FOLLOWUP: Heartland Institute's billboards are costing them donors

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May 8 2012 5:58 AM

FOLLOWUP: Heartland Institute's billboards are costing them donors

I wrote a few days ago about the disgusting billboards put up by the far-right Heartland Institute, a climate-change denial group that apparently has no lower bounds to what they'll do. The billboards, which went up in Chicago, likened climate scientists (and anyone who knows global warming is real) to mass murderers and madmen.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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It was repulsive and hateful. After an uproar -- and in less than a day -- Heartland took down the billboards, but didn't apologize for them. Instead they claimed it was an "experiment", and declared victory in getting attention. This would be why I use the words repulsive and disgusting.

But the damage was done -- this tactic has backfired on Heartland. Even before the billboards went up they lost sponsorship from the Diageo liquor company, which makes such brands as Smirnoff and Guiness. In March, General Motors dropped Heartland as well. Even people who support climate change denialism are worried that their own reputations "[have] been harmed".

And now, after a few bloggers wrote to State farm, the insurance company has announced they too will withdraw funding from Heartland Institute. State Farm specifically cites the billboards as the reason in their announcement.

I suspect that Scott Mandia's open letter to them was the major driver for this. For my part, I tweeted about this on Sunday:

The link goes to a copy of Mandia's letter. On Monday evening, State Farm tweeted they were severing ties with Heartland.

Besides removing ties from a group with such awful tactics, it's in State Farm's best interest anyway. Global warming is having and will continue to have a profound impact, including droughts, floods, rising sea levels, and much more. Insurance companies will need to deal with this, and they need to be thinking about this now.

I want to publicly thank State Farm for doing the right thing here. I already did so on Twitter as well.

Never forget the power we have as consumers to change the world. It worked when it came to American Arlines and antivaxxers, and it's working here.

[UPDATE: Bernews is reporting the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers will discontinue funding Heartland as well; they gave $125,000 in 2010/11.]

And we're not done. Heartland still has quite a few corporate sponsors. Brad Johnson has created a list of them on Pinterest, how much they've given, and which ones have dropped Heartland due to its shenanigans. Heartland is hemorrhaging donors, but there's still a long way to go.



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