Republicans senators asked federal investigators to look into whether or not several National Science Foundation (NSF) grants broke federal law, including funding projects lawmakers sought to “influence political and social debate” on global warming.
“We find NSF’s stewardship of the federal taxpayer dollars devoted to the latter project particularly egregious for a number of reasons,” Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Oklahoma Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe wrote in a letter sent Thursday evening to NSF Inspector General Allison Lerner.
“We are also requesting the NSF OIG investigate whether the ‘research’ or outcomes of these projects constitute violations of the Hatch Act or any other federal statute or regulation,” the GOP lawmakers wrote.
Lawmakers’ letter to NSF’s Office of Inspector General came after NBC News reported the non-profit group Climate Central “reached more than 500 local TV weathercasters” as part of its “Climate Matters” program that launched in 2012.
The “Climate Matters” program was backed by two NSF grants totalling more than $4 million that were rewarded in 2009 and 2014, according to federal records. The grants were issued to two universities and Climate Central.
Cruz and his colleagues noted The Washington Post described Climate Central as an “advocacy group, aiming to get people to do more about what the group now sees as ‘a clear and present danger’ — global climate change.” (RELATED: LETTER: Scott Pruitt Never Opened An EPA Office In His Hometown)
“Climate Central has since changed the manner in which it characterizes itself, perhaps due to the attention it received from The Washington Post, but the organization’s receipt of federal dollars for advocacy efforts raises significant concerns,” the lawmakers wrote to Lerner.
“It is further troubling that the specific objective of converting meteorologists to a climate-action-oriented opinion was to show them how an unknowledgeable citizenry would be more easily convinced of the same belief,” lawmakers wrote.
Climate Central’s website states their mission is to “[c]ommunicate the science and effects of climate change to the public and decision-makers.” The group did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
GOP lawmakers also asked Lerner to investigate NSF funding projects on social justice activism among engineers and another study on how media can be used to sway people to cross the political aisle.
“Research designed to sway individuals of a various group, be they meteorologists or engineers, to a politically contentious viewpoint is not science — it is propagandizing,” Cruz and his colleagues wrote. “Such efforts certainly fail to meet the standard of scientific research to which the NSF should be devoting federal taxpayer dollars.”
UPDATE: Climate Central’s Ben Strauss sent the following statement to TheDCNF after publication.
Climate Central works to educate the public on the science and effects of climate change. We are an independent organization and scrupulously avoid advocating for any policy or political position.
The grants involving Climate Central that are named in the letter by Senators Cruz, Paul, Lankford and Inhofe support informal public science education concerning well-established science. Climate Central is not an advocacy organization, and the scientific consensus on climate change is not a political viewpoint. Furthermore, the National Science Foundation openly supports informal science education.
The 6-year-old quotation used from the Washington Post to characterize Climate Central as an advocacy group was an opinion piece, not news reporting, and it was soundly refuted at the time by then-CEO of Climate Central Paul Hanle in a letter to the editor, attached here with the original opinion piece as well.
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