The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit policy advocacy group, is being subpoened by the Attorney General Claude E. Walker of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who is demanding that the Washington DC-based organization turn over records relating to climate change dating back at least a decade. In an exclusive podcast interview with Spero News, CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman set out the stakes for constitutional free speech, as well as free enterprise in the United States. Kazman said that Walker has issued subpoenas to CEI, ExxonMobil, and a public relations firm, as part of a broader effort by AGs in several states who seek to go after companies that are alleged to have with-held information or manipulated debate on climate change issues. State attorneys general are seeking documents from ExxonMobil dating back to the mid-1970s relating to climate change. Kazman said that the demands are “over-broad and burdensome.”
“The only reason we’ve received subpoenas is not because of some sort of investigation of a possible fraud, it is just to start shutting down the debate over global warming. And that it most intimately a question of free speech. There is a huge debate going on in this country.” Moreover, said Kazman, “I think the alarmists who push global warming as a reason to turn society on its head believe that they’re losing the real scientific debate, and the tactic they’ve come up with here – and that this coalition of attorneys general is carrying out – is to simply shut down the debate on the grounds of fraud.”
Last month, CEI denounced the subpoena from the Virgin Islands’ attorney general. According to a statement from CEI, “This is the latest effort in an intimidation campaign to criminalize speech and research on the climate debate, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and former Vice President Al Gore.” At the time that the subpoena was issued, Kazman made a statement calling it “an affront to our First Amendment rights of free speech and association,” and vowed to quash the effort. Kazman also declared that the “the real victims will be all Americans,” should the subpoena succeed, and ”whose access to affordable energy will be hit by one costly regulation after another, while scientific and policy debates are wiped out one subpoena at a time.”
Attorney General Walker of the Virgin Islands is a member, along with attorneys general from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia in a group calling itself “AGs United for Clean Power,” which threatens criminal charges against businesses, policy advocacy organizations, scientists and others who disagree with the group’s view on climate change. In the Spero News interview, Kazman quipped “Let me leave your listeners with just one thought: this coalition of state AGs calls itself ‘AGs United for Clean Power,’ more truthfully they are ‘AGs United for More Power.’”
CEI has opposed previous attempts by government agencies and others who, it claims, are using “McCarthy-style tactics by officials aiming to limit discussions between nonprofit policy groups and the private sector regarding federal policies.”
In an ad that appeared this week in the New York Times, CEI set out the stakes involved in the subpoena it has received from the Virgin Islands and the related efforts against petroleum giant ExxonMobil. Kazman told Spero News that he hopes that a favorable decision in the case against CEI will also prove to be favorable for ExxonMobil. In the ad, CEI denounced the effort by the state AGs, saying “This abuse of power is unacceptable. It is unlawful. And it is un-American. Regardless of one’s views on climate change, every American should reject the use of government power to harass or silence those who hold differing opinions. This intimidation campaign sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the rights of anyone who disagrees with the government’s position—whether it’s vaccines, GMOs, or any other politically charged issue.”
What Americans could see, if the alarmists and their allies among state attorney’s general are successful, is the imposition of an effective “sin” tax on all petroleum-based products and thus increasing their cost for consumers. Petroleum is not a sin, said Kazman, but a blessing from God that provides affordable energy. The prosecution of oil companies has been compared to the efforts during the Clinton administration against tobacco companies who paid out millions when they were found to have concealed the negative health effects of tobacco products.
Benefitting from the prosecution of the theory of man-made global climate change are “crony” businessmen and businesses, said Kazman, including those offering as yet unproved energy technologies. Among those receiving government subsidies at a cost to taxpayers are Solyndra – a solar energy that received $535 million from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus, in addition to a $25.1 million tax abatement from the state of California. It declared bankruptcy in 2011.
Speaking at a press conference launching the coalition of attorneys general on March 29, New York Attorney General Schneiderman said, “The bottom line is simple: Climate change is real.” He went on to say that if companies are committing fraud by “lying” about the dangers of climate change, they will “pursue them to the fullest extent of the law.” Standing by his side was former Vice President and global warming believer Al Gore. The coalition consists of the 15 state attorneys general who happen to be Democrats from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington State. Also party to the coalition are the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, who are independents. Simultaneously, Attorney General Kamala Harris of California is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.