Posts tagged "The Heartland Institute"

Conservative media are citing an article in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPandS) to attack legitimate research on the causes of gun violence. While its title suggests that it is a serious research publication, the journal is published by a conspiracy-minded right-wing organization and has printed articlesquestioning the link between HIV and AIDS and theorizing that undocumented immigrants are spreading leprosy in the United States.

JPandS is published by conservative non-profit Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), an anti-healthcare reform advocacy group that opposes almost all government involvement in healthcare. The National Library of Medicine, which bills itself as “[t]he world’s largest biomedical library,” has twice declined to index JPandS in its database of medical reports. 

Still, an article by AAPS Executive Director Dr. Jane M. Orient has been cited by conservative media to attack calls for more research into the causes and prevention of gun violence by the Obama administration and the medical and scientific communities. AAPS aided the gun lobby in its successful endeavor to block the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence during the 1990s. 

In a September 23 op-ed for The Daily Caller, National Shooting Sports Foundation Senior Vice President and General Counsel Larry Keane cited Orient’s article to attack the scientifically supported claim that “fewer guns equals less violence”:

One of the anti-gun lobby’s leading arguments is that fewer guns equals less violence. This seems like a logical argument, and is often passed on as fact. But, as with most of the arguments the anti-gun left recycles over and over, the facts simply do not back it up.

In the fall issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons , Jane M. Orient, M.D. argues there is no evidence-based support for more gun control measures. Rather, the statistics gun-control proponents cite are cherry-picked from larger data sets that show no correlation between more gun laws and less violence.

Orient’s article was also approvingly cited by Breitbart.com’s AWR Hawkins and promoted by Guns.com. During a September 4 appearance on the National Rifle Association’s media arm, NRA News, Orient attacked “organized medicine” for calling for gun violence research and stated that “the best evidence we have” on gun violence “was collected by John Lott.” Lott, whose research on gun violence was cited in Orient’s JPandS article, has been widely discredited

Beyond relying on Lott’s disproven research, Orient cites a claim that “all 10 of the most violent cities, in which the population is predominantly black, have an enormous rate of out-of-wedlock births and illiteracy — and decades of rule by Democrats, often black and presumably always liberal,” to set up her question, “Is the liberal welfare state partly to blame for lawlessness and violence?”

Orient also theorizes that “organized medicine is determined to achieve federal control of firearms, with the potential, even likely consequence of enabling eventual confiscation,” and lists the threat of a “tyrannical government” as one of the “serious reasons for an armed citizenry.”

JPandS and AAPS promote a host of unscientific theories — medical and otherwise — and have delved into conspiracy theories about the Clinton presidency.

  • A 2005 JPandS article used incorrect data to claim that “[l]eprosy now is endemic to northeastern states because illegal aliens and other immigrants brought leprosy from India, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Mexico.” That research was later parroted on Lou Dobbs’ since-canceled CNN program.
  • The medical blog Science-Based Medicine has identified a number of JPandS articles that question the link between HIV and AIDS and noted the journal has published ”glowing reviews of two HIV/AIDS denialist books.”
  • In 2005, JPandS published an article that noted “[h]istorically, homosexual behavior has been viewed as both criminal and sinful ever since Judaism first defined it as an ‘abomination’ — along with incest, adultery, and bestiality.” The article purported to prove that “the ‘gay’ male lifestyle significantly increases the incidence of infectious disease and shortens life expectancy by about 20 years,” while furthering the myth that being gay is a choice.
  • Beyond medical research, JPandS publishes articles that deny the consequences and causes of climate change. Orient is listed as an “expert” by The Heartland Institute, one of the most insidious purveyors of climate denial.
  • A 2011 New York Times article described how in 2003 AAPS asked the Supreme Court to release death photos of Clinton administration Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, who committed suicide in 1993. The AAPS legal brief sought to advance the conspiracy theory that Foster was murdered.
  • In a 2003 JPandS article, Andrew Schlafly, who has served as AAPS’ general counsel, suggested that the government bears some responsibility for the September 11 terrorist attacks because of its support for bans on the use of asbestos in buildings. Schlafly theorized that the substance’s fire-retardant properties would have saved lives during the attack and challenged science linking asbestos to cancer. His article claimed that government-funded studies on the collapse of the World Trade Center “are designed to exonerate government,” and that “[a] researcher would risk his career and future funding by asserting that government negligence or malfeasance contributed to the WTC collapse.” 
  • A July 2005 AAPS newsletter described embryonic stem cell research as “a weak pretext for picking taxpayers’ pockets.”

Orient previously pushed baseless claims as the author of an article for conspiracy website WND thatpurported to offer a scientific defense of former Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment. After Akinengendered controversy in 2012 after claiming that pregnancy as the result of rape was rare because in cases of “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Orient published a column titled, “Akin Not Far Off Base In Rape Comment.” She claimed the congressman’s remark was backed by “some pro-life physicians.”

h/t: MMFA

Working out of an nondescript brick rowhouse in suburban Virginia, a little-known organization named Donors Trust, staffed by five employees, has steered hundreds of millions of dollars to the most influential think tanks, foundations, and advocacy groups in the conservative movement. Over the past decade, it has funded the right’s assault on labor unions, climate scientists, public schools, economic regulations, and the very premise of activist government. Yet unlike its nearest counterpart on the progressive side, the Tides Foundation, a bogeyman of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, Donors Trust has mostly avoided any real scrutiny. It is the dark-money ATM of the right.

Founded in 1999, Donors Trust (and an affiliated group, Donors Capital Fund) has raised north of $500 million and doled out $400 million to more than 1,000 conservative and libertarian groups, according to Whitney Ball, the group’s CEO. Donors Trust allows wealthy contributors who want to donate millions to the most important causes on the right to do so anonymously, essentially scrubbing the identity of those underwriting conservative and libertarian organizations. Wisconsin’s 2011 assault on collective bargaining rights? Donors Trust helped fund that. ALEC, the conservative bill mill? Donors Trust supports it. The climate deniers at the Heartland Institute? They get Donors Trust money, too.

Donors Trust is not the source of the money it hands out. Some 200 right-of-center funders who’ve given at least $10,000 fill the group’s coffers. Charities bankrolled by Charles and David Koch, the DeVoses, and the Bradleys, among other conservative benefactors, have given to Donors Trust. And other recipients of Donors Trust money include the Heritage Foundation, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the NRA’s Freedom Action Foundation, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Federalist Society, and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, chaired (PDF) by none other than David Koch. 

In a recent interview, Ball, who calls herself a libertarian, went to great lengths to stress that she’s no Koch brothers stooge, and that Donors Trust is not yet another appendage of the almighty "Kochtopus." She insists, “We were not created by them at all.”

Donors Trust is a so-called "donor-advised fund," a breed apart from a family foundation like, say, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which helped build the conservative movement over decades with donations totaling tens of millions of dollars. The people who donate to Donors Trust don’t get final say over how their money is spent. But they get to recommend where their cash goes, and in exchange for giving up some control, they get a bigger tax write-off than they would with a family foundation. (And those who wish it get anonymity.)

Ball says she travels all over the country courting wealthy conservatives and libertarians, and attends Koch donor retreats and Cato “shareholder” meetings. The crux of her pitch is this: Rich folks can give to Donors Trust and rest easy knowing that their millions will continue bankrolling the conservative movement long into the future, even after their death.

Donors Trust grew out of the fear among right-leaning donors that their family foundations might end up in the hands of those who would fund centrist or, even worse, left-of-center causes. At the behest of the late Bruce Jacobs, a Seattle-area businessman and “paleocon” who didn’t want to underwrite a local community foundation, Ball and a conservative strategist named Kimberly Dennis created Donors Trust.

Donors Trust is the only honey-pot of its kind for right-leaning donors. But on the left, there’s theTides Foundation, which gives out tens of millions of dollars each year to thousands of left-leaning groups in the US and overseas (including Mother Jones' nonprofit arm, the Foundation for National Progress). Tides is a target of conspiracy theorists such as TV and radio host Glenn Beck, who hasfeatured Tides on his infamous connect-the-dots chalkboard. But Donors Trust’s strategic intent is far narrower and more coherent than Tides’. The groups funded by Donors Trust more or less pursue the same agenda—eliminate regulations, kneecap unions, shrink government, and transfer more power to the private sector.

Donors Trust keeps its contributors secret. Funders can ask Donor Trust to publicly identify their donations, but very few do, Ball says. The reasons for preferring anonymity are many. Some donors want to avoid attention; others don’t want their mailboxes and inboxes filling up with unwanted solicitations for more money.

Tax records, however, reveal some of the sugar-daddies of the conservative and libertarian movement who funnel big money through Donors Trust. The Knowledge and Progress Fund, a charity bankrolled by Charles Koch, gave $2 million in 2010. The DeVos family charity, another pillar of conservative politics, contributed $1 million in 2009 and $1.5 million in 2010. And yet another long-time bankroller of conservative politics, the Bradley family, donated $650,000 through their charity between 2001 and 2010.

h/t: Mother Jones