Jim covered Congress and The White House during the George W. Bush administration for The Washington Times, and worked as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and many local and national talk radio shows to talk politics and policy.
Latest posts by Jim Lakely (see all)
Part of my job as director of communications for The Heartland Institute is to defend the organization when attacked by the left. If I responded to every salvo — especially the spittle-flecked variety found on most blogs — I’d do little else in my every waking moment.
Of course, I’m of the mind that if the statists on the left aren’t attacking us and our advancement of free markets, I need to be better at my job of promoting our principles. Happily (I guess), that’s not the case.
A fellow named Max Garland from Eau Claire, Wisconsin took to the letters-to-the-editor page of The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison today to express his displeasure that the paper quoted one of our scholars in its coverage of the current state of affairs at the Capitol. I reproduce it below, and will rebut below that:
Max Garland: No surprise that Heartland Institute attacks public employees
Wisconsin State Journal
Dear Editor: In response to a recent by a spokesperson for the Chicago-based conservative think tank the Heartland Institute, it should be mentioned that the organization also devotes enormous amounts of time and money debunking claims of global warming, denying the harmful effects of smoking, and generally attacking any stance that stands in the way of unfettered corporate profits.
It’s not surprising that they also attack Wisconsin teachers and public employees, since Heartland’s funding comes from multi-national corporations such as Exxon-Mobil and Phillip Morris, who stand to gain by a weaker federal and state government and fewer checks and balances against the pseudo-science promoted by the institute. If real teachers are weakened, then the big money think tanks are more than happy to rush into the vacuum with their “greed is good” gospel.
This is a common attack — so common I should make a “macro” on my computer to rebut it more quickly. (BTW: We have a “truth squad” page for most of this nonsense.) Anyway …
1. Heartland considers itself a libertarian think tank, not a conservative one (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter). We were founded 27 years ago by libertarian economists of the Chicago School, admirers of Milton Friedman (who was a fan of our work). We endeavor to present free-market solutions to social and economic problems (as opposed to government-directed ones) and advance personal liberty.
But calling us “conservative” is a pretty minor quibble. People will label you as they see you. Fair enough.
2. Yes, we have devoted an enormous amount of time and resources “debunking the claims of global warming” — though it is a mere fraction of a fraction spent by the warmist side of the debate. More accurately, we’ve worked hard to promote serious scholarship in the climate sciences — through (so far) five international conferences on climate change, reams of academic papers, and countless stories in our publication and website, Environment & Climate News.
We’re most proud of our 800-page book, Climate Change Reconsidered, a scientifically rigorous work that counters the rigged data in the UN’s climate reports. We’re working on a new edition, which will be out later this year. A new “ClimateWiki” page is also in the works, and should be ready for unveiling in a few weeks. Again, it’s a good thing that the warmist side of the debate is worried about our work. They should be.
3. As for smoking, we do not “deny” the “harmful effects of smoking.” We are among the few think tanks in America to challenge the greatly exaggerated claims of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke (and even third-hand smoke). Big difference. And we also stand up for the right of smokers to choose to light up — especially when their habit has not nearly the public health danger the left says it is.
4. As for our funding, I’ll let Heartland’s “truth squad” page do the heavy lifting. Short version: We annually get somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of our funding from corporations, with the rest coming from individual donors and foundations. No single corporation’s donations constitute more than 5 percent of our annual operating budget.
We are not shills for any corporation — and, in fact, we’ve sacrificed corporate funding in the past (and will do so in the future), lest we compromise our free-market principles and dedication to individual freedom. ExxonMobil, for instance, has not contributed to Heartland since 2006. Their reasons are their own, though we’d be happy to have them back in the fold — along with any donor interested in advancing personal liberty and free markets.
I count it as a victory when the opponents of sane fiscal policies — such as that proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — focus on attempting to demonize The Heartland Institute rather than debate the issues at hand. We, however, prefer the latter.