Monday, February 13, 2012

The dead are allowed to vote - on the Board of Directors of a denialist, tax-supported charity

John Mashey has his latest opus up, on the malfeasance of various denialist organizations that should be investigated for violations of their IRS 501 c/3 tax-deductible charity status.  I greatly enjoyed assisting him a bit with some of the research on this.  John's work is separate from the leak of secret documents from one of those groups, the Heartland Institute.

Please go read what John has to say, but the summary is that Fred Singer's Science and Environmental Policy Project, the Heartland Institute, and possibly others have given more than sufficient grounds for IRS agents and/or state Attorney General offices charged with supervising charities to start using some subpoena power.  They're supposed to be educational, but are the opposite.  In SEPP's case, they appear to have a non-functioning board, including a chairman who continued to supervise Singer two years after the chairman had died.  They sign affidavits saying they're not lobbying when they sure appear to be doing so.  And money flows are incredibly weird, with assets disappearing and sometimes reappearing in strange ways.

I'll just pull out two examples:  first, on page 23, rows A36 and A37 - over $100,000 in assets mysteriously disappears between the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004.  Must've been quite a New Year's Eve party, but I think IRS might want to check the bank statements.  Second is on page 181 where they use 6-degree polynomial overfitting to pretend there's a decline in temperature.  Statistical nonsense like this is possibly the best arguments for why Heartland et al. aren't educational for 501 c/3 purposes, because there's no counterargument that they're right.  There's no minority opinion, no Richard Lindzen-style stats professor out there who would defend that analysis.  The fact that it's delivered to an unsophisticated audience who won't figure it out on their own magnifies the problem.  The likelihood that whoever created the analysis is also sophisticated enough to know it's wrong means it's an intentional attempt to reduce public understanding of climate.  They're not just non-educational, they're anti-educational.

If mutual fund managers issued a prospectus using a 6-degree fit to show they're beating the market, they could go to jail.  Heartland wants a tax break for doing the same thing.