The Union now features right-wing extremists from Heartland Institute without even ID’ing them

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The 15,000 circulation Union newspaper in western Nevada County, CA, is 2,011 miles from the metropolis of Chicago, the nation’s second largest city and home to the right-wing extremist “think tank” also known as the Heartland Institute (see Google map). You might remember the Heartland Institute for its billboards that compared belief in global warming to mass murder. “I still believe in global warming, do you?” read the distasteful billboard, showing the Unibomber. The Heartland Institute capitulated and removed them amid widespread complaints and national attention.

Well, now our little community newspaper in western Nevada County, CA, is publishing letters from “research fellows” at the Heartland Institute in its letters section — without even bothering to identify their affiliation.

For background, read “Meet the Climate Denial Machine,” where the Heartland Institute is listed. “Despite their industry ties, (funding from the Koch Foundation) and lack of scientific expertise, Heartland Institute fellows are often given a media platform to promote their marginal views on climate change,” writes

In a letter titled “Fracking and Water” on The Union’s letter page this morning, an Isaac Orr from Waupaca, Wisc. defends fracking in our drought-ridden state by stating: “Seventy million gallons of water seems like a lot until you realize it amounts to only 0.0069 percent of all the water used in California, a tiny fraction of the state’s overall water use.”

(It’s ironic, since The Union has another article this morning praising the benefits of water conservation in Nevada City).

In his letter to The Union, Orr didn’t bother to identify himself as a research fellow at Heartland Instutute, and The Union’s management (Jim Hemig and Brian Hamilton) didn’t bother to check (lazy, ignorant or both). It’s an ongoing problem with The Union’s op-ed page.

You’d think a letter writer to western Nevada County, CA from Waupaca, Wisc., would raise a red flag but nope, it just ran as “Isaac Orr, Waupaca, Wisc.” Duh?

Here’s Orr’s real identity, as points out. “Isaac Orr is a research fellow for energy and environment policy at The Heartland Institute. Orr is a speaker, researcher, and freelance writer specializing in hydraulic fracturing, agricultural, and environmental policy issues. As an aide in the Wisconsin state Senate, Orr experienced first-hand the massive protests that accompanied Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill. In addition to avoiding disgruntled protesters, his responsibilities included writing articles for newspapers, weekly e-updates, and serving a policy adviser on iron and frac sand mining, and agricultural issues.”

The Union needs to raise the bar on its op-ed page rather than just wrapping itself in the First Amendment.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

5 thoughts on “The Union now features right-wing extremists from Heartland Institute without even ID’ing them”

  1. Shill –
    “A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization.”
    I want to watch these guys drink fracking water, if they think it’s so safe.
    And the Union brings em all the way across the country just for us to know the facts from the Koch Brothers. Thanks for nothin-

  2. Good luck with your local news and outstanding screening of the letters to the editor (caps missing on purpose).

  3. A few years ago I reprinted a small article on anthropogenic climate change in my Sierra Voices website. I was amazed that within an hour or so, there was a vigorous rebuttal in the comments section of the article, signed by some person.

    I got curious and ran a trace on the commenter’s IP address,, and it turned out to have been sent by someone inside the Heartland Institue. I concluded that they must have roaming bots searching the Internet constantly for global warming articles to rebut.

    It looks like they’re still at it.

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