After activist attorneys general targeted a major oil company and conservative groups for their climate change views, one of the groups hit back hard, publicly accusing the AG’s of abusing their legal authority.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) took out an ad in The New York Times on May 18, 2016, and slammed the liberal attorneys general for “unlawful” intimidation. The ad, which charged the AG’s with an “ABUSE OF POWER,” also accused them of trying to suppress dissent on climate change.
New York AG Eric Schneiderman announced an investigation into ExxonMobil in November 2015, but recently held a press conference with several other liberal AGs calling for further investigation of the company. Since that time, one AG has specifically targeted conservative organizations including CEI which have challenged the so-called “consensus” that climate change is predominantly man-made and will be catastrophic.
“Around the country, a group of state attorneys general have launched a misguided effort to silence the views and voices of those who disagree with them,” the ad read. The ad was signed by people from many other conservative groups, legal organizations and academics.
It also stated that the AG’s “intimidation campaign sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the rights of anyone who disagrees with the government’s position.” At least one congressional committee is concerned by the AG’s efforts.
The Hill reported on May 19, that members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee sent a letter to Schneiderman requesting information related to his Exxon investigation expressing concern “these efforts to silence speech are based on political theater rather than legal or scientific arguments ...”
The liberal media, have barely mentioned the investigation’s troubling implications for free speech. Some outlets like The New York Times ran op-eds openly applauded the investigation. A few rare exceptions included a Washington Post column by Robert Samuelson and a New York Post editorial which said “the anti-Exxon campaign is starting to look like a conspiracy in its own right — pursuing a purely political vendetta in a blatant abuse of office.”
Before conservative organizations were targeted, AG Schneiderman announced his investigation of ExxonMobil to see if it misled investors regarding climate change.
After Schneiderman started the initial investigation into Exxon, he collaborated with liberal climate groups to rally other attorneys general to his cause. Schneiderman called him and his climate enforcers the “Green 20” and “AG’s United for Clean Power” at a press conference on March 29.
Schneiderman, was joined at that conference by leading climate alarmist and former vice president Al Gore, and said there was “no dispute” on climate change.
“There is no dispute, but there is confusion, and confusion sowed by those with an interest in profiting from the confusion, and creating misperceptions in the eyes of the American public that really need to be cleared up,” Schneiderman said.
U.S. Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker pushed forward, subpoenaing ExxonMobil for “all documents or communications ... sent to or received from” roughly 100 groups including academic institutions, free market think tanks and conservative non-profits. The Washington Times reported that the list of organizations overlapped considerably with those listed on Greenpeace’s #ExxonSecrets website and “in virtually the same order.” That list included The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Heartland Institute and the Media Research Center (which publishes Newsbusters), along with many others.
Walker also issued a subpoena to CEI on April 7, 2016. That subpoena demanded CEI hand over a decade’s worth of documentation on energy and environmental policy within a month’s time, CEI said.
Andrew Grossman, a BakerHostetler attorney representing CEI, called the subpoena “offensive,” “unlawful,” and “un-American,” according to the Washington Free Beacon. On May 16, CEI filed against Walker’s office to have the subpoena vacated and seeking damages due to the “bad faith purpose in wielding this Court’s power to subpoena.”
“This subpoena neither restricts CEI’s speech nor compels speech—it simply seeks the production of documents related to an investigation that is not targeting CEI,” replied Linda Singer, an attorney with the firm Cohen Milstein, which is working for Walker’s office in the CEI case, according to Free Beacon.
CEI’s full page also ad warned that the battle would “determine whether our society encourages spirited debate or tolerates only government-approved opinions.”