While some liberals are trying to destroy the second and fourth Amendments by taking away gun rights for anyone on the terrorist watch list even though the list puts people on who don’t deserve it, others are are attacking the first amendment by trying to toss in jail anyone skeptical of the climate change hypothesis.
Not surprisingly one of the Attorney Generals leading the liberal effort to destroy the free speech of climate skeptics is New York State’s Eric Schneiderman of whom the nicest thing that could be said of him is that he’s a bully, more interested in his career than justice.
Lauded by Vice President Gore as “the best, most hopeful step in years” in this effort, the AGs United for Clean Power coalition brings together attorneys general from 25 states, territories, cities and counties to explore ways to jointly support the fight against climate change.
One such tactic includes facilitating ongoing and potential joint investigations into whether fossil fuel companies and industry groups mislead the public about the dangers of climate change or the viability of renewable energy resources.
But as the saying goes what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. A coalition of Republican attorney generals sent a letter to the Schneiderman group warning that the prosecution of climate skeptics will be met with a prosecution of climate alarmists. (full letter embedded below)
We all understand the need for a healthy environment, but we represent a wide range of viewpoints regarding the extent to which man contributes to climate change and the costs and benefits of any proposed fix. Nevertheless, we agree on at least one thing— this is not a question for the courts. Using law enforcement authority to resolve a public policy debate undermines the trust invested in our offices and threatens free speech.
We are concerned that our colleagues’ investigation undermines the trust the people have invested in Attorneys General to investigate fraud. Investigatory subpoenas were issued to at least one company and one non-profit believed to have made statements minimizing the risks of climate change. At the press conference, one of our colleagues noted that “we are pursuing this as we would any other fraud matter.” We routinely investigate fraud, and have done so with many of the states present at the press conference. But this investigation is far from routine. We are unaware of any fraud case combining the following three characteristics: 1) the investigation targets a particular type of market participant; 2) the Attorneys General identify themselves with the competitors of their investigative targets; and 3) the investigation implicates an ongoing public policy debate.
The GOP AG’s then tear apart all the reasons United for Clean Power coalition gave for prosecuting skeptics. They even admit that some of the skeptics’ research is paid for by fossil fuel companies, but they point out that much of the research supporting the climate change hypotheses is paid for by the alternative fuel companies:
If it is possible to minimize the risks of climate change, then the same goes for exaggeration. If minimization is fraud, exaggeration is fraud. Some have indicated that Exxon Mobil’s securities disclosures regarding climate change may be inadequate. We do not know the accuracy of these charges. We do know that Exxon Mobil discloses climate change and its possible implications as a business risk.
If Exxon’s disclosure is deficient, what of the failure of renewable energy companies to list climate change as a risk? If climate change is perceived to be slowing or becoming less of a risk, many “clean energy” companies may become less valuable and some may be altogether worthless. Therefore, any fraud theory requiring more disclosure of Exxon would surely require more disclosure by “clean energy” companies.
Similarly, it has been asserted that “fossil fuel companies” may have funded nonprofits who minimized the risks of climate change. Does anyone doubt that “clean energy” companies have funded non-profits who exaggerated the risks of climate change? Under the stated theory for fraud, consumers and investors could suffer harm from misstatements by all energy-market participants and the non-profits they support. Yet only companies and non-profits allegedly espousing a particular viewpoint have been chosen for investigation.
The letter finishes with a warning…we will answer the suits against skeptics with suits of our own:
Actions indicating that one side of the climate change debate should fear prosecution chills speech in violation of a formerly bi-partisan First Amendment consensus. As expressed by Justice Brandeis, it has been a foundational principle that when faced with “danger flowing from speech … the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
Here, the remedy chosen is silence through threat of subpoena. This threat distorts the debate and impoverishes consumers and the general public who may wish to better educate themselves by hearing and evaluating both sides. Once the government begins policing viewpoints, two solutions exist. The first solution is to police all viewpoints equally. Another group of Attorneys General could use the precedent established by the “AGs United for Clean Power” to investigate fraudulent statements associated with competing interests. The subpoenas currently directed at some market participants could be met with a barrage of subpoenas directed at other market participants. No doubt a reasonable suspicion exists regarding a number of statements relating to the risks of climate change. Even in the press conference, a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers identified “manmade global warming pollution” as “the reason” for 2015 temperatures, the spread of Zika, flooding in Louisiana and Arkansas, Super Storm Sandy, and Super Typhoon Haiyan. Some evidence may support these statements. Other evidence may refute them. Do these statements increase the value of clean energy investments offered for sale by Kleiner Perkins? Should these statements justify an investigation into all contributions to environmental non-profits by Kleiner Perkins’s partners? Should these questions be settled by our state courts under penalty of RICO charges? May it never be. As Justice Jackson noted, our “forefathers did not trust any government to separate the true from the false for us.”
We write to urge our colleagues to choose the second, and far superior, solution. Stop policing viewpoints.
The full letter is embedded below: