February 17, 2012; Source: Think Progress | When U.S. taxpayers became owners of General Motors in the auto industry bailout, few realized their money would indirectly fund climate change denial efforts, yet that appears to be what is now happening. Here’s how.

One of the important tenets of the Heartland Institute is its denial of (and opposition to) the idea that the world is facing a crisis due to climate change occurring as a result of human activities—such as the world’s ever-increasing reliance on and consumption of fossil fuels. In support of this tenet, the Chicago-based Heartland actively tries to debunk the findings of climate change scientists, although most people, governments and institutions find very little about the validity of climate change science to criticize. 

On the other side of the climate change debate is ThinkProgress, which somehow obtained documents leaked from Heartland about its efforts to get school children to doubt information related to the scientific findings of climate change and to Heartland’s funding. It also received information about $1.3 million in funding Heartland received in 2010 and 2011 from 19 publicly traded corporations, including scientifically based pharmaceutical companies, regulated telecommunications firms and manufacturers, as shown here:

Company Name 2010-2011 Total
Altria Client Services Inc. $90,000
Amgen, USA $25,000
Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. $5,000
AT&T $100,000
BB&T $16,105
Comcast Corporation $35,000
Diageo $10,000
Eli Lilly & Company $25,000
General Motors Foundation $30,000
GlaxoSmithKline $50,000
KCI $115,000
LKQ Corporation $24,500
Microsoft Corporation $59,908
Nucor Corporation $502,000
PepsiCo, Inc. $5,000
Pfizer $130,000
Reynolds American Inc. $110,000
Time Warner Cable $20,000
XL Group $35,000

Most of the firms, if they said anything, explained that their support of Heartland wasn’t for its climate change denial work, but for its work on health care (as GlaxoSmithKline said) or school privatization (as General Motors claimed). 

ThinkProgress doesn’t explain whether these corporate donations were direct contributions to Heartland or whether they were distributed through the corporations’ foundation arms, so NPQ decided to check on foundation support going to the Heartland Institute. We found Heartland received $1.2 million from foundations for 2009 and 2010 and $2.6 million since 2005, as shown here:


Foundation Grantmaker Name

2005-2010 Grant Total

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc.


Mercer Family Foundation


Searle Freedom Trust


ExxonMobil Foundation


General Motors Foundation, Inc.


John William Pope Foundation


Chase Foundation of Virginia


Walton Family Foundation, Inc.


Triad Foundation, Inc.


The Chrysler Foundation


Assurant Health Foundation


Jacqueline Hume Foundation


The Annie E. Casey Foundation


Barney Family Foundation


Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking


Eli Lilly and Company Foundation


Stuart Family Foundation


The McWethy Foundation


Some of these funders explicitly support Heartland for its climate change denial work, including Bradley Triad, Searle, ExxonMobil, and Chrysler. Some tie their work to Heartland’s other private market programs, such as Annie E. Casey’s support for a Heartland school choice program.

But back to General Motors. GM’s support of Heartland is not only interesting given GM’s significant ownership by the American taxpayer through the auto bailout, but also because of Heartland’s denunciation of GM as a “corporate welfare-sucking” business. GM’s support was largely unrestricted general operating funding, keeping Heartland alive and functioning to do whatever fits its mission, including the work of denying climate change. How do you feel about the company that received your bailout money contributing funds to an organization working to discredit the opinion of the majority of the scientific community on global warming? –Rick Cohen