Last week, Attorney General of the Virgin Islands Claude Walker served a subpoena on the Competitive Enterprise Institute ("CEI"), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization "dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty." General Walker is part of "AGs United for Clean Power," a group of seven state attorneys general and former Vice President Al Gore, that threatens companies, scientists, organizations, and others with criminal investigation and prosecution for opposing or questioning the liberal orthodoxy on climate change. Walker is investigating ExxonMobil under the Virgin Island's version of a RICO statute.
CEI has promised to fight against this threat to its First Amendment rights of speech and association:
“CEI will vigorously fight to quash this subpoena. It is an affront to our First Amendment rights of free speech and association for Attorney General Walker to bring such intimidating demands against a nonprofit group,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. “If Walker and his allies succeed, the real victims will be all Americans, 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.”
The subpoena requests a decade’s worth of communications, emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding CEI’s work on climate change and energy policy, including private donor information. It demands that CEI produce these materials from 20 years ago, from 1997-2007, by April 30, 2016.
The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky noted the absurdity of the subpoena and underlying investigation:
There are so many things wrong with this that it is hard to know where to start. . . . And ExxonMobil and CEI are being targeted for having taken what these legal barons consider the wrong side of a scientific theory that is being actively debated and questioned. . . . The root of what is going on here appears to be an effort to intimidate, harass, frighten, and possibly imprison or fine anyone who Walker and his fellow warders think is saying the wrong thing . . . .
This investigation is intended to silence and chill any opposition. It is disgraceful and contemptible behavior by public officials who are willing to exploit their power to achieve ideological ends. As CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman says, “it is an affront to our First Amendment rights of free speech and association.”
Given the coalition that has been formed by state attorneys general to conduct a grand inquisition against climate change deniers, this subpoena from the Virgin Islands attorney general is probably just the first assault in their quasi-religious war against unbelievers. Researchers, scientists, think tanks, universities, and anyone else who works or speaks in this area should be aware that they may soon become a target of these malicious investigations.
This is likely the first of many attacks by Democrat attorneys general against scientists and organizations for thought crimes, with no regard for the freedom of speech, liberty of thought, or the vigorous debate of ideas upon which America was founded and persists.