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Information Tribunal about sceptic charity donor receives global coverage

The climate sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation is a “highly connected political lobbying machine” and the Charity Commission should therefore disclose the name of its seed funder, a barrister told the Information Rights Tribunal according to a report in The Times on Saturday.

The Guardian, the Brisbane Times as well as the blogs DeSmogBlog and Climate Progress also reported Friday’s Information Tribunal hearing where Brendan Montague, the director of Request Initiative, asked judge Alison McKenna to disclose the name of the seed funder of Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic charity.

Robin Hopkins, representing Brendan Montague, was quoted in the Times on Saturday describing the GWPF as a “highly connected political lobbying machine” and arguing that the identity of the donor that made the launch of the foundation possible could not be “of greater relevance or greater impact”.

Mr Montague has appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision to withhold the name of the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s seed funder. The Guardian published two letters on the day of the tribunal signed by scientists and experts supporting Mr Montague’s request, having reported on the tribunal hearing the previous Monday.

The editors in chief of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Lancet signed an open letter stating: “Although Lawson and his Global Warming Policy Foundation have been discredited and attacked by numerous scientists and senior politicians, his thinktank continues to receive significant coverage, wrongfully distorting the public and policy debate over climate change.” The second letter was written by Dr Robin Russell Jones, the chair of Planetary SOS.

The Brisbane Times quoted Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Australia’s Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, who said: “The public should know who is funding climate denial so they can properly judge the information put out by organisations like the Global Warming Policy Foundation.”

Joe Romm’s US based Climate Progress hosted a guest blog post by leading climate scientist James Hansen who warned: “Public doubt about the science is not an accident. People profiting from business-as-usual fossil fuel use are waging a campaign to discredit the science. Their campaign is effective because the profiteers have learned how to manipulate democracies for their advantage.”

The Canadian DeSmogBlog highlighted GWPF’s scale of influence, using one statement found on the thinktank’s website: “The key to the success of the GWPF is the trust and credibility that we have earned in the eyes of a growing number of policy makers, journalists and the interested public.”

The Freedom of Information request was made by Mr Montague in a personal capacity in mid-2010 before the launch of the Request Initiative, a not-for-profit community interest company which makes requests on behalf of charities, NGOs and those acting in the public interest.

He said: “A thorough understanding of the act and extensive research allowed me to keep the legal fees extremely reasonable and I am therefore able to cover them personally. Request was established with the aim of making transparency laws in the UK accessible to charities of all sizes and budgets despite the legal complexity of using the tribunals.”

Criminals intimidate victims via social media

Convicted criminals, including murderers have taunted victims and their families over social networks, sometimes even from behind bars, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express report. Figures released by the Ministry of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that 143 Facebook profiles used for intimidation have been removed between July 2009 and June 2010. Another 199 were removed between July 2010 and June last year.

Cabinet Office official attacks lobbying reform campaigners

In the run-up to the publication of the Government’s controversial consultation paper on lobbying regulation, the Cabinet Office rejected an FoIA request to disclose details of its contacts with the lobbying industry, The Independent reports. Eirian Walsh-Atkins, head of constitutional policy at the Cabinet Office and in charge of drawing up plans to regulate lobbying posted on Friday a message on Twitter saying she hoped a group fighting for better regulation of the industry “would die”. The Times later reported the Cabinet Office apologized for her remarks and stated she will remain employed in another role while an investigation continues.

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