I'm trying to imagine what the initial conversation was like at the Heartland Institute's headquarters. Someone must have said something like, "I've got an idea. As part of our campaign against climate science, let's put up billboards equating those who believe scientific evidence with famous madmen. That'll work wonders to get our message out."
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, because that's what the strange, far-right group did, putting up billboards showing "some of the world's most notorious killers," including "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, who accept climate science. It followed a child-like logical fallacy: if a bad person believes in scientific evidence, then scientific evidence must be wrong.
First, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a conservative climate-change denier, said he no longer wanted to participate in the group's upcoming conference. Then, the Heartland Institute started losing corporate sponsors. Now, E&E's Evan Lehmann reports the fiasco is "prompting a mutiny among its Washington-based staff, which is decamping for less volatile surroundings."
At the center of the retreat is a contingent of insurance companies and trade groups that donated more than $1 million over the last two years to the libertarian group's Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate in Washington, D.C., for programs related to federal insurance reform.... Other insurers are also cutting ties in a major upheaval that coincides, sources say, with the departure of Eli Lehrer from Heartland's Washington-based center, known by its acronym, FIRE. Lehrer and his staff were shocked by the billboard campaign, which they learned about in an emailed press release from Heartland headquarters. [...]
When Lehrer learned of the billboard campaign, he began calling those companies to warn them, according to sources. During some of those conversations, Lehrer said he was seriously considering leaving Heartland.
"He's gone," the industry source said of Lehrer. "They're negotiating out a departure for him and his team." ... His departure, combined with the retreat of insurers, would almost certainly mean that Heartland's Washington presence provided by the FIRE center would disappear, the source said.
For his part, Heartland's president, Joe Bast, has said, "We do not apologize for running the ad."
No, of course not.