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New York Governor Violated First Amendment Through Political Harassment

Citations

Liberty Unyielding cited CEI's Center for Energy and Environment Director Myron Ebell in reference to Attorney General Claude Walker's subpoena case.  

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo violated the First Amendment by pressuring banks and insurers in New York State to stop providing services to the National Rifle Association because he hated its opposition to gun control.  The NRA responded by bringing a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court. A federal judge has now rejected Cuomo’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, finding that there is a quite plausible argument that he violated the First Amendment.

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Judge McAvoy rightly reaffirmed that the suspicious timing of hostile government acts is evidence of retaliation. I appreciate this principle, because in April 2016, I experienced such suspiciously-timed hostile acts from those working in concert with New York’s state government, after I exercised my right to free speech.

Days after I and a colleague at the Competitive Enterprise Institute criticized multistate investigations of Exxon by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his allies related to climate change, CEI was hit with an extremely broad and burdensome subpoena demanding ten years’ worth of documents relating to a wide range of topics. The subpoena was issued by a member of Schneiderman’s coalition, Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker.

The subpoena closely followed our objections to their investigation. On April 1, 2016, CEI’s Myron Ebell criticized the investigation, and warned that it signaled a potential “shakedown” of the oil industry. On March 29, I was quoted by LegalNewsline criticizing their investigation at length as a threat to climate science and the First Amendment. I also authored an earlier commentary at CNS News criticizing Attorney General Schneiderman and arguing that his investigation was a violation of court rulings protecting free speech against oppressive investigations and speech-chilling lawsuits (decisions such as White v. Lee (2000) and in In re School Asbestos Litigation (1994)).

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After we raised legal objections to the subpoena, it was withdrawn. But there is a danger it will be reissued, and if so, CEI staff could be forced to spend well over a thousand hours combing CEI’s files for the records the subpoena demanded. Forcing someone to go through time-consuming paperwork in retaliation for their speech violates the First Amendment. (See Taoh v. Freeh (1994)).

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