Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

When Subpoenas Threaten Climate Science

A troubling story from Ken Kimmell in the NY Times - a subpoena issued by a Republican congressman to a science advocacy organization is a constitutional travesty:

He explains how his organisation - the Union of Concerned Scientists - received a subpoena from Lamar S. Smith of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology which orders him to hand over correspondence between his staff members and state attorneys general, and between his staff members and environmental organizations and funders. He points out how this demand impinges on his group’s constitutional rights, and how it would set a terrible precedent affecting many other advocacy groups if they were to comply.

The subpoena concerns their efforts to inform state attorneys general of their research into Exxon Mobil which details, among other things, how much Exxon Mobil knew about the dangers posed to the planet from carbon emissions from its products whilst at the same time spending millions to misinform the public about the science of climate change.

There is no claim that Kimmell's organization violated any law or regulation; Smith simply demands to see their correspondence. This request is deeply troubling as it is, in effect, a bullying tactic that threatens the work that advocacy groups like Kimmell's do under the protection of the First Amendment when they “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Kimmell asks "Are we to expect a subpoena every time we have a conversation with a public official if some committee chairman dislikes or disagrees with us?" The full story can be found here.

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