Perhaps, these attorneys skipped their constitutional law class when they discussed the 1st Amendment in Law School. Liberal Attorneys General (AGs) from 25 states, territories, cities and counties have formed the “AGs United for Clean Power,” an organization designed come up with ways to prosecute people, organizations, and companies who are also climate skeptics.
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.
GOP members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee are putting pressure on the liberal AGs by asking the the state attorneys generals in the group to reveal their communications with environmental organizations, mirroring what the “United for Clean Power” group is doing with climate skeptics .
The committee members sent letters to each of the 17 State AGs in the group trying to ban free speech. The letters “renew an earlier request to the state attorneys general for information detailing their communications with environmental organizations.”
They also ask for communications between employees for the state attorneys general and the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, or the White House.
“The committee intends to continue its vigorous oversight of the coordinated attempt to deprive companies, nonprofit organizations, and scientists of their First Amendment rights and ability to fund and conduct scientific research free from intimidation and threats of prosecution,” the letters say.
The top state law enforcement officials on the receiving end are given until the close of business June 24 to provide the House committee with “all documents and communications” between their offices and environmental activist groups pertaining to their potential prosecution of nonprofit groups, companies, and individual scientists for not toeing the official line on global warming.
Also last week, a group of Republican AGs who probably went to the class on the First Amendment sent a letter to the “AGs United for Clean Power” to give them the message that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Or, in other words, if the “Clean Power” AGs start prosecuting climate skeptics, they will start prosecuting climate alarmists.
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.”
Their letter ends with a direct “We write to urge our colleagues to choose the second, and far superior, solution. Stop policing viewpoints.”
It seems that both the letter from the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, as well as the one from the Republican AGs, are offering the same advice in their own way: respect the First Amendment.
Perhaps they don’t know any better. After all, by the way they are fighting free speech, it certainly looks like all these Democratic Party Attorneys General cut their constitutional law class when the First Amendment was being taught.