It's Like There's Not Even Money In Climate Change Denial Anymore
Sad news, y'all, so try not to giggle too much: The Heartland Institute, one of the top astroturf organizations converting corporate and rightwing money into climate denial campaigns, is in dire financial straits, according to new reporting by the Huffington Post. Heartland had to lay off at least 10 employees Friday, according to three former Heartlanders who spoke to HuffPo; that's "more than half" of their full-time staff, according to one of 'em. Gosh how sad! Who will speak for the petrochemicals now, other than the lobbyists, most elected Republicans at all levels of government, and Donald Trump and his Cabinet?
The layoffs come shortly after Heartland's latest attempt to generate enthusiasm for dirty energy went badly. In February, Heartland decided it would bring an end to Greta Thunberg's terrible reign of climate activism by sponsoring its very own Euro-teen who just LOVES fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the young "I think coal is groovy" shill, 19-year-old German Naomi Seibt, turned out to be a tad problematic, as HuffPo notes:
Her mother, Karoline Seibt, is an attorney who works with Alternative für Deutschland, Germany's far-right nationalist party with ties to neo-Nazis.
Well gosh, poor lass can't help it if her mom likes to party with Milo Yiannopoulos, the failed spokesdipshit for the alt-right, now can she? Except, oops, turns out young Ms. Seibt's American rightwing debut, at a CPAC sideshow promoting Our Bright Coal-Choked Future, was marred by the news that she has her own far-right baggage, much of which won't even fit under her seat or in the overhead bin of an old 737 powered by filthy turbojet engines.
As the Guardian reported, Seibt took part in a YouTube discussion following a deadly attack on a synagogue in October, in which she had some thoughts about how Jews get way too much sympathy in Germany:
Seibt said Jews were considered to be "at the top" of groups who were seen as being oppressed. "Ordinary Germans", she said, were "at the bottom". Muslims, she added, were somewhere in between.
At CPAC, Seibt brushed off questions about the video. She complained it's
"ridiculous how the media cherrypicks things that I said" and said she is not an antisemite.
"In fact, I was commenting that I think it's wrong to comment on different races and to view them differently," Seibt said. "We should just all be regarded as the same," Seibt said. "We should just all be regarded as the same. That is what I was actually saying, that is how I perceived the public view on different races or different religions."
In other words, exactly like American white nationalists, who don't see race as long as no Jews or black people are around. She also explained she's a great big fan of Canadian wingnut race-baiter and manosphere hero Stephan Molyneux, whom she considers an "inspiration." (Molyneux says he's not a white supremacist, just that he's noticed mostly-white countries tend to be the freest and happiest, isn't that an interesting coincidence?)
So all in all, not a good roll-out for the Anti-Greta.
But Heartland's problems run deeper than just this latest gasp for attention, HuffPo explains. A failed PR stunt is just the latest in a series of reverses since Exxon was shamed into dropping its funding of Heartland in 2006 (Exxon continued funding other, less outrageous climate denying groups, though). Heartland became toxic to some donors after its charming 2012 billboard campaign saying global warming was a matter of faith for Unabomber Ted Kaczynski as well as other evildoers like Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Charles Manson, all of whom are primarily known for their obsession with atmospheric concentrations of CO2.
But others were happy to help out, like billionaire Breitbart and Trump funders Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, as well as the shadowy funders of the Donors Trust, aka "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement." With oil and gas interests literally staffing up the Trump administration, Heartland was sitting pretty in 2017, which HuffPo says
marked what appeared to be a zenith for Heartland. Fundraising that year nearly hit $6 million. After more than a decade on the fringes of power, cultivating influence with Republican lawmakers and aggressively promoting its contrarian and easily debunked takes on climate science, the group saw its influence in Washington blossom as Trump appointed pro-fossil fuel hardliners to his administration.
When former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wanted to have a Moscow Show Trial aimed at destroying climate science once and for all, Heartland was right there, offering a roster of 145 names of wackaloon anti-science scientists for the effort. Unfortunately, since Pruitt slipped in a puddle of high-priced hand lotion and fell from grace onto a used Trump Hotels jizz mattress, new EPA chief Andrew Wheeler has decided not to nuke science standards until after the election.
And then there's the (alleged) money problems!
"Heartland is broke," Nikki Comerford, the nonprofit's events coordinator on staff for nearly 21 years, told a former colleague in a text message, a screenshot of which HuffPost reviewed.
Comerford blamed Frank Lasée, the former Wisconsin Republican state lawmaker who took over as Heartland's president last July, for squandering the organization's budget during his nascent tenure and leaving the group in dire financial straits. Another former employee accused Lasée of mismanaging the budget, and private Facebook posts from other current staffers expressed dismay over the state of the organization, but HuffPost could not independently verify the state of Heartland's finances because the nonprofit's tax filings for 2019 are not yet due.
"Frank Lasee spent all of our money in six months including the savings," she wrote in a text. "They had to lay off more than half the staff today and more coming. What an asshole."
That seems mean, since Asshole appears to be one of the job's prerequisites. But don't count out the plucky pro-oil grifters yet! Like bad guys in a horror movie, wingnut nonprofits can be hard to kill. In a press release Sunday, Heartland acknowledged the layoffs, but insisted that if you strike Heartland down, it shall become more powerful than you can imagine!
It will put us in a stronger financial position to continue advocating for personal freedom, as well as to continue our important role in educating the public and public officials about climate alarmism, and focus on the science and the significant threat alarmism poses to our economy.
Like for instance, they'll soon be announcing "the launch of two important new initiatives to arm policymakers and the public with vital information to counter the global alarmist Climate Delusion" — we're guessing YouTube videos and memes. And in May, Heartland will sponsor the "14th International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas." No matter what the coronavirus outbreak looks like by then, we bet, because damned if the organizers are gonna let some pointy-headed "experts" dictate to them what's medically "safe." No, they will not be bullied into washing their hands, either.
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