The Heartland Institute is an Illinois-based climate denial group that advocates for small government and free market solutions to social and economic problems. In addition to refuting the climate emergency, it sows doubt around health hazards such as second-hand smoke, along with anything else that might seem to require government regulation. Heartland is an associate member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of right-wing think tanks and tax-exempt organizations pushing far-right policy agendas throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
The Heartland Institute has developed a raft of anti-ESG materials, including “tip sheets” for lawmakers, an ESG primer presentation, testimony delivered to state legislators, op-eds, podcasts, and an anti-ESG legislative tracking map. The majority of this material appears to be developed by staff members associated with the organization’s Socialism Research Center.
Heartland has a staff of 24 as well as fellows, policy advisors, and a 10-member board of directors. In addition to its government relations department, it operates a Legislative Forum composed of 300 elected officials who pay dues to participate. Justin Danhof, head of corporate governance at the anti-ESG Strive Asset Management and former director of the Free Enterprise Center at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), is a policy advisor at Heartland.
In November 2022, shortly after the GOP won a slight House majority in the midterms, Heartland President James Taylor signed on to an Independent Women’s Forum coalition letter addressed to Republican leaders in Congress urging increased ESG oversight.
In December 2022, Heartland endorsed the Eliminate Political Boycotts Act, a proposed piece of model legislation introduced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that would authorize state governments to blacklist corporations promoting either ESG or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives—or both.
Heartland is also part of a rightwing coalition promoting the Heritage Foundation’s State Pension Fiduciary Duty Act, model legislation that seeks to ban the consideration of ESG factors in the management of public pensions.
At Heartland’s 2023 International Conference on Climate Change, SFOF National Policy Chair and Utah Treasurer Marlo Oaks delivered a keynote on “efforts in his state to fight ESG,” while another panel focused on “Defeating ESG.”
- DonorsTrust: $8,319,032 (2017–21)
- Donors Capital Fund: $5,875,500 (2014–16)
- Mercer Family Foundation: $2,585,000 (2014–17)
- Vanguard Charitable: $1,493,500 (2014–20)
Note: Heartland Institute is not required by law to disclose its donors. The Center for Media and Democracy identified its top funders through an examination of IRS filings.
- Total Revenue: $3,852,132
- Total Expenses: $4,309,935
- Net Assets: $1,117,288
Source: 2022 IRS 990 filing
For more information, visit the Heartland Institute page on SourceWatch.