Scientists calling for the Justice Department to prosecute global warming skeptics may have had some help from a prominent Democratic senator, according to email records obtained by a free market think tank.
Emails obtained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and independently verified by The Daily Caller News Foundation suggest Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse consulted with a group of scientists who later sent a pointed letter to the White House and Department of Justice. The letter demanded the feds launch a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, investigation into “the fossil fuel industry and their supporters.”
CEI says it obtained emails under the Washington State and Florida open records laws. The scientists sending the letter to DOJ often copied their planning communications to Whitehouse on his private email account, along with a personal staffer and a Democratic lawyer on the Senate judiciary committee.
“It seems likely therefore that the organizer Jagadish Shukla worked with Whitehouse, possibly even on Whitehouse’s behalf, to organize colleagues in support of investigation or prosecution,” Chris Horner, an attorney with CEI, told TheDCNF.
“It begs the question of the relationship between a Senator and his personal and committee offices and outside activists teaming up to echo his call for investigation and prosecution of ideological/political opponents,” Horner said. “Remember, this is not people petitioning their government in support or opposition of a lawmaker’s legislative initiative, but taxpayer-funded academics echoing a legislator’s call for prosecution of political opponents.”
CEI cited Whitehouse’s emails as part of a recent lawsuit against George Mason University for records from Professor Ed Maibach, another of the RICO letter’s signatories. CEI says Maibach used his university title, position and email account in the RICO letter effort. The think tank is now suing to get GMU to produce Maibach’s emails.
“‘McCarthyism’ need no longer labor under a definition now that such a perfect illustration as Whitehouse’s campaign has emerged,” Horner said.
Whitehouse has been calling for the Justice Department to launch a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, for months, writing op-eds and making speeches in favor of prosecuting those he sees as misleading the public on climate science.
Jagadish Shukla, a George Mason University scientist and president of the Institute of Global Environment and Society, backed Whitehouse’s call for RICO against skeptics in a letter sent to the Obama administration in September. The letter was signed by 19 other scientists, supporting the use of RICO against those with whom they disagree.
“We strongly endorse Senator Whitehouse’s call for a RICO investigation,” the scientists wrote to Obama. “The methods of these organizations are quite similar to those used earlier by the tobacco industry. A RICO investigation (1999 to 2006) played an important role in stopping the tobacco industry from continuing to deceive the American people about the dangers of smoking.”
Shukla’s letter set off a media firestorm, sparking outrage from Republican lawmakers and global warming skeptics. Skeptic bloggers looking into Shukla’s obscure climate research center, IGES, found it was almost completely funded with taxpayer cash, receiving millions every year.
IGES got some $3.8 million from taxpayers in 2014, according to the group’s tax filings. Shukla himself made more than $333,000 in compensation that year working part-time — 28 hours per week, according to documents. Shulka also hired family members to work for IGES, including his wife, Anne Shukla, who made $166,000 per year.
CEI and Cause of Action filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, asking them to revoke IGES’ tax exempt status because Shukla was “double-dipping” his salary by taking money from GMU and IGES for what seemed to be the same work. Shukla was also funneling federal grants to another think tank he ran.
“The evidence also reveals that the Shuklas conducted a scheme designed unlawfully to funnel federal funds from IGES to another non-profit entity controlled by the Shuklas,” the CEI and COA complaint read.
IGES has since taken down Shukla’s letter asking the DOJ to prosecute global warming skeptics. In its place, IGES claims the letter was accidentally posted online, and that the nonprofit is in the process of being dissolved.
Sen. Whitehouse’s office did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.
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