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FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2009 file photo, steam and smoke rises from a coal power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File) FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2009 file photo, steam and smoke rises from a coal power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)  

Heartland Institute threatens prosecution over internal document theft, fraud

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

In what is being characterized as a reverse “climategate,” the free-market Heartland Institute is facing scrutiny in the wake of an alleged leak of internal documents — which were subsequently posted on climate-change advocacy websites and reported in the British press.

The documents include the organization’s 2012 budget, fundraising numbers, strategy plans, and even a K-12 educational curriculum underscoring the fact that the science on climate change is unsettled.

But according to Heartland, which is well known for being skeptical of global-warming theories, the documents were “stolen,” “at least one is a fake” and “some may have been altered.”

According to a Heartland staffer, the document “A Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” is a complete forgery.

The staffer, however, could not confirm or deny the veracity of the rest of the documents, telling The Daily Caller that some documents were stolen by an “unknown person” who pretended to be a Heartland board member. That person tricked a Heartland staff member to email the documents to a fake email address, which was subsequently deleted.

In a statement to TheDC, the Heartland Institute explained that it intends to seek prosecution of the perpetrator for identity theft and computer fraud. The organization is urging reporters and bloggers to remove the documents from their websites and stop quoting from them, since they have not been authenticated.

The organization further apologized to its donors, staffers and “allies” for any damage the incident has caused.

“Disagreement over the causes, consequences, and best policy responses to climate change runs deep. We understand that,” Heartland wrote. “But honest disagreement should never be used to justify the criminal acts and fraud that occurred in the past 24 hours. As a matter of common decency and journalistic ethics, we ask everyone in the climate change debate to sit back and think about what just happened.”

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