Scientists calling for the Justice Department to prosecuteglobal warming skeptics may have had some help from a prominentDemocratic senator, according to email records obtainedbyÂ a free market think tank.
Emails obtained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute andindependently verified by The Daily Caller News Foundation suggestRhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse consulted with agroup of scientists who later sent a pointed letter to the WhiteHouse and Department of Justice. TheletterÂ demandedÂ thefedsÂ launcha Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO,investigation into â€œthe fossil fuel industryand their supporters.â€
CEI says it obtained emails under the Washington State andFlorida open records laws. The scientists sending the letter to DOJoften copied their planning communications to Whitehouse on hisprivate email account, along with a personal staffer and aDemocratic lawyer on the Senate judiciary committee.
â€œIt seems likely therefore that the organizerJagadish Shukla worked with Whitehouse, possibly even onWhitehouse’s behalf, to organize colleagues in support ofinvestigation or prosecution,â€ Chris Horner, anattorney with CEI, told TheDCNF.
â€œIt begs the question of the relationshipbetween a Senator and his personal and committee offices andoutside activists teaming up to echo his call for investigation andprosecution of ideological/political opponents,â€Horner said. â€œRemember, this is not peoplepetitioning their government in support or opposition of alawmaker’s legislative initiative, but taxpayer-fundedacademics echoing a legislator’s call for prosecution ofpolitical opponents.â€
CEI cited Whitehouseâ€™s emails as part of arecent lawsuit against George Mason University for records fromProfessor Ed Maibach, another of the RICOletterâ€™s signatories. CEI says Maibach used hisuniversity title, position and email account in the RICO lettereffort. The think tank is now suing to get GMU to produceMaibach’s emails.
â€œâ€˜McCarthyismâ€™need no longer labor under a definition now that such a perfectillustration as Whitehouse’s campaign hasemerged,â€ Horner said.
Whitehouse has been calling for the Justice Department to launcha Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, formonths, writing op-eds and making speeches in favor of prosecutingthose he sees as misleading the public on climate science.
Jagadish Shukla, a George Mason University scientist andpresident of the Institute of Global Environment and Society,backed Whitehouseâ€™s call for RICO againstskeptics in a letter sent to the Obama administration in September.The letter was signed by 19 other scientists, supporting the use ofRICO against those with whom they disagree.
â€œWe strongly endorse SenatorWhitehouseâ€™s call for a RICOinvestigation,â€ the scientists wrote to Obama. â€œThe methods of theseorganizations are quite similar to those used earlier by thetobacco industry. A RICO investigation (1999 to 2006) played animportant role in stopping the tobacco industry from continuing todeceive the American people about the dangers ofsmoking.â€
Shuklaâ€™s letter set off a media firestorm,sparking outrage from Republican lawmakers and global warmingskeptics. Skeptic bloggers looking intoShuklaâ€™s obscure climate research center, IGES,found it was almost completely funded withÂ taxpayer cash,receiving millionsÂ every year.
IGES got some $3.8 million from taxpayers in 2014, according tothe groupâ€™s tax filings. Shukla himself mademore than $333,000 in compensation that year working part-timeâ€” 28 hours per week, according to documents.Shulka also hired family members to work for IGES, including hiswife, Anne Shukla, who made $166,000 per year.
CEI and Cause of Action filed a complaint with the InternalRevenue Service, asking them to revoke IGESâ€™tax exempt status because Shukla was â€œdouble-dippingâ€his salary by taking money from GMU Â and IGES for whatseemed to be the same work. Shukla was also funneling federalgrants to another think tank he ran.
â€œThe evidence also reveals that the Shuklasconducted a scheme designed unlawfully to funnel federal funds fromIGES to another non-profit entity controlled by theShuklas,â€ the CEI and COA complaint read.
IGES has since taken down Shuklaâ€™s letter asking the DOJto prosecute global warming skeptics. In its place, IGES claims theletter was accidentally posted online, and that the nonprofit is inthe process of being dissolved.
Sen. Whitehouseâ€™s office did not respond toa request for comment from TheDCNF.