House Science Chairman Lamar Smith Subpoenas NY AG Schneiderman, Mass. AG Healey, and Eight Organizations

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) on 13th July made good on his threat to subpoena state attorneys general and private organizations that appear to be conspiring “to deprive companies, non-profit organizations, and scientists of their First Amendment rights and ability to fund and conduct scientific research free from intimidation and threats of prosecution.”  Chairman Smith and four other Republicans on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a press conference (video here) on 13th July to announce that subpoenas had been issued to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Trust, Pawa Law Group, Climate Accountability Institute,, Greenpeace, Climate Reality Project, and Global Warming Reality Project.  

The reactions from the recipients of the subpoenas were uniformly defiant. My favorite was from Ken Kimmell, president of the far-left pressure group, the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Kimmell said in a press release:

“Chairman Smith’s subpoena is an abuse of power that goes way beyond the House Science Committee’s jurisdiction and amounts to nothing more than harassment.  It’s also just plain wrong to investigate a nonprofit for doing its job — in this case, providing public officials with science and evidence to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for deception on climate change, one of the world’s most pressing problems….  It’s beyond ironic for Chairman Smith to violate our actual free speech rights in the name of protecting ExxonMobil’s supposed right to misrepresent the work of its own scientists and deceive shareholders and the public.”

Ah, the ironies abound.  The fact is that the subpoenas expose the hypocrisy of these groups.  They encouraged the AGs to violate the First Amendment rights of others, but when their efforts are investigated they suddenly complain that their own First Amendment rights are being violated. 

In a speculative leap, the Union of Concerned Scientists insinuated that the Competitive Enterprise Institute must have worked covertly with Chairman Smith on his subpoena of UCS and other environmental groups, because, after all, “the first letters from Chairman Smith were sent the same day as the New York Times printed a full-page advertisement sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).”  Sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists, but we have had no role in Chairman Smith’s investigation.

But having noted the hypocrisy of these groups, I must add that I am not convinced that these subpoenas to private groups should have been issued.  It is too easy for them to claim, as Kimmell and others have done, that they are not violating anyone’s rights, but merely assisting in using the powers of the state to investigate “climate fraud.”  Congress clearly has the authority to investigate possible violations of constitutional rights, but the private groups subpoenaed are secondary to the AGs.  The Union of Concerned Scientists, the Climate Accountability Institute, the Pawa Law Group, and the others appear to have planned and assisted the AGs’ investigation, but it is the AGs who are doing the violating.

Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), a former federal and state prosecutor, made a point at the press conference that has been said before (at least by me) but is worth repeating: “If the debate on climate change is settled, the environmental activists and state attorneys general should have no problem convincing the American public with their own evidence and arguments.  Why go to such great lengths to squash differing opinions and anyone who questions their conclusions?”