been described as conservative, libertarian, and right wing. The Heartland Institute promotes climate change denial, advocates for smoker's rights, for the privatization of public resources including school privatization, for school vouchers, for lower taxes and against subsidies and tax credits for individual businesses, and against an expanded federal role in health care, among other issues. In addition to lobbying activities, The Heartland Institute hosts an internet application called "Policybot" which serves as a clearinghouse for research from other conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Cato Institute.

    Tobacco regulation

    The Heartland Institute has long questioned the links between tobacco smoking, secondhand smoke, and lung cancer and the social costs imposed by smokers. One of The Heartland Institute's first campaigns was against tobacco regulation. According to the Los Angeles Times, The Heartland Institute's advocacy for the tobacco industry is one of the two things The Heartland Institute is most widely known for.

    During the 1990s, The Heartland Institute worked with tobacco company Philip Morris to question the links between smoking, secondhand smoke and health risks. Philip Morris commissioned The Heartland Institute to write and distribute reports. The Heartland Institute published a policy study which summarized a jointly prepared report by the Association of Private Enterprise Education and Philip Morris. The Heartland Institute also undertook a variety of other activities on behalf of the tobacco industry, including meeting with legislators, holding off-the-record briefings, and producing op-eds, radio interviews, and letters.

    A 1993 internal "Five Year Plan" from Philip Morris to address environmental tobacco smoke regulation called for support for the efforts of The Heartland Institute. In 1996, Heartland Institute president and chief executive officer Joe Bast wrote an essay entitled "Joe Camel is Innocent!," which said that contributions from the tobacco industry to Republican political campaigns were most likely because Republicans "have been leading the fight against the use of 'junk science' by the Food and Drug Administration and its evil twin, the Environmental Protection Agency." In the "President's Letter" in the July 1998 issue of The Heartlander, The Heartland Institute's magazine, Bast wrote an essay "Five Lies about Tobacco," which said "smoking in moderation has few, if any, adverse health effects." In 1999, Bast referenced the essays in soliciting financial support from Philip Morris, writing "Heartland does many things that benefit Philip Morris' bottom line, things that no other organization does." A Philip Morris executive, the firm's manager of industrial affairs, was a member of the board of directors of The Heartland Institute. In 2005, The Heartland Institute opposed Chicago's public smoking ban, at the time one of the strictest bans in the country.

    Climate change

    The Heartland Institute rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, claims that the amount of climate change is not catastrophic, claims that climate change might be beneficial, and that the economic costs of trying to mitigate climate change exceed the benefits. According to The New York Times, The Heartland Institute is "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism." The Heartland Institute has been a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group dedicated to denying climate change science, since 1997. Institute staff "recognize that climate change is a profound threat to our economic and social systems and therefore deny its scientific reality," wrote Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything.

    In their 2010 book "Merchants of Doubt," Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway wrote that The Heartland Institute was known "for its persistent questioning of climate science, for its promotion of 'experts' who have done little, if any, peer-reviewed climate research, and for its sponsorship of a conference in New York City in 2008 alleging that the scientific community's work on global warming is fake." The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society in a chapter "Organized Climate Change Denial" identified The Heartland Institute as a conservative think tank with a strong interest in environmental and climate issues involved in climate change denial. The Heartland Institute "emerged as a leading force in climate change denial" in the decade 2003-2013, according to sociology professor Riley Dunlap of Oklahoma State University and political science professor Peter J. Jacques of the University of Central Florida. Historians James Morton Turner and Andrew Isenberg describe The Heartland Institute as a leader in the "scientific misinformation campaign" against climate change.

    Fred Singer is the director of The Heartland Institute's  Science and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute is a member organization of the Cooler Heads Coalition.

    "Heartland's influence on national climate policy is at an apex" in 2017-03 according to PBS Frontline.

    Heartland Institute's list of scientists said to doubt global warming

    In 2008, The Heartland Institute published a list purporting to identify "500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares." The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the work of Jim Salinger, chief scientist at New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, was "misrepresented" as part of a "denial campaign." In response to criticism, The Heartland Institute changed the title of the list to "500 Scientists Whose Research Contradicts Man-Made Global Warming Scares." Heartland did not remove any scientist's name from the list. Avery explained, "Not all of these researchers would describe themselves as global warming skeptics...but the evidence in their studies is there for all to see." The Heartland Institute's then president, Joseph Bast, argued that the scientists "have no right -- legally or ethically -- to demand that their names be removed" from The Heartland Institute's list.

    Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change and Climate Change Reconsidered

    Since 2008, The Heartland Institute has published the work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international group of scientists who analyze the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other published, peer-reviewed studies that relate to climate change. The aggregated work of the NIPCC is known as "Climate Change Reconsidered" and concludes, in contradiction to the IPCC and the consensus of the scientific community, that human emissions will not lead to dangerous global warming and climate change.

    International Conferences on Climate Change

    The Heartland Institute's conventions of climate change doubters are one of the things The Heartland Institute is largely known for, according to the Los Angeles Times. Between 2008 and 2019 The Heartland Institute has organized thirteen International Conferences on Climate Change, bringing together hundreds of global warming skeptics. Conference speakers have included Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT; Roy Spencer, a research scientist and climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville; S. Fred Singer, a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and who was founding dean of the School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences at the University of Miami and founding director of the National Weather Satellite Service; Harrison Schmitt, a geologist and former NASA astronaut and Apollo 17 moonwalker; Dr. John Theon, atmospheric scientist and former NASA supervisor; and Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon, a part-time employee of the Solar and Stellar Physics (SSP) Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    In the first conference, participants criticized the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore. In 2010 the BBC reported that the heavily politicized nature of The Heartland Institute led some "moderate" climate skeptics to avoid them. In an article in The Nation, the 6th conference was described as "the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet." The 7th conference (May 2012) was the main subject of the October 2012 documentary, "Climate of Doubt," by Frontline, a public television series of original, in-depth documentaries. At the conclusion of the 7th conference, Joseph Bast announced that the organization might discontinue the conferences, but the eighth conference was held in Munich, Germany later the same year (30 November and 1 December 2012). The ninth conference was held during July 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 2015 tenth conference was held in Washington D.C. Speakers and panelists at the 2017 twelfth conference included Bast, Soon, Christopher Monckton, marketing professor J. Scott Armstrong, retired astronaut Walter Cunningham, policy analyst Indur M. Goklany, physicist William Happer, geologist Don Easterbrook, and U. S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. The 2019 thirteenth conference was held at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

    May 2012 "Unabomber" billboard campaign

    On Thursday 2012-05-03, The Heartland Institute launched an advertising campaign in the Chicago area, and put up digital billboards along the Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois, featuring a photo of Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber" whose mail bombs killed three people and injured 23 others, asking the question, "I still believe in global warming, do you?" They withdrew the billboards a day later. The Heartland Institute planned for the campaign to feature murderer Charles Manson, communist leader Fidel Castro and perhaps Osama bin Laden, asking the same question. The Heartland Institute justified the billboards saying "the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen."

    The billboard reportedly "unleashed a social media-fed campaign, including a petition from the advocacy group Forecast the Facts calling on The Heartland Institute's corporate backers to immediately pull their funding," and prompted Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) to threaten to cancel his speech at the upcoming seventh International Conference on Climate Change organized by The Heartland Institute. (Sensenbrenner ultimately did speak at the conference.) Within 24 hours The Heartland Institute cancelled the campaign, although its president refused to apologize for it.

    The advertising campaign led to the resignation of two of The Heartland Institute's 12 board members, and the resignation of almost the entire iThe Heartland Institute's Washington D.C. office, taking The Heartland Institute's biggest project (on insurance) with it. The staff of the former Heartland insurance project founded the R Street Institute and announced they "will not promote climate change skepticism."

    Following the 2012 document leak and the controversial billboard campaign, substantial funding was lost as corporate donors, including the General Motors Foundation, sought to dissociate themselves from The Heartland Institute. According to the advocacy group Forecast the Facts, The Heartland Institute lost more than $825,000, or one third of planned corporate fundraising for the year. The shortfall led to sponsorship of The Heartland Institute's 2012-05 climate conference by Illinois' coal lobby, the Illinois Coal Association, The Heartland Institute's "first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry," and the Heritage Foundation. The billboard controversy led to the loss of substantial corporate funding, including telecommunications firm AT&T, financial service firm BB&T, alcoholic beverage company Diageo and about two dozen insurance companies, including State Farm and the United Services Automobile Association. Pharmaceutical companies Amgen, Eli Lilly, Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline ended financial support. The Heartland Institute's 2012-05 climate conference was smaller than previous years.

    October 2012 repeal of mandates on renewable energy

    The Heartland Institute wrote model legislation to repeal mandates on renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, and presented the model legislation to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives that drafts and shares model state-level legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States. ALEC's board of directors adopted the model legislation in October 2012.

    June 2013 Chinese Academy of Sciences

    In 2013, the Chinese Academy of Sciences published a report from The Heartland Institute in order to better understand the public debate and encourage discussion of other views. The preface included a disclaimer that the Academy did not endorse the views in the report, but in June, The Heartland Institute announced that the Chinese Academy of Sciences supported their views, and said the publication placed significant scientific weight against climate change. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, responding to the announcement, said "The claim of The Heartland Institute about CAS' endorsement of its report is completely false," clarified that they did not endorse the views of The Heartland Institute, and asked for a retraction.

    April 2015 Vatican Council on climate change

    On April 28, 2015, the Catholic Church convened a council to discuss the religious implications of global warming. Held at the Vatican and hosted by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, it was attended by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as well as national presidents, CEOs, academics, scientists, and representatives of the world's major religions. The Heartland Institute sent a delegation in an attempt to present a dissenting opinion. It held a "prebuttal" of the conference and argued that climate science does not justify papal recognition of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    After the council ended, a representative (Marc Morano) from The Heartland Institute broke into a press briefing being given by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was reporting on his meeting with the Pope. He interrupted the Secretary-General and the moderator, asking that global-warming skeptics be allowed to speak. After a few minutes, he was escorted from the premises by Vatican officials. In response to the papal encyclical "Laudato Si'," which outlined the Church's moral case for addressing climate change, and in anticipation of Pope Francis' September 2015 visit to the United States, Gene Koprowski, director of marketing for The Heartland Institute, suggested that the Pope's pronouncements on climate change indicate that "pagan forms are returning to the Church this day."

    Center for Transforming Education

    In March 2017, The Heartland Institute's program the Center for Transforming Education began an unsolicited mailing of The Heartland Institute's book "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming" and a companion DVD to all 200,000 K-12 science teachers in the U. S., with a cover letter giving a link to an online course planning guide. The material is not science and was intended to confuse teachers, according to the National Center for Science Education.

    Privatization of government services

    The Heartland Institute is a critic of current federal, state, and local budgets and tax codes. Several of Institute's budgetary views include privatization of federal services to a competitive marketplace, changing the tax code to a more simplified version of the current code, and implementing Taxpayer Savings Grants.

    In 1987, The Heartland Institute advocated for tenant ownership of the Chicago Housing Authority's Cabrini-Green Homes public housing complex through a cooperative or condominium conversion. In 1990, The Heartland Institute advocated for lower taxes in Illinois to foster job growth.

    The Heartland Institute advocated for the privatization of Illinois' toll highway system in 1999 and 2000. In 2008, The Heartland Institute opposed state subsidies and tax credits for local film productions, saying the economic benefits are less than the incentives.


    The Heartland Institute supports increased availability of (public) charter schools, education tax credits to attend private schools, and vouchers for low-income students to attend a public or private K-12 school of their family's choosing, as well as the Parent Trigger reform that started in California. The Heartland Institute supports the introduction of market reforms into the public K-12 education system to increase competition and provide more options and greater choice for parents and their children.

    In 1994, The Heartland Institute criticized the Chicago Public Schools' reform efforts and advocated privatization of public schools and school vouchers.

    In 2014, The Heartland Institute published Rewards: How to Use Rewards to Help Children Learn -- and Why Teachers Don't Use Them Well co-authored by Joseph Bast, which argued that the public education system should embrace incentives and rewards to spur student achievement.


    The Heartland Institute advocates for free-market reforms in healthcare and opposes federal control over the healthcare industry. The Heartland Institute supports Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), replacing federal tax deductions for employer-based healthcare with a refundable tax credit to allow individual choice over health insurance, removing state and Federal healthcare regulations aimed at providers and consumers of healthcare, and reducing litigation costs which are associated with malpractice suits.

    In 2010, The Heartland Institute published the 66 page book, "The Obamacare Disaster," by Peter Ferrara, which opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

    In 2015, The Heartland Institute filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the petitioner in King v. Burwell, a Supreme Court case challenging income tax subsidies to those who enroll in health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act via the federal as opposed to the state health insurance exchanges.

    Hydraulic fracturing

    The Heartland Institute advocates for hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking"), a well-stimulation technique in which rock is fractured by pressurized liquids,] publishing essays in support of fracking in various national newspapers. On March 20, 2015, The Heartland Institute's science director defended hydraulic fracturing on the Your World With Neil Cavuto program on FOX News.


  • During 2016, The Heartland Institute raised approximately $5.5 million in support from approximately 5,000 individual, foundation, and corporate supporters. Its 2016 income came from the following sources: Foundations 67%, individuals 19%, corporations 11% . No corporate donor contributes more than 5 percent of its total receipts. The Heartland Institute's books are audited annually by the accounting firm of Tighe, Kress, & Orr, PC. You can review our latest audit here and our most recent IRS Form 990 here  [local copies here, and here, respectively].  [Source:  (The Heartland Institute).]

    The Heartland Institute no longer discloses its funding sources, stating that it had ended its practice of donor transparency after experiencing the organized harassment of its donors. According to its brochures, The Heartland Institute receives money from approximately 5,000 individuals and organizations, and no single corporate entity donates more than 5% of the operating budget, although the figure for individual donors can be much higher, with a single anonymous donor providing $4.6 million in 2008, and $979,000 in 2011, accounting for 20% of The Heartland Institute's overall budget, according to reports of a leaked fundraising plan. The Heartland Institute states that it does not accept government funds and does not conduct contract research for special-interest groups.

    Oil and gas companies have contributed to The Heartland Institute, including $736,500 from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2005. Greenpeace reported that The Heartland Institute received almost $800,000 from ExxonMobil. In 2008, ExxonMobil said that it would stop funding to groups skeptical of climate change, including The Heartland Institute. Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, argued that ExxonMobil was simply distancing itself from The Heartland Institute out of concern for its public image.

    The Heartland Institute has also received funding and support from

    The Independent reported that The Heartland Institute's receipt of donations from Exxon and Philip Morris indicates a "direct link ... between anti-global warming sceptics funded by the oil industry and the opponents of the scientific evidence showing that passive smoking can damage people's health." The Heartland Institute opposes legislation on passive smoking as infringing on personal liberty and the rights of owners of bars and other establishments.

    As of 2006, the Walton Family Foundation had contributed approximately $300,000 to The Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute published an op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal defending Wal-Mart against criticism over its treatment of workers. The Walton Family Foundation donations were not disclosed in the op-ed, and the editor of the Courier-Journal stated that he was unaware of the connection and would probably not have published the op-ed had he known of it. The St. Petersburg Times described The Heartland Institute as "particularly energetic defending Wal-Mart." The Heartland Institute has stated that its authors were not "paid to defend Wal-Mart" and did not receive funding from the corporation; it did not disclose the approximately $300,000 received from the Walton Family Foundation.

    In 2010, MediaTransparency said that The Heartland Institute received funding from politically conservative foundations such as the Castle Rock Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Between 2002 and 2010, Donors Trust, a nonprofit donor-advised fund, granted $13.5 million to The Heartland Institute. In 2011, The Heartland Institute received $25,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation states that the contribution was "$25,000 to The Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to The Heartland Institute in more than a decade."

    In 2012, a large number of sponsors withdrew funding due to the 2012 documents incident and the controversy over their billboard campaign. The Heartland Institute lost an estimated $825,000, or one third of planned corporate fundraising for the year.

    According to the organization's audited financial statements for 2014 and 2015 approximately 27% and 19% of revenues, respectively, came from a single unidentified donor.

    2012 documents incident

    On February 14, 2012, the global warming blog DeSmogBlog published more than one hundred pages of The Heartland Institute documents said to be from The Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute acknowledged that some internal documents had been stolen, but said that one, the "Climate Strategy memo," was forged to discredit The Heartland Institute.

    The documents were initially anonymously sourced, but later found to have been obtained by climate scientist Peter Gleick. The documents included a fundraising plan, board of directors meeting minutes, and the organization's 2012 budget. The documents were analyzed by major media, including The New York Times, The Guardian, United Press International and the Associated Press. Donors to The Heartland Institute included the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Microsoft, General Motors, Comcast, Reynolds American, Philip Morris, Amgen, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Eli Lilly, liquor companies, and an anonymous donor who had given $13 million over the past five years.

    The documents contained details of payments to support climate change deniers and their programs, namely the founder of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), physicist Fred Singer ($5,000 plus expenses per month), geologist Robert M. Carter ($1,667 per month) and $90,000 to blogger and former meteorologist Anthony Watts. The documents also revealed The Heartland Institute's plan to develop curriculum materials to be provided to teachers in the United States to promote climate skepticism, plans confirmed by the Associated Press. The documents also disclosed The Heartland Institute's $612,000 plan to support Wisconsin Act 10 and to influence the Wisconsin's recall elections called "Operation Angry Badger." Carter and Watts confirmed receiving payments.

    Several environmental organizations called on General Motors and Microsoft to sever their ties with The Heartland Institute. Climate scientists called on The Heartland Institute to "recognise how its attacks on science and scientists have poisoned the debate about climate change policy."

    Climate scientist Peter Gleick described his actions in obtaining the documents as "a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics" and said that he "deeply regretted his own actions in this case." He stated that "My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts -- often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated -- to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved." On February 24 he wrote to the board of the Pacific Institute requesting a "temporary short-term leave of absence" from The Heartland Institute. The Board of Directors stated it was "deeply concerned regarding recent events" involving Gleick and The Heartland Institute documents, and appointed a new Acting Executive Director on February 27. Gleick was later reinstated to the Pacific Institute after an investigation found Gleick did not forge any documents, and he apologized for using deception to get the documents.



    The Heartland Institute publishes four monthly public policy newspapers:


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