Diageo Stops Heartland Donations in Wake of Unabomber Billboard

by | May 7, 2012

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Drink giant Diageo says it will no longer fund the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that denies global warming, the Guardian reports, following a controversial ad campaign by the non-profit.

On May 3, a Heartland billboard appeared over the Eisenhower Expressway in Illinois showing a picture of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, with the slogan: “I still believe in global warming. Do you?”

A day later it was withdrawn, although Heartland didn’t apologize for the billboard series, which also features Charles Manson, Fidel Castro and Osama bin Laden. On May 4, Heartland published a statement on its website saying, “The most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

Diageo, which owns brands such as Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Moët & Chandon, told the Guardian: “Diageo vigorously opposes climate skepticism and our actions are proof of this. Diageo’s only association with the Heartland Institute was limited to a small contribution made two years ago specifically related to an excise tax issue. Diageo has no plans to work with the Heartland Institute in the future.”

Diageo gave $10,000 over the past two years, for a project related to excise duty.

Microsoft, which gave the institute $59,908 in 2011, also said it did not endorse Heartland’s climate change views. But the software company did not say it would stop funding the institute in the future.

In a May 4 blog, Steve Lippman, director of corporate citizenship at Microsoft, wrote: “The Heartland Institute does not speak for Microsoft on climate change. In fact, the Heartland Institute’s position on climate change is diametrically opposed to Microsoft’s position. And we completely disagree with the group’s inflammatory and distasteful advertising campaign.” Microsoft said its contributions were earmarked for a program providing free software licenses to non-profit organizations.

Earlier this year, after DeSmogBlog and the Guardian reported Heartland has received funds from a number of major companies that publicly support action to stop climate change, many of the firms acknowledged their donations and said they did not support Heartland’s stance on global warming. In March, General Motors said it would no longer fund Heartland, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But dozens of companies still donate to Heartland, according to DeSmogBlog, including Kraft, Anheuser-Busch and Pfizer.

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