An Attack on Us All

exxonThe Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank that has been a loud and trenchant critic of global-warming activism, is under subpoena by the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who demands that the organization produce a decade’s worth of communication on the subject of global warming.

Intending no slight to our friends and CEI and the fine work they do (some of which NRO has published), this isn’t about libertarian exegesis of meteorological data, but rather an attempt to fry up a much, much bigger fish: Exxon. Exxon was, in the past, a substantial donor to CEI; presumably, communication with Exxon is no small part of what the subpoena hopes to uncover.

On March 29, a group of mainly Democratic attorneys general announced at a press conference (with former vice president and green-energy profiteer Al Gore in attendance) that they would seek to transform U.S. policy on climate change by “creatively” and “aggressively” deploying their prosecutorial powers. That, in and of itself, should raise an entire May Day parade’s worth of red flags: Prosecutors are in the business of enforcing the law, not rewriting it, and the open, naked promise to use prosecutorial powers as a political weapon is a prima facie abuse of office. In a self-respecting society, every one of those state attorneys general would have been impeached the next day. But this is the Age of Obama, not the Age of Self-Respect.

Claude Earl Walker, the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Island, who promised a “transformational” use of his prosecutorial powers in the global-warming crusade, shortly thereafter issued a subpoena to Exxon, demanding private communication and other internal information as part of an investigation into the firm. Walker has not come even close to describing any crime committed by Exxon, much less a crime committed by Exxon in his jurisdiction, the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Exxon does no business, holds no assets, maintains no employees, and has no physical presence. Again, this is, in and of itself, a grotesque abuse of power.

But things get even a little weirder from there.

Exxon was not served the Virgin Islands subpoena by the authorities of the Virgin Islands, but by a private, Washington-based law firm, Cohen Milstein. You will not be shocked to learn that Cohen Milstein has a very large interest — millions and millions of dollars — in separate litigation being pursued against Exxon. You will be even less surprised to learn that the firm received a $15 million contingency-fee payment from Walker’s office in another matter, and we will be surprised still less if, as Exxon suggests, Cohen Milstein has a contingency interest in this new case against Exxon.

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