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R Street Institute, Heartland Insurance Spin-off, 'Will Not Promote Climate Skepticism'

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WASHINGTON -- The Heartland Institute's insurance research project, formerly the Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate, which on Friday announced its split from Heartland, "will not promote climate change skepticism," according to Ray J. Lehmann, the project's director of public affairs.

The departure comes just a week after the institute launched a radical attack on climate science in the form of a billboard campaign that compared a belief in global warming to the psychology of mass murder.

Lehmann wrote in an email to personal contacts that the renamed group, the R Street Institute, will continue to focus on "catastrophe insurance, regulatory transparency, credit union deregulation, reform of the National Flood Insurance Program and federal crop insurance, ending environmentally destructive subsidies, [and] reevaluating public health risks."

The letter then adds, "one thing that will certainly change from ending our association with Heartland: R Street will not promote climate change skepticism."

The announcement is part of a larger defection from Heartland that kicked off in the wake of the launch of its Chicago billboard, which featured Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, along with the words, "Do you still believe in global warming? I do."

On Monday, following pressure from a coalition of groups that includes Forecast the Facts, Sierra Club, 350.org, SumOfUs, the League of Conservation Voters and Greenpeace, pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly (LLY), BB&T Bank (BBT) and PepsiCo (PEP) confirmed that they will cease to fund the Heartland Institute.

Other sponsors that have jumped ship are the United Services Automobile Association, beverage giant Diageo (the parent organization to Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Moet & Chandon) and automobile insurance company State Farm, which said in a simple statement on Tuesday, "State Farm is ending its association with the Heartland Institute. This is because of a recent billboard campaign launched by the Institute."

The full letter from Lehmann follows:

As you may or may not be aware, Eli Lehrer, Deborah Bailin, Christian Camara, Julie Drenner, Alan Smith and myself will be leaving the Heartland Institute, effective May 31.

On June 1, we in the former Center on Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate will be launching a new, independent nonprofit educational foundation ("think tank") that will be known as the R Street Institute, or just simply "R Street." We will initially be working on much the same portfolio of issues we already have been -- catastrophe insurance, regulatory transparency, credit union deregulation, reform of the National Flood Insurance Program and federal crop insurance, ending environmentally destructive subsidies, reevaluating public health risks -- but that group of issues may grow as we build our project.

We will continue to operate out of the same offices here in Washington, D.C., and we will continue to have the same operating mantra of "deep focus, broad coalitions and rapid response" to guide our work.

There is one thing that will certainly change from ending our association with Heartland: R Street will not promote climate change skepticism.

I hope to continue to work with any and all of you as R Street rolls out. We are in the process of building our web site and product portfolio and should have more details about both in the weeks ahead.

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