Trying to Follow the Money with the Hoover Institution

For the 15 years my dad worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, my family called Hoover Tower “the Baby Bottle” because of its shape. In a sentence, that would be “meet me at the Baby Bottle at 11 so we can have lunch with Rachel in the Student Union” or “if you’re trying to find the library, look for the Baby Bottle and walk towards it and to the right”.

Seeing one of the readings for the Science, Technology and International Politics class was by S. Fred Singer, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution in 2008, I decided to find out more about the Hoover Institution by following the money.

Another assigned author, Joel Achenbach, had given me a clue to who might be funding global climate change skeptics:

“Since the late 1980s, when oil, gas, coal, auto and chemical companies formed the Global Climate Coalition, industries have poured millions of dollars into a campaign to discredit the emerging global warming consensus.” (Global Warming Skeptics Continue to Punch Away)

First, I went to the Hoover Institution’s website to see if they published who their major donors are (the organization I worked for this summer does, so I thought it was worth a try).

No dice. The closest I could find to a list of donors was the following:

“The Hoover Institution owes its distinctive character and present eminence to generous philanthropy, starting with Herbert Hoover himself and continuing with those who have inherited his commitment.”

Not terribly helpful. Without hearing it from the Institution itself, I was unwilling to make assumptions about what (if any) financial motivations it has for publishing S. Fred Singer’s work. Still curious, I searched around to see if any reputable third party (Washington Post, New York Times, Stanford) had a list of their donors.

What I found was surprising–the same unsourced list here here here here here and here. The list of funders is:

  • Archer Daniels Midland Foundation
  • ARCO Foundation
  • Boeing-McDonnell Foundation
  • Chrysler Corporation Fund
  • Dean Witter Foundation
  • Exxon Educational Foundation
  • Ford Motor Company Fund
  • General Motors Foundation
  • J.P. Morgan Charitable Trust
  • Merrill Lynch & Company Foundation
  • Procter & Gamble Fund
  • Rockwell International Corporation Trust
  • Transamerica Foundation

Why do I suspect the list has all been copied from the same, unnamed, source? Because each of the websites linked to above introduced the list with the exact same text:

“The Hoover Institution receives much of its funding from private charitable foundations, including corporate charitable foundations. Its recent donors include:”

Because none of the websites I found sourced the list, and I am left with a story about the importance of citing sources but no usable information about where the Hoover Institution gets its money. Because this list tries to confirm my worst suspicions–that Hoover is funded by those organizations that have the most to lose if the world tries to curb GHGs by stepping away from fossil fuels–I cannot accept this list as evidence towards that point. It is simply too convenient.

In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, my source for the phrase “follow the money” from, Detective Vimes would never accept information from a suspicious source just because it confirmed his views. He would get even more suspicious, and keep digging.

I won’t do that, for now, because I have reading to do. But I will keep an eye out for hints about who Hoover is funded by, and whether that affects their publications. And I may pay a visit to “the Baby Bottle” when I get home, to find out more.

Inspirational Quote:

“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

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