The center’s analysis, by Paul Abowd, also homed in on the Franklin Center for Government Public Integrity, a think tank that has created a network of online media outlets in state capitals that covered climate change from a conservative point of view. Fully 95 percent of Franklin’s revenue in 2011 came from Donors Trust, the center reported. What’s more, that funding allows Franklin to maintain a tax-exemption as a “publicly supported” entity. A former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division told the center that if Franklin “were perennially accepting 95 percent of its funding from a handful of wealthy donors ‘it would not count as public support’ and could jeopardize its tax status.”

Liberal donors dole out plenty of money, too, of course, and the Center for Public Integrity acknowledged that, noting that it had received funding from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Tides Foundation. But those groups are markedly more transparent about where the money comes from and where it goes, the report argued.

Abowd didn’t respond to an email asking how he’d clued into Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, but it seems reasonable to assume that he followed the same path Goldenberg did, with the documents that Gleick obtained from Heartland serving as the trailhead.

The latest revelations don’t exactly excuse Gleick’s actions, however. The files that he distributed were only the inspiration for deeper digging, which more journalists should be pursing as a matter of course. A recent report found that news outlets regularly quote think tanks that receive money from fossil-fuel interests, but only mention the industry funding 6 percent of the time. Obviously, that’s the way a lot of very wealthy people want it.

It’s the press’s job to disappoint them.

 

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.