Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has been the primary climate change denier in congress for the past few years now.
If you are truly wondering what motivates his pro-oil anti-science stance then you need look no further than the $700,000 that he has received from the fossil fuel industry during his career in Congress.
Under his leadership, the House Science committee has held hearings that feature the views of climate change deniers,subpoenaed the records and communications of scientists who published papers that Smith disapproved of, and attempted to cut NASA’s earth sciences budget. He has been criticized for conducting “witch hunts” against climate scientists. In his capacity as Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Smith issued more subpoenas in his first three years than the committee had for its entire 54-year history. In a June 2016 response letter to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Mr. Smith cited the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s as valid legal precedent for his investigation. Smith has a lifetime score of 7% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters.
New Tactic: Bullying state attorneys investigating Exxon Mobil
He has recently changed strategy and so instead of persecuting and harassing climate change scientists he has started to bully state attorneys that are investigation Exxon Mobil. Exxon has been running a decades long campaign of misinformation with the goal of casting doubt upon climate science, and that has attracted the attention of various State Attorneys.
Mr Smith’s Subpoena
On the 16th February, the following Subpoena was issued against the Attorney General of New York, and a similar writ was issued against the Attorney General of Massachusetts …
It specifically demands …
- All documents that relate to interactions with climate change scientists and environmentalists
- The deadline was 2nd March
This is a legal subpoena issued by congress so he must comply … right?
It is now 7th March and no documentation has been provided, not one page.
The Formal Response is basically a legally worded polite but firm “Fuck Off”
The Attorney General has written back in a letter dated 1st March and clearly and decisively tells Mr Lamar Smith to basically shove his subpoena up his arse.
Well OK, he did not use that precise turn of phrase, but that is basically the tone of it. Below are some key extracts from the actual letter …
Dear Chairman Smith:
The New York Office of the Attorney General (“NYOAG”) has received your document subpoena, dated February 16, 2017 (“Subpoena”). We had hoped that with the start of a new Congress, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (“Committee”) would turn its attention exclusively to authorized and legitimate legislative activity. Your Subpoena does otherwise. I write to inform you that the NYOAG cannot and will not comply with the Subpoena as presently composed.
… you have seen fit to ignore the concededly legitimate fraud investigations by sovereign States, currently under the supervision of state courts with full jurisdiction over all matters concerning the investigations, in order to issue a second unilateral and unprecedented subpoena to the NYOAG, and to the Massachusetts Attorney General. We note that you did so over the vehement objection of the Committee’s Ranking Member, who has publicly called the subpoenas “misguided” and “clearly an effort to derail appropriate law enforcement actions of State Attorneys General.” The Ranking Member further lamented that your unilateral subpoenas “undermine legitimate Congressional oversight authority.”
…The Subpoena oversteps the boundaries imposed by federalism, separation of powers, Committee jurisdiction, and pertinency requirements. The Subpoena thus does not “fall within the sphere of legitimate legislative activity.”
… The NYOAG objects to the Subpoena as an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty.
… the House has “never” issued a subpoena “in two hundred years to a State Attorney General.” Whatever justification the Committee may have for investigating an ongoing state law fraud investigation—and the Committee has thus far identified none—is “far outweighed” by more than “two centuries of apparent congressional avoidance of the practice.”
… The Chairman of the House Science Committee is not a one-person board of federal review of New York’s and other States’ sovereign decisions about what environment-related legal matters to discuss or pursue. The Tenth Amendment prevents such “tyranny.”
… and that is indeed a wholly appropriate response to what is quite frankly an idiotic demand.
One rather important question
An article by Michael Hiltzik within the LA Times that digs into the fiasco asks a rather important question …
How long does Lamar Smith intend to embarrass himself, his committee and Congress in this ridiculous quest to shut down investigations that could harm his patrons in the petroleum industry? That’s hard to know, but what’s clear is that the interest he’s protecting in this quest isn’t the public interest, but Exxon Mobil’s.
Indeed yes, because following the money here makes Mr Smith’s motivation nakedly obvious. It is a clear abuse of his position and a classic case of corruption.