Yesterday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute responded to U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, who recently sent us a subpoena demanding we turn over essentially all of our documents on climate change policy during the 10-year period from 1997 to 2007. We told Mr. Walker that we object to his subpoena, as it’s a blatant attempt to intimidate us for advocating views that he opposes. Simply put, the subpoena is nothing more than attempt to punish CEI for our public policy views and silence our advocacy, under the guise of an investigation of Exxon Mobil for supporting skeptics of global warming alarmism.
Don’t take our word for it—Mr. Walker admitted the political motivations underlying his crusade on March 29, when he joined several other state attorneys general at a press conference entitled “AGs United for Clean Power.” The goal of his Exxon investigation, he explained, is to “make it clear to our residents as well as the American people that we have to do something transformational” about climate change. We should no longer “rely on fossil fuel,” he said, but instead “look at reliable energy.” In other words, Americans should abandon affordable energy and anyone who says otherwise should pay a price.
Of course, Mr. Walker is entitled to his own opinions—however wrongheaded they may be—but he has no right to wield the power of his office to persecute CEI and others who disagree with him. In fact, it is against the law for government officials to conspire to violate Americans’ civil rights. Yet this has not stopped 17 state and territorial attorneys general from working with left-wing activists to harass public interest groups and companies that have had the audacity to voice an opinion on energy policy that differs from the conventional wisdom of those who wish to expand the government’s power.
We realize that some people disagree with our views about climate change policy. But this does not make it right for elected officials such as Mr. Walker to silence our views. The freedoms of belief and expression guaranteed by the Constitution do not yield even to government officials’ insistence that some perceived crisis demands urgent action, the niceties of the law be damned. That is when the right to dissent matters most.
As we told Mr. Walker, his subpoena is “un-American, it is unlawful, and it will not stand.” If he does not withdraw it, he should expect a fight.