Free speech fight: Think tank won’t submit to government demands to turn over climate change documents

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A public policy think tank says a government subpoena demanding documents related to its research on climate change is a blatant infringement of its First Amendment rights. Others see it as another step by the Obama administration to not only silence but criminalize so-called “climate change denial.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) said it will oppose the subpoena that also demands its donor information.

Build-Case-600-CI“We’ve been targeted for our ideas,” Kent Lassman, the president and CEO of CEI said on April 12.

According to a report by The Daily Signal, U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker served a 14-page subpoena to the institute while investigating ExxonMobil Corp.’s alleged misrepresentation of its products and activities contributing to climate change “in order to defraud the government … and consumers.”

“Walker is part of a network of state ‘AGs United for Clean Power’ who have formed a grand inquisition to go after those they claim have lied about climate change — which is a contentious and unproven scientific theory,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, wrote in an op-ed for The Daily Signal.

Sam Kazman, general counsel for CEI, said that “while they seemed geared towards just looking at our communications and documents relating to Exxon, if you read them carefully, they really go after just about everything we have done on climate and energy policy for a full decade and for the names of, really, all our donors. We believe this is an outrageous violation of our First Amendment rights.”

“[The subpoena] is designed not only to silence us, but it is also designed to defund us,” Myron Ebell, director of the institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, said.

“These efforts to defund us and other free market groups that have unpolitically correct views on climate and some other major issues[.] … We’ve been dealing with this for a long time, but I think we have now reached another level. When you get attorneys general involved, it’s no longer just a debate in the public base that try to shut us up, but it’s using the full force of the state to do so. We’re taking this very seriously”

According to a report last month by EcoWatch, attorneys general of 20 states have launched an effort to investigate and prosecute alleged “climate change deniers.”

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today:

“Not everyone believes that the planet is warming; not everyone who thinks that it is warming agrees on how much; not everyone who thinks that it is warming even believes that laws or regulation can make a difference. Yet the goal of these state attorneys general seems to be to treat disagreement as something more or less criminal.”