The most important thing to learn about bullies is that they don’t expect resistance, and when it comes, they often back down — but not if the pushback isn’t serious.
Several instances come to mind.
AGs United for Clean Power, a coalition of 16 Democratic state attorneys general plus the Virgin Islands’ Claude E. Walker, announced on March 29 that they would use government power to throttle climate change dissent. Mr. Walker issued subpoenas to Exxon Mobil seeking communications with more than 100 scientists, universities and think tanks.
They took a cue from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, who suggested last year that civil racketeering law could be used against energy companies like Exxon Mobil that allegedly suppress data indicating that fossil fuels cause global warming.
Last September, a group of 20 professors (now known as the RICO-20) wrote to President Obama urging him to open a federal agency jihad against individuals and think tanks that were identified as climate change skeptics.
This is becoming the go-to progressive tactic: Cry “fraud” or simply “that’s illegal” when people disagree with you, and bury them in endless document deposition requests and other legal expenses. Sic federal agencies on them when you can.
The good news here is that pushback began almost immediately. One of the targets, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, filed an open records request that exposed nearly 200 emails indicating collusion between two of the RICO-20 professors and climate change activists. In May, Virgin Islands Attorney General Walker withdrew his subpoena to CEI, which is now pursuing sanctions against him. Good for them.
Along the same lines, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, sent congressional subpoenas last week to several attorneys general and nonprofit organizations — including the Union of Concerned Scientists — demanding access to correspondence. The Union, without a hint of irony about its own conduct, accused Rep. Smith of an “abuse of power.”
The campaign to criminalize climate change dissent is perhaps the most publicized government bullying, but it’s just part of a larger progressive pattern to silence opponents.
In October 2014, Houston Democratic Mayor Annise Parker’s office issued subpoenas asking pastors active in opposing a “bathroom” ordinance for copies of their sermons, speeches and even emails with their own church members. After a quick legal challenge and national shock over this stunningly ham-handed attempt to crush the pastors’ First Amendment right to free speech, the mayor’s office backed down, acknowledging only that the orders were “overly broad.” Yeah, that’s the ticket.