Another loss for Climate Denier Ken Cuccinelli
Ken Cuccinelli is a man on a mission. Since becoming the Attorney General for Virginia in last January he has attempted to use the position to push his own extreme right political agenda. In his eight months in office he has already told the university system not to extend anti-discrimination laws to gays, sued the federal government to stop healthcare reform, and sued the EPA to keep them from regulating GHGs. So far, his efforts to govern from the Office of the Attorney General have met abject failure - and a Virginia judge just added another chapter to the record of Cuccinelli defeats.
Cuccinelli’s latest loss was on one of his more quixotic projects; an attempt to smear the reputation of climate scientist Micheal Mann. A few months ago he filed a Civil Investigative Demand (basically a subpoena) against the University of Virginia because he viewed Mann’s peer reviewed scientific work proving the existence of global warming as possible “fraud against the Virginia taxpayer.” Mann taught at UVA until 2005 and received several grants for climate research while there. The CID was decried by academics as a serious threat to academic freedoms and an effort to intimidate scientists. Internal emails obtained by a Greenpeace FOIA reveal that even other climate deniers are put off by Cuccinelli’s attack on Mann, which denier Thomas Fuller compared to the Salem witch trials. Fuller bluntly wrote “you are in fact investigating a credentialed scientist for results that do not suit your political opinion”
The University of Virginia decided to mount a defense against Cuccinelli’s baseless claims, which meant they literally had to defend themselves from their own lawyer. Fortunately not every government official in Virginia is as partisan a lunatic as the AG, and a Virginia judge ruled that Cuccinelli’s request did not have to be honored by the University because Cuccinelli did not provide an objective reason to suspect Mann of fraud. Even ignoring the obvious hypocrisy of using taxpayer dollars to attack respected scientific researchers for using taxpayer dollars, this suit represented a serious abuse of power by the AG. When a state official attacks a scientist in court because of partisan political reasons the principles of free speech and academic freedom hang in the balance. Virginians should not fear government reprisal if they publish peer reviewed material Ken Cuccinelli disagrees with.