Judge Blocks Virginia AG’s Climate Witch Hunt

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been waging a war on climate science, among his many other right-wing crusades. Today, his climate mission was dealt a setback after a judge denied his attempt to subpoena documents relating to a former University of Virginia climate scientist.

Cuccinelli was seeking the records of Michael Mann, a climate scientist now at Pennsylvania State University, in an attempt to prove the scientist  perpetrated some type of “fraud” via global warming warming work. Mann is best known for the so-called “hockey stick” graph illustrating the uptick in global temperatures over the last century. His work was at the center of the bogus controversy over the so-called ClimateGate emails, which skeptics continue to harp on as evidence that climate change is a conspiracy devised by a cabal of scheming scientists, even as investigations have found no such evidence or even any sign of wrongdoing.

Cuccinelli wanted access to five grant applications Mann wrote while at UVa., as well as his email records in order to investigate whether Mann willfully mislead colleagues and the public during his employment at UVa., which as a state school uses taxpayer dollars. Cuccinelli has been trying to pursue a case against Mann under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. But today’s ruling is bad news for Cuccinelli’s case. The Washington Post reports:

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli’s subpoena failed to state a “reason to believe” that Mann had committed fraud.

The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005.

According to Peatross, the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, under which the civil investigative demand was issued, requires that the attorney general include an “objective basis” to believe fraud has been committed. Peatross indicates that the attorney general must state the reason so that it can be reviewed by a court, which Cuccinelli’s failed to do.

This fight isn’t over yet. The judge indicated that Cuccinelli could take another stab at the subpoena. Given Cuccinelli’s zealous pursuit of the climate issue in the past, there’s little doubt that he will.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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