President of reeling anti-climate science group forced out

By Scott Waldman | 03/17/2020 06:48 AM EDT

The Heartland Institute is undergoing its second leadership change in less than a year.

The Heartland Institute is undergoing its second leadership change in less than a year.

The group, which rejects climate science, is ousting its president, Frank Lasée, after being buffeted by financial turbulence that led to significant layoffs, according to two sources close to Heartland.

"He’s being kicked out," one source said.


HuffPost reported earlier this month that former staffers blamed Lasée for blowing through the group’s budget.

Those assertions came as the Heartland Institute hired a 19-year-old German woman to publicly reject climate science in an attempt to establish her as an anti-Greta Thunberg figure and to raise money.

James Taylor, director of Heartland’s Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy, is being considered for the role of president. Neither Taylor nor a Heartland spokesman responded to requests for comment.

Taylor, who has been passed over twice for the president’s job, briefly left Heartland to open a small pro-fracking think tank called the Spark of Freedom Foundation. He later returned to Heartland.

In June, Heartland’s then-president, former Rep. Tim Huelskamp, abruptly parted ways with the group. He was a three-term Republican congressman from Kansas and a former chairman of the House Tea Party Caucus and member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Lasée, a former member of the Wisconsin state Senate and Assembly and an ally of former Gov. Scott Walker (R), oversaw a tumultuous period for Heartland. The Chicago-based group recently laid off about half of its employees.

Heartland has received millions of dollars in funding from the energy industry over the years, but many of those contributions have dried up as major players in the oil and gas industry, like Exxon Mobil Corp., backed away from denying climate change. Other funders, such as Murray Energy Corp., have gone bankrupt.

As the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic and heads toward a likely economic slowdown, Heartland’s finances are on unsteady footing, according to one source.

"With no reserves in a very tough market, I think it’s going to be very tough," the person said.