Dr. James Hansen's growing financial scandal, now over a million dollars of outside income

Dr James Hansen

Dr. James Hansen -Image by World Development Movement via Flickr

It seems esteemed NASA astronomer turned climatologist turned paid activist Dr. James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has not been reporting some income that he is required by law to do. How long will NASA continue to look the other way? Chris Horner explains. – Anthony

A Summary of James E. Hansen’s NASA Ethics File

By Christopher Horner

NASA records released to resolve litigation filed by the American Tradition Institute reveal that Dr. James E. Hansen, an astronomer, received approximately $1.6 million in outside, direct cash income in the past five years for work related to — and, according to his benefactors, often expressly for — his public service as a global warming activist within NASA.

This does not include six-figure income over that period in travel expenses to fly around the world to receive money from outside interests. As specifically detailed below, Hansen failed to report tens of thousands of dollars in global travel provided to him by outside parties — including to London, Paris, Rome, Oslo, Tokyo, the Austrian Alps, Bilbao, California, Australia and elsewhere, often business or first-class and also often paying for his wife as well — to receive honoraria to speak about the topic of his taxpayer-funded employment, or get cash awards for his activism and even for his past testimony and other work for NASA.

Ethics laws require that such payments or gifts be reported on an SF278 public financial disclosure form. As detailed, below, Hansen nonetheless regularly refused to report this income.

Also, he seems to have inappropriately taken between $10,000 and $26,000 for speeches unlawfully promoting him as a NASA employee. This is despite NASA ordering him to return at least some of the money, with the rest apparently unnoticed by NASA. This raises troubling issues about Hansen’s, and NASA’s, compliance with ethics rules, the general prohibition on not privately benefitting from public service, and even the criminal code prohibition on not having one’s public employment income supplemented. All of this lucrative activity followed Hansen ratcheting up his global warming alarmism and activism to be more political which, now to his possible detriment, he has insisted is part of his job. As he cannot receive outside income for doing his job, he has placed himself in peril, assuming the Department of Justice can find a way to be interested in these revelations.

The following summarizes records produced by the Department of Justice to resolve litigation against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for refusing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the required financial disclosures Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

These records are his applications for outside employment or other activity (form 17-60), approvals and accompanying documents, and public financial disclosure (form SF 278).

As detailed in the American Tradition Institute’s lawsuit which yielded these records, Hansen suddenly became the recipient of many, often lucrative offers of outside employment and awards after he escalated his political activism — using his NASA position as a platform, and springboard. This began with a strident “60 Minutes” interview in early 2006, alleging political interference by the Bush administration in climate science.

Hansen acknowledged this timing on his website, noting that first he was offered an award of “a moderate amount of cash– $10,000″ by an outside activist group. He claims to have turned this down because of the nominating process (without elaborating what that meant), and because of the impropriety of appearing to be financially rewarded for his outspokenness (“I was concerned that it may create the appearance that I had spoken out about government censorship [sic] for the sake of the $”).

Given that Hansen makes no bones about his (often outrageous) outspokenness and activism being, in his view, part of his job, this surely is also another way of saying it would look as if he were having his NASA salary supplemented by appreciative activists and others. That would violate the criminal code, 18 U.S.C. 209.

Yet, as the offers soon became larger, Hansen changed his mind.

The records reveal that NASA initially was very direct in warning Hansen of his responsibilities and prohibitions relating to these activities, which covered the subject of his public employment. Later, after Hansen gained much media attention and condemnation of his NASA superiors for (falsely) claiming he had been “muzzled” (the second president named Bush he claimed had muzzled him), certain clear restatements of the law were dropped from the approval letters responding to his applications for outside employment.

NASA oversight of Hansen’s compliance with ethics-related reporting requirements similarly waned. At no point did they seek reconciliation of his serially conflicting attestations detailed here.

Improper Receipt of Outside Income Without Obtaining Advance Permission

Hansen’s 2009 speech at Dartmouth University for a $5,000 honorarium and up to $1,000 in expenses came in violation of the clear rule against promoting his appearances as, or emphasizing his job with, NASA. It also had not been approved. NASA’s Deputy Chief Counsel Laura Giza, after admonishing these violations, demanded he return the improperly obtained money:

“[Y]ou may not accept the offered honorarium and travel expenses. If you’ve already received this money, you need to return it to Dartmouth.

“Also, in the future, if you have not received word that one of your outside activity requests has been approved, or at least that the legal office has concurred in the request, you should contact the Goddard legal office about the request before engaging in that activity. NASA regulations require that you obtain approval for certain outside activities…prior to engaging in that activity. 5 CFR 6901.103(d).”

If there were further correspondence about this demand it would be in NASA’s document production, but there are no such records. The only lawful scenario, therefore, is that Hansen quietly agreed to the demand, but did not inform NASA whether he complied. Otherwise, NASA, Hansen, or both have violated the ethics and/or transparency statutes and regulation.

Yet subsequent financial disclosure forms show Hansen attesting to accepting even more money, between $5,001 and $15,000, for a 2008 speech at Illinois Wesleyan University for which his file, according to NASA, contains no request for permission to engage in this outside employment, or approval to do so (each a condition precedent to lawfully engage in the activity, and to accepting the money).

There is no correspondence about these two glaring discrepancies in his filings reflecting more apparently improperly accepted outside income than most federal employees will ever see in their careers.

In order to continue his employment Hansen would therefore be required to bring himself back in compliance with the ethics rules by returning the money, between somewhere more than $10,000, and $26,000.

Although Hansen reported the income from both honoraria, he did not report receipt of travel expenses for him to get there. This omission is a pattern in his filings, to the tune of surely tens of thousands of dollars for airfare, meals and lodging to locations all around the country and Europe, all required by ethics laws to be reported.

For example, consider these failures to report often elegant air and hotel/resort accommodations received on his SF278 as required by law (the amount of direct cash income received from the party providing him travel, as well, is in parentheses):

  • Blue Planet Prize ($500,000), travel for Hansen and his wife to Tokyo, Japan, 2010
  • Dan David Prize ($500,000), travel to Paris, 2007
  • Sophie Prize ($100,000), Oslo Norway, travel for Hansen and his wife, 2010
  • WWF Duke of Edinburgh Award, Travel for Hansen and his wife, London, 2006
  • Alpbach, Austria (alpine resort)(“business class”, with wife), 2007
  • Shell Oil UK ($10,000), London, 2009
  • FORO Cluster de Energia, travel for Hansen and wife (“business class”), Bilbao, Spain, 2008
  • ACT Coalition, travel for Hansen and wife to London, 2007
  • Progressive Forum ($10,000)(“first class”), to Houston, 2006
  • Progressive Forum ($10,000), to Houston, 2009
  • UCSB ($10,000), to Santa Barbara, CA
  • Nierenberg Prize ($25,000), to San Diego, 2008
  • Nevada Medal ($20,000), to Las Vegas, Reno, 2008
  • EarthWorks Expos, to Denver, 2006
  • California Academy of Science ($1,500), to San Francisco, 2009
  • CalTech ($2,000), travel to Pasadena, CA for Hansen and his wife, 2007

The following is an incomplete list of other travel apparently accepted to make paid speeches and/or receive cash awards but not reported on SF278 financial disclosures:

Boston, Washington, DC (twice); Columbus, OH; Omaha, NE; Wilmington, DE; Ithaca, NY (business class); Chapel Hill, NC; Deerfield, IL (Sierra Club “No Coal” campaign); Dartmouth, NH; Alberta, Canada (as consultant to a law firm helping run an anti-oil sands campaign), Stanford; Minneapolis; Missoula, MT

Other travel apparently accepted but not reported, to provide expert testimony including on cases involving federal policy:

California (Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep v. Witherspoon), Vermont (Green Mountain Chrysler Plymouth etc v. Torti)

Failing to Report Gifts

World Wildlife Fund gave Hansen an engraved Montres Rolex watch, which typically run $8,000 and up (2006), but which was not reported by Hansen on his SF 278 under “gifts”, which must be reported if valued at more than $260.

Failure to Report Receipt of Free Legal Services

On his website Hansen said he began accepting free legal services in 2006. These are not reported on his financial disclosures, as they should be.

Also, NASA’s document production shows him attesting to receiving more, separate free legal services in the form of an amicus brief drafted for he and a few others to intervene before the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA. This was not reported on his SF278, as required.

These lapses on both Hansen’s part and NASA demand scrutiny to determine how laws designed to protect the taxpayer are, or are not, being respected.


This story has been updated to correct some small errors  and formatting issues@ 8:15AM and 9:50AM PST 11/19/11


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Like most on the left, rules are for the little people.


Tip of the iceberg–THROW THE BUMS OUT! (I don’t usually yell on this site, but I’m about as ticked off at corruption in government as one can get. There’s a big reason congressmen and senators leave office a whole lot richer than they came in, and it’s because what otherwise would get the rest of us thrown in jail for decades those bum congressmen and senators do without any punitive risk whatsoever.)


Rules? Ethics? Those are for the little people.

Some parable about being goosed by a gander comes to mind.

Chris, you, like Schnare, seem to be light on the links (you got this stuff through FOIA, right?) and long on the accusations. Links to the documents which substantiate your charges, please. Your link to the USC seems to miss section (d).

David Falkner

Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff. If he were a CEO he’d be toast already. Speaking of, I do see some foreign countries. I am not sure of the wording, but is it possible Hansen violated the FCPA also?

John from CA

Even Dr. Dolittle deserves protection under the law; innocent until proven guilty. I suspect “has not been reporting some income that he is required by law to do” doesn’t mean he neglected to files taxes correctly. It likely means he failed to properly detail the awards, prizes, honorarium (note: which is why these gifts are structured this way) with corresponding disclosures to NASA.
Given that the past few administrations have been eco-zealots its unlikely he’ll get anything more than a “don’t forget to do the paperwork” in the future.
If it turns out the income was never reported to the IRS… <– very unlikely!

William B. Grubel

Is there a way for a private citizen to sue or initiate criminal charges against NASA or Hansen or both? I’d be happy to lend my name to a lawsuit.

Pete of Perth

Very profitable being an activist, maybe I should change jobs. WWF seem to have alot of excess funds, I wonder if the rolex was white.

John from CA

William B. Grubel says:
November 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm
Is there a way for a private citizen to sue or initiate criminal charges against NASA or Hansen or both? I’d be happy to lend my name to a lawsuit.
Hansen is harmless, just ignore him or enjoy the antics. It’s pretty strange a NASA Scientist can get away with the antics but, given that he does, an ethics plea is “lost in space”.


The darling of the foundations, all of which have been taken over buy crazy academics and their ilk. They may be elitists, but no one ever said they were intelligent. Except themselves.


Sounds like someone is jealous of others peoples income. Why are some so against people making money? Why do some continue to want equal outcomes and begrudge those whom do better financially? Why are socialists always against someone who has done well for themselves? Speaking of Dr. Hansen, seems his North Atlantic hurricane predictions for the season were pretty spot on.

Tom in Florida

– George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 10


Only $1.6 million in the past five years? ……..Unbelievable.
Last year he got $0.63 million from the stupid Asahi Glass Foundation alone.

Tim Ball

Has he violated the Hatch Act?


All for the grandchildren, perhaps?

Bob Johnston

I wonder how much Hansen would have received had he been a skeptic. Nevermind… dumb question.

Remember that the accusation is always that the skeptics are the paid-off hacks … and so we see the projection.

Shell Oil UK ($10,000), London, 2009
certainly “the eolic” energy division


Oh he took $10k from Shell. He’s in big oil’s pocket. That may be the straw that breaks this particular camel’s back.

Dr A Burns

I’ve been ridiculously accused of being on the ‘big oil’ payroll and I’m sure other realists have as well … what a laugh to see that Hansen really is !

Wow, excellent post. Can’t wait for the trial… that’ll be fun to watch… get the popcorn ready.
I suppose if they can’t get Hansen for the alleged scientific fraud and alleged commercial fraud of passing off statistically interpolated data as if it’s actual observational data from the Arctic stations (eg. using one temperature station for 1,200 km diameter area thus artificially and evidently fraudulently inflating the Arctic temperature rise by many degrees) then his collecting the money as benefits of those alleged frauds for propaganda purposes is sweet even if it’s because he simply failed to report the monies, the failure of which seems to be a serious crime as he’s a government employee.
One thing about people committing frauds is that they tend to over reach and do it in more than one way as they think they can get away with it since they’ve not yet been caught.
Oh, wait a moment, Hansen fits the definition of the 1% Crony Government Cult Member who snuggles up to his Corporatist friends (see the list of organizations that he received monies from) to support their agenda’s so that they received massive funding from the public purse and private interests. Is Hansen one of the 1% of government that is corrupt? Seems like it the more we learn about his financial and propaganda activities.

1.6 million in 5 years?! Wow! The guy must be swimming in golden coins pools right now.
How does that compares to Oil and Coal Industries lobby expenditure in Washington?
Here’s an old link, but I don’t think the figure have been lowering:
And seeing these figures, I really don’t know why AGW skeptics worry so much. Nothing will change, those leftists radicals can’t even pass a law to provide proper food for students:
If legislators can turn ketchup into salad, just think of what they can do to CO2.


Give him a break…he’s trying to save the world! (obvious sarc)

Lobbyists are paid, nothing wrong with that. Oh ya, they are required to register as such. Not a lobbyist but just an advocate. Then give up your NASA position and become an academic, at least they can receive outside income and perks with only the IRS to care.


I am not suprised at all. THis explains alot. I hope this can remain a top story for awhile. thank you.

Rhoda Ramirez

I’m retired Civil Service and what he’s done is sufficient to be fired. But he’ll get away with it because of his political connections. The rule of law is getting thinner and thinner and it won’t just be climate activism that’s tolerated as ethics rules are eviscerated – think 3rd world bribery that part of doing business with their governments. That’s what we’re heading for now.


The real problem is he is a government employee. Very hard to get rid of one.
In the private sector he’d be toast already. The sad part is he is going to get a really big retirement when he decides to go. And we will still be paying for it.


Wonderful sleuthing Chris Horner!
This is a great summary page that we all need to our congressional representatives and to Representative Issa as Chairman of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee. Don’t forget to mention Dr. Hansen’s arrests and calls for property destruction.
Once the scrutiny starts with Hansen, that is a deep dark pit they’ll be pulling the muck out of. Bets he retires soon. Let an investigator identify definite illegal actions with Federal money and retirement will not shield him.
In spite of the trolls attempting to spin this information as innocence unrecognized, honest but sloppy, ethical but misled, normal or whatever; accusing a potential wrongdoer always starts with stating the obvious. The accused then has the right to face their accusers in court. Of course, the Federal government may (likely) will require complete paper trails and extensive records. They will expect to see all approved form 17-60s, travel requests, travel vouchers, leave requests. Along the way, the investigators will work out a conference, meeting, engagement, travel itinerary and they’ll compare it to the official records. Given indications of, let us say, accidental omissions they’ll interview the traveler employee. Any indication of wrong intent, like failing to return funds already identified as wrongfully earned and the investigation will kick up a notch. Kick that notch high enough and the IG will subpoena detailed records from all involved, if necessary they’ll construct a timeline/travel/earnings/activities itinerary to identify every possible accidental omission.
This is before they ask Dr. Hansen about his arrests and political activities.
All of this is something that NASA/NOAA should have nipped in the bud years ago. NOAA will have a lot of explaining to do on just how this employee’s actions got so far out of proportion.

John from CA says:
November 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Even Dr. Dolittle deserves protection under the law; innocent until proven guilty. I suspect “has not been reporting some income that he is required by law to do” doesn’t mean he neglected to files taxes correctly. It likely means he failed to properly detail the awards, prizes, honorarium (note: which is why these gifts are structured this way) with corresponding disclosures to NASA…

What a bizarre series of statements! Accused is accused, convicted is a different word. By the way, is identifying improper paper trails and a lack of official approvals even an accusation? No, but it sure gets close to an IG asking tough questions that don’t have currently visible answers that are on legal public interest documents. It’s not got anything to do with IRS, yet.
Just where are those disclosures for “gifts detailed with corresponding disclosures”? Are they posted on a web site somewhere? This sure seems to be a “nothing to see here” PR evasion statement; politely saying for our ignorant benefit; “Of course all of these gifts, trips, accomodations, meals, honoria are all legally and properly disclosed to NASA/IRS by…” who? WWF? Yeah, sure, what an obfuscation.


Rules do not apply when they are counter to the political agenda.

F. Ross

As he cannot receive outside income for his job, he has placed himself in peril, assuming the Department of Justice can find a way to be interested in these revelations.

[emphasis mine]
Aye, …there’s the rub, finding someone in the current Justice Department to look into these matters!

Green – as in greenbacks

Jimmy Haigh.

Where are all of the apologists? Only Rattus so far.


Jimmy Haigh. says:
November 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm
Where are all of the apologists? Only Rattus so far.>>>

I was just thinking the same thing. And Rattus’ comment was so lame it wasn’t even worth rebutting!


And NASA was the PREMIER scientific and engineering organization that helped inspire me as a young lad to pursue a so far successful career in engineering.
They took us to the MOON and then this HACK (I repeat that term HACK) “scientist” trashed their reputation.
What a SHAME……………….
Cheers, Kevin.


Inquiring minds want to know: how do you power a 12,000 watt projector from a wall plug that only produces 2,000 watts? That part must have been interesting too.

Cassandra King

The ‘big eco’ industry has all the funds it needs to reward its mouthpieces very handsomely indeed, from BBC reporters to NASA employees to bought off academics, all are rewarded for their services to big eco. Money greases the wheels, known faces add gravitas to the giant fraud, of course it helps to accuse the enemy of tactics they themselves are engaged in. So a multi billion pound cartel of flimflam carpet baggers from big eco use gutter tactics to peddle its fraud? Wait until the extent becomes clear.

Rob Munning

So now we know the source of Mann’s hockeystick: it was a graph of Hansen’s income.


Can you say, “conflict of interest?” I knew you could.

Ethics? We don’t need no stinking ethics.
Every wonder who funds Green Peace and the WWF?


I worked in DOD research and development which included a small amount of aquisitions activity. As such I had to file an OGE 450 form annually after receiving a day long “threat brief” from the command ethics lawyer where we were repeatedly threatened if we didn’t conform to every last iota of the letter and intent of the law she would ensure that ” I will see your a$$ in jail”. One of the cautionary tales during the threat brief was of an officer in an adjacent command who lost his career over accepting a $250.00 watch from a contractor. He claimed he didn’t realize the value of the gift (less than $30.00 worth of gifts are admissible and are usually things like pens, coffee mugs, t-shirts or similar things). He was never given a chance to return it and an 18 year career was snuffed out 2 years short of retirement for a talented officer who had commanded troops in combat and was universally respected. I knew some of his troops that served under him downrange and by all accounts he was the type of leader whose crew would walk through fire for. Alot of folks were upset but at the end of the day he really should have known better. Stacked up against this NASA guys rock star lifestyle recieved for using his position as a federal official to promote a political agenda it somehow doesn’t seem very just.

Steve C

Nice work if you can get it,
And you can get it if you lie.

John from CA

TedK says:
November 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm
Have you lost all sense of reality? Let the “judge” pass a statement in this case.

John F. Hultquist

I note RockyRoad’s comment (@ 6:20) alluding to Peter Schweizer’s new book, “Throw Them All Out.” Sarah Palin’s latest opinion piece in the WSJ begins: “Mark Twain famously wrote, “There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” Peter Schweizer’s new book, “Throw Them All Out,” reveals this permanent political class in all its arrogant glory. (Full disclosure: Mr. Schweizer is employed by my political action committee as a foreign-policy adviser.)”
Later she asks: “Politicians who arrive in Washington as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires. Why?”
If Twain were writing today he would have to amend his statement.
I’m inclined to think not much will follow from these revelations of Mr. Hansen’s finances. The Justice Department is busy investigating Miami Police and Penn State and the congress critters are busy doing nothing. The Pres, meanwhile, is on the campaign trail – lately getting advice from Australian Prime Minister Julia “there will be no tax” Gillard.
This post is extremely interesting nonetheless. I need more pop corn.


Wow! I guess that makes Hansen a 1%’er I’ll make it hard for him to have street-cred with all those 99%’s out there on Wall Street.

John F. Hultquist

Did davidmhoffer @9:21 turn on italics and not turn it off?
[REPLY: Fixed. Thanks. -REP]

sceptical says:
November 18, 2011 at 7:13 pm
Sounds like someone is jealous of others peoples income……
I think you’re missing the point. No one cares how much he makes……. we care about what was bought and sold. Hansen can do what ever he pleases, as a private citizen. But he’s not a private citizen, and he can’t sell his position, which, it seems he has. Most people call this graft. It’s illegal. And for anyone interested, as the post states, much of this information is freely available at his blog. He freely writes about the graft he’s received for his advocacy. Heck, he even writes about using the ill gotten gain and buying solar panel for his house, getting tax rebates for it, and then whining about the generation and reimbursement rates. It was one moment of clarity for him. He realizes renewables won’t work…….. It’s in his Easter Bunny rant……. the guy is either entirely incapable of making a proper ethical decision or he’s so delusional he isn’t aware that he’s breached these rules.

John from CA

James Sexton says:
November 18, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Amazingly complex comment!
Should Scientists in Civil Service for Federal Agencies be held accountable to the same STANDARDS the Congress is sworn to?
LOL, Dr. Hansen on their terms my be our next PresDenture.


Didn’t Hansen get $250,000 directly and $900,000 in support to “put a scientific explanation for global warming” back in the 1980s? I need to look a little deeper, but I recall the Heinz Foundation (Theresa Heinz-Kerry) was involved.