The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

State AGs Attack First Amendment

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Last March, Citizens Against Government Waste wrote in its monthly newsletter, WasteWatcher, that scientists, engineers, and economists have and are continuing to push back against the anthropogenic (man-made) global warming hypothesis.  In other words, the science is definitely not settled and much more research must be done before governments spend trillions of tax dollars on inefficient alternative energy sources such as wind and solar while limiting access to energy derived from fossil fuels.

The March column took a look at the disturbing trend of how raw political power is entering the global warming debate.  For example, Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitted in a March 2, 2016, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the Justice Department has discussed whether to pursue civil action against climate change “deniers” and had referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on whether action could be taken.  In addition, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has been pushing for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges to be used against deniers.

Within a week of our publication, 15 state attorneys general (AG) from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington State, plus the AGs from the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, announced the creation of a coalition “AGs United for Clean Power” at a press conference.  Former Vice President Al Gore was also present at the unveiling.  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stated, “With gridlock and dysfunction gripping Washington, it is up to the states to lead on the generation-defining issue of climate change.  We stand ready to defend the next president's climate change agenda, and vow to fight any efforts to roll-back the meaningful progress we've made over the past eight years.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and Cole Wintheiser examined this new “Spanish Inquisition” in an April 4, 2016 “The Daily Signal” blog.  The authors state, “The inquisitors are threatening legal action and huge fines against anyone who declines to believe in an unproven scientific theory” and that neither “Gore nor the ‘AGs United for Clean Power’ has any concern over the First Amendment or the stifling of scientific debate.”  The AGs believe climate change deniers are committing fraud and not protected by the First Amendment.  The blog also points out that Attorney General Schneiderman and California Attorney General Kamala Harris “have already launched investigations into ExxonMobil for allegedly funding research that questioned climate change.”

Alarmingly, the AG’s have expanded their “Twenty-First Century Inquisition.”  Last Thursday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), one of the nation’s premier fiscally-conservative, free-market public policy organizations in Washington, D.C., received a subpoena from Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker. According to the think tank’s press release, the “subpoena requests a decade’s worth of communications, emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding CEI’s work on climate change and energy policy, including private donor information.  It demands that CEI produce these materials from 20 years ago, from 1997-2007, by April 30, 2016.”

CEI’s General Counsel Sam Kazman stated, “CEI will vigorously fight to quash this subpoena.  It is an affront to our First Amendment rights of free speech and association for Attorney General Walker to bring such intimidating demands against a nonprofit group.  If Walker and his allies succeed, the real victims will be all Americans, whose access to affordable energy will be hit by one costly regulation after another, while scientific and policy debates are wiped out one subpoena at a time.”  You can read about CEI’s response here.

Others have spoken out against this unwarranted attack on political discourse and scientific opinion from both sides of the climate debate.  They understand that if these 17 attorneys general who disagree with CEI’s beliefs can succeed in prosecuting the organization for its opinions and shut down its ability to advocate for its ideas, then anyone in our country can be muzzled for their beliefs.

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