By Ailan Evans
A group behind a study finding an increase in “climate change misinformation” on Elon Musk’s Twitter also funded Fusion GPS, the private investigative firm behind the debunked Steele dossier, as well as another group reportedly connected to an election disinformation campaign.
Advance Democracy, a non-profit helmed by ex-Democratic staffer Daniel Jones, shared a study exclusively with USA Today Tuesday claiming that instances of posts referencing terms including “climate fraud,” “climate hoax” and “climate scam” increased more than 300% in 2022. However, Advance Democracy has funded groups behind now-debunked claims involving the 2016 presidential election, as well as a group reportedly connected to a disinformation campaign in the 2017 Alabama special Senate election.
The non-profit in 2020 paid $140,000 to Bean LLC, the parent company of Fusion GPS, for “research consulting” services. Fusion GPS was hired by Perkins Coie, a Democrat-linked law firm retained by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, to conduct opposition research on the Trump campaign between April 2016 and October 2016; Fusion GPS commissioned Christopher Steele to produce a now-discredited opposition research report on the Trump campaign, according to public tax filings.
Many of the Steele dossier’s allegations have been subsequently debunked and proven false.
Advance Democracy has previously funded Fusion’s parent company to the tune of $6,051,251 as of 2020, according to the Washington Examiner’s review of earlier tax filings.
Additionally, Advance Democracy paid $540,000 to the research firm Yonder, according to public tax filings; Yonder was previously known as New Knowledge, the Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported. New Knowledge CEO Jonathon Morgan reportedly participated in a disinformation operation during the 2017 Alabama special Senate election between Doug Jones and Roy Moore, ostensibly to study how Russian disinformation campaigns during the 2016 election operated, according to The New York Times.
However, the campaign was intended to help Doug Jones, according to the NYT, and attempted to link Moore to thousands of fake Russian accounts.
“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” an internal report read, according to the NYT.
New Knowledge was also reported to have been behind a report at the request of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated Russian influence in the 2016 election, arguing Americans’ unease with censorship put the U.S. at a disadvantage with regards to foreign disinformation. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence then issued a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election which cited New Knowledge’s research extensively.
Advance Democracy has previously provided reports on online misinformation and disinformation to other news sites including Politico and The Washington Post, focusing on perceived election misinformation and alleged threats to democracy.
Advance Democracy’s study, which could not be found on their website, claimed that most tweets containing purported climate change misinformation were not labeled by Twitter. The group also claimed that “climate change misinformation” was proliferating on other social media platforms.
“Advance Democracy found that in almost all cases that the proliferation of climate change denialist content increased in the past year, and in many cases, dramatically so,” Jones told USA Today.
Advance Democracy did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.