climate of innuendo

strange allegation that NASA climate scientist, James Hansen, was “paid” by the Soros foundation…

NASAwatch points to an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily where they claim:

“How many people, for instance, know that James Hansen, a man billed as a lonely “NASA whistleblower” standing up to the mighty U.S. government, was really funded by Soros’ Open Society Institute , which gave him “legal and media advice”?”

That’s right, Hansen was packaged for the media by Soros’ flagship “philanthropy,” by as much as $720,000, most likely under the OSI’s “politicization of science” program.

Huh? Reading this, one might think Hansen received several hundred thousand dollars from this “philanthropy” organization to pick on a poor defenceless government agency and its dedicated career civil servants.

Well, as Cowing notes, what really happened is that Hansen received pro bono legal advice from the Government Accountability Project which is a small “whistleblower” support group in DC (budget is about $2 million per year, their staff is not exactly overpaid).
GAP’s purpose is to provide pro bono legal advice to whistleblowers, push for government accountability (and not just US government I gather) and to assist in publicizing individual cases (ie they have a rolodex of friendly journalist contacts and probably a lawyer who advises people what they should say or not say when talking about their case to the media).

“GAP is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with an operating budget of slightly over $2 million. Gifts to GAP are tax-deductible. The majority of our funds come from grantmaking foundations such as the Ford Foundation, the CS Fund and the Rockefeller Family Fund and from as many as 8,000 generous individuals. The rest of GAP’s budget comes from legal fees, settlement awards, and services provided.”

What got the IBD upset is that Soros’ OSI donated some funds to GAP – looks like $300k in 2006, and some of that went to the Science and Engineering Whistleblower Campaign
One of OSI’s big things right now seems to be to get jailed academics out of Iran, btw…

So: Hansen got pro-bono legal advice, and possibly some media advice (though I doubt he needs that, he’ll have his own AddressBook of contacts) from GAP, which got some of its funding (about 15%) from OSI, including $100k specifically to assist Science and Engineering whistleblowers.
The Soros Foundation, of which OSI is part, spend $400 million in 2006.

One can find all this online in 30 seconds through Google.

Yet IBD considers this a “threat to democracy” because these organizations seek to affect public opinion and “lack transparency”.

Do IBD op-ed columns attempt to affect public opinion?
The column was not signed, btw.

I thought Investor’s Business Daily approved of rich people being allowed to spend their money however they liked?

I should note that an additional seven seconds with Google showed that the Government Accountability Project didn’t just reveal their relationship to Hansen, they sent out Press Releases SHOUTING this fact to the world:

GAP Press Release: March 2007

and figured the Hansen episode as a Program Highlight!

“GAP also represented Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s top climate scientists, who blew the whistle on NASA’s attempts to silence him. Hansen’s disclosures inspired GAP to conduct a year-long investigation on the gagging of federal climate scientists. The investigation involved field visits to federal climate laboratories; dozens of interviews with federal climate scientists, agency officials, and journalists; and the review of thousands of pages of documentation from media sources, insiders, and Freedom of Information Act disclosures. Our investigation found objectionable and possibly illegal restrictions on the communication of scientific information to the media including the delaying, monitoring, screening, and denying of interviews, as well as the delay, denial, and inappropriate editing of press releases.

GAP prepared a report, “Redacting the Science of Climate Change,” summarizing our findings, as well as a joint “Atmosphere of Pressure” report with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that combined GAP’s investigative reporting and legal analysis with the results of a UCS survey of federal climate scientists. The reports received broad national attention and have already been presented in testimony at two congressional oversight hearings.

GAP will continue to educate government scientists about their right to offer personal scientific information and opinions publicly and defend government scientists who do so. We will also attempt to overturn agency gag orders and advance protections for scientists who refuse to alter or censor their reports on environmental concerns.”

The real interesting question is whether this represents the general level of investigative journalism by Investor’s Business Daily?

UPDATE: Tim over at Deltoid has a summary of the astroturf reaction to the IBD story and Hansen’s response

Note that Hansen was to get a $10,000 award from GAP but turned it down to avoid any appearance of impropriety. That is quite something to do if you’re on civil service salaries and living in NYC.


  1. #1 Ethan
    September 27, 2007


  2. #2 Brad Holden
    September 27, 2007

    I am not sure why you are assuming that this is a failure of investigative reporting and not a deliberate attempt to smear Hansen.

  3. #3 CHANGCHO
    September 27, 2007

    Obviously a pathetic attempt to discredit Hansen by the IBD, whose editorial pages btw are full of right wing ideology.

  4. #4 Mark P
    September 27, 2007

    It’s just another republican front trying to swiftboat someone. That’s what they do.

  5. #5 Steinn Sigurdsson
    September 27, 2007

    I assume nothing.
    I do like deliberately passive understatements… most readers get the point.

  6. #6 Hank Roberts
    September 27, 2007

    Now you know why there are bubbles in the economy, eh?
    These are the people investors credulously rely on for “facts.”

  7. #7 Brad Holden
    September 27, 2007

    I do like deliberately passive understatements… most readers get the point.

    Ah, that subtlety thing. I have heard of this (but I had to look up the spelling). This must be one of those things they teach you in faculty school.

  8. #8 Steinn Sigurdsson
    September 27, 2007

    teach faculty…?
    no, that wasn’t it, definitely.

  9. #9 Jonathan Vos Post
    September 28, 2007

    I was kicked off the Space Shuttle program at Rockwell because of two concurrent and interacting factors:

    (1) Massive, repeated, and management-sanctioned plagiarism of my writings and video productions;

    (2) Fear by management that I’d be a whistleblower to FBI and/or NASA Inspector General about the multiple instances on ongoing criminal fraud in the Shuttle program.

    This was revealed, retroactively, in the 420+ pages of my personnel file when subpoenaed, and numerous depositions of eyewitnesses.

    There is no in-house protection of whistleblowers. The Ombudsman’s office admitted to intercepting and stealing a lengthy packet of documents internally snailmailed from me to my Vice President.

    There is no adequate external protection for whistleblowers, even at the highest level (i.e. senior executives in the White House or Justice Department).

    How does one bravely tell the truth about crime, corruption, falsification of data, and the like — at grave personal risk to one’s career — when the organization in trouble has a dirty tricks department devoted to hunting down and destrying the lives of whistleblowers?

    Kudos to James Hansen and the Soros foundation.

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