“Dark Money” in the Climate Debate: “Cherry-Picked” Data

“Dark Money” in the Climate Debate: Questions for the Record (full series)
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“Cherry-Picked” Data

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Question #3: “Cherry-Picked” Data

After the hearing, a Democratic witness took part in an interview, which was published in The Guardian. She specifically said that she “suspected the evidence that Democrats take more dark money than Republicans may be based on cherry-picked data.” She then said without citing any evidence, “Cherry-picking is a tactic we know climate deniers and skeptics have used for decades.” Was the data that you used cherry-picked in any way? Does this witness have any relationship with the liberal dark money network, other than what she already admitted to during the hearing? 

First, let me thank you for the question. I note that Sen. Grassley, Sen. Johnson, and Sen. Kennedy asked questions of witnesses invited by the other party, while no Democratic Member asked questions at the hearing of witnesses invited by the other party. I have not even received written Questions for the Record from anyone in the Majority. This deafening silence is yet more evidence I was correct to testify that the real definition of “dark money” is “Support for speech the Left wants to silence.”

I was amazed that Prof. Oreskes would impugn my data to a Guardian “reporter” without even looking at my evidence. If the Committee wants to see an outstanding example of how academics and major news outlets produce political disinformation over climate, in violation of the most basic academic and journalistic standards, the collusion between the professor and the radical activist reporter provides a powerful example.

After The Guardian article appeared with the slur against me, I emailed the professor to ask if she had a copy of my written testimony; she replied that she did not, so that confirms that she defamed my work without looking at it, while knowing that the reporter would happily pass along the defamation. Incidentally, in addition to impugning my data about “dark money” on the left and right, she insinuated that I am among the “climate deniers and skeptics,” though my oral and written testimony do not address any scientific or economic question regarding the climate. Had I been asked my views at the hearing, I would have replied that I have no more scientific credentials than the Chairman and so would not insult the Committee by pretending to have any such expertise.

I also emailed the professor, trying to confirm whether she had made the statements The Guardian “reporter” claimed, because the reporter committed multiple errors in her article, and I would not want to criticize statements attributed to the professor without trying to confirm the accuracy of the statements. The professor did not reply to this email, so I assume she did make the statements quoted.

In the reporter’s original article, the reporter misspelled my name, though it was spelled correctly on the Committee’s website. She misattributed a question made by Sen. Grassley. She misattributed the answer to that question, writing that it was given by Prof. Pielke, when it was I who answered. Her superiors at The Guardian were kind enough to correct all of these factual errors, and also to add this paragraph to the article,[1] which provides links to the three sources I gave in my written testimony to document my claims:

In an email to the Guardian after the initial publication of this article, Walter defended his assertion in the hearing about the Democrats and dark money. He said that “reputable, non-conservative, non-fossil-fuel-funded sources” including CNNOpenSecrets and the New York Times have reported on Democrats’ outsize acceptance of dark money in recent years, particularly President Biden’s on the 2020 campaign trail.

Note that for Prof. Oreskes and the Guardian “reporter” to be correct that I “cherry-picked” my data, the same cherry-picking must have been committed by the New York Times, CNN, and OpenSecrets. OpenSecrets is a left-leaning outlet whose statistics are recognized across the political spectrum as the premier source of such data. It is run by the Center for Public Integrity, which was co-founded by Sen. Frank Church [D-ID]; a quick search of Sen. Whitehouse’s official website pulls up 64 pages on which he cites it; and according to Wikipedia it is funded by such foundations as Hewlett, George Soros’s Open Society, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the like, but by no fossil fuel corporations.

The “reporter” made no effort to contact me nor, so far as I know, to consult my written testimony, which I would gladly have handed her and which the Committee, too, could have supplied. All of my claims were carefully documented in my written testimony, and in the case of the three citations at issue, the headlines alone demonstrate that my claim, which the professor and reporter impugned, is an undisputed fact:

  1. Anna Massoglia and Karl Evers-Hillstrom, “‘Dark Money’ Topped $1 Billion in 2020, Largely Boosting Democrats,” OpenSecrets, March 17, 2021.
  2. Fredreka Schouten, Democrats Deride ‘Dark’ Money, But a New Analysis Shows It Helped Boost Joe Biden,” CNN Politics, November 27, 2020.
  3. Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher, Democrats Decried Dark Money. Then They Won with It in 2020. A New York Times Analysis Reveals How the Left Outdid the Right at Raising and Spending Millions from Undisclosed Donors to Defeat Donald Trump and Win Power in Washington,” New York Times, January 29, 2022.

In short, one of the Majority’s witnesses attacked the factual claims of another witness without even bothering to glance at the publicly provided evidence, passing judgment in a field—campaign finance—in which she has no expertise, and then a “reporter” at one of the most popular media outlets in the English language passed along that baseless attack, in the midst of also making the most basic journalistic errors, without either citing the public evidence or contacting the witness who was attacked. And all of this happened almost immediately after the hearing had concluded.

Nothing could better show the bad faith and untrustworthiness rampant among both scientists and the media who attempt to scare the public about disinformation and climate change.

See related testimony and documents from the Senate Budget Committee hearing here.

[1] Dharna Noor, “Senate Examines Role of ‘Dark Money’ in Delaying Climate Action,” The Guardian, June 23, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jun/21/senate-budget-committee-dark-money-climate-action.

Scott Walter

Scott Walter is president of Capital Research Center. He served in the George W. Bush Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and was vice president at…
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