The most sensational parts of the documents — and much of what has been confirmed independently — had to do with global warming and efforts to spread doubt into what mainstream scientists are saying. Experts long have thought Heartland and other groups were working to muddy the waters about global warming, said Harry Lambright, a Syracuse University public policy professor who specializes in environment, science and technology issues.
"Scientifically there is no controversy. Politically, there is a controversy because there are political interest groups making it a controversy," Lambright said. "It's not about science. It's about politics. To some extent they are winning the battle."
A 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences surveyed more than 1,300 most cited and published climate scientists and found that 97 percent of them said climate change was a man-made problem. Yet, public opinion polls show far more doubt in the American public.
An environmental advocacy group, Forecast the Facts, on Thursday started a petition and social media campaign to complain to two of Heartland's corporate donors listed on the documents, Microsoft and General Motors. The two were not the biggest donors; Microsoft donated $69,000 over three years, while the General Motors Foundation gave $45,000. But those are companies that "need to hear from their customers" that they are not happy about promoting climate skepticism, especially after General Motors got a government bailout, campaign director Daniel Souweine said.
General Motors spokesman Greg Martin said the company's foundation gives money to "a variety of different groups holding a variety of opinions." Microsoft said through its public relations agency that it donates software to 44,000 nonprofits that pass IRS standards, as Heartland does, and that it considers climate change a serious issue.
The documents showed how heavily Heartland relies on a single person it identified only as "Anonymous Donor." In the past six years, the man has given $14.26 million to the institute, nearly half its $33.9 million in revenue.
Heartland Institute: http://heartland.org/
Forecast the Facts campaign against Heartland donors: http://bit.ly/wfd3uY
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.