A barrage of coordinated legal assaults on organizations and individuals who challenge any scientific basis for global warming hysteria is sending our constitutional liberties to hell in a handbasket.
Powerful free speech adversaries are targeting dissenters with coercive and costly intimidation tactics.
Thankfully, some are fighting back in court.
The attack movement involving environmental activists, anti-hydrocarbon lobbyists and like-minded federal and state government officials might be traced back to a June 2012 La Jolla, California “workshop” organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Climate Accountability Institute.
Attendees explored ways previous litigations against tobacco companies could provide templates for campaigns against “climate denier” companies and organizations.
The workshop report recommended criminal legal actions under the “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act” (RICO), legislation originally directed at Mafia figures who ordered, but didn’t actually commit crimes such as murder. By 2015, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., was calling for RICO prosecutions of those who bucked a so-called (and bogus) scientific global warming doom and gloom “consensus.”
A secret January 2016 meeting at the Rockefeller Family Fund’s Manhattan offices brought together about a dozen influential anti-fossil fuel activists.
Included were environmental campaign veteran Kenny Bruno and 350.org founder Bill McKibben who had lead successful fights to block the Keystone XL pipeline.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the published agenda included “to establish in public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution that has pushed humanity (and all creation) toward climate chaos and grave harm.”
The Rockefeller Family Fund reportedly offered to help finance the campaign through 350.org.
Two months later on March 29, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman headlined a press conference of 16 state attorneys general announcing intentions to prosecute organizations who were “committing fraud” by “knowingly deceiving” the public about the threat of manmade climate change.
Days later he launched a RICO action against ExxonMobil, and has since also pressed U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to conduct an investigation.
Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker, a former EPA attorney,has filed a RICO suit against both ExxonMobil and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a Washington, D.C. think tank.
The subpoena told Exxon it could be violating two state laws: by purportedly obtaining money under false pretenses, and by conspiring to do so.
ExxonMobil and CEI are gearing up for what promises to be a drawn-out legal battle, a particularly cost-burdensome one for CEI. Responding to a demand for a decade of the organization’s materials and work on climate change policy, CEI’s attorneys called the subpoena “an effort to punish [CEI] for its public policy views, chill its associations, and silence its advocacy.”
Adding that “Your demand on CEI is offensive, it is un-American, it is unlawful, and it will not stand,” the letter to Walker warned, “You can either withdraw it or expect to fight, because CEI strongly believes that this campaign to intimidate those who dissent from the official orthodoxy on climate change must be stopped.”
CEI’s General Counsel Sam Kazman has gone on record stating, “The subpoena is as illegal as it is groundless. It is a political ploy aimed at advancing a policy agenda by shutting down debate.
"The Founding Fathers would have recognized this subpoena for what it is, an attack on our First Amendment rights.”
ExxonMobil agrees with CEI that the subpoena filed on them by the Virgin Islands attorney general violates their constitutional rights as an unwarranted fishing expedition into their internal records.
The company responded, stating that “The chilling effect of this inquiry, which discriminates based on viewpoint to target one side of an ongoing policy debate, strikes at protected speech at the core of the First Amendment.”
ExxonMobil filed court papers seeking to block the action, arguing that Walker had “issued the subpoena without the reasonable suspicion required by law and based on an ulterior motive to silence those who express views on climate change with which they disagree.”
The company also dismisses any comparison with tobacco, pointing out that while cigarettes are a harmful and addictive product, fossil fuels are fundamental to the world economy.
So far, ExxonMobil hasn’t challenged the Schneiderman subpoena. This is believed largely because a New York law called the Martin Act gives the attorney general wide latitude to investigate businesses for possible fraud or misrepresentation.
While RICO intimidation tactics haven’t yet appeared to have gained much momentum within the Justice Department, prodding by some lawmakers has succeeded in prompting a preliminary FBI review.
On the other hand, some of these activist litigants might be cautious about another law.
They can learn more about it by reviewing Federal Statute Section 241 of U.S. Title 18 which makes it a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten or intimidate” another person in exercising their constitutional rights.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of “Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom”(2015) and “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” (2012). Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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