Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker has withdrawn his subpoena of the Competitive Enterprise Institute after a rash of criticism over his investigation into climate change dissenters.
Still, CEI general counsel Sam Kazman said Monday that the free-market think tank would still push the court for sanctions against Mr. Walker, one of a 17-member coalition of attorneys general pursuing fraud accusations against climate skeptics.
“We are doing so because Walker’s underlying Virgin Islands subpoena remains in effect and, as his local counsel expressly stated, Walker can reinstate the DC [District of Columbia] subpoena whenever he wants,” Mr. Kazman said in a statement.
“More importantly, his withdrawal only strengthens our claim that this subpoena was a constitutional outrage from the very beginning, violating our right to free speech and our donors’ right to confidentiality, and threatening the right of all Americans to express views that go against some party line,” Mr. Kazman said. “This was an abuse of process, plain and simple, and we’re determined to see that Walker faces sanctions for an action whose illegality he refuses to recognize.”
The CEI took out a full-page ad in The New York Times last week decrying the AGs United for Clean Power’s pursuit of climate skeptics. Signers of the ad included former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray and Richard Lindzen, MIT professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences.
The ad was titled, “Abuse of Power: All Americans have the right to support causes they believe in.”
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An attorney for Mr. Walker had informed the think tank last week that he would revoke the subpoena, but insisted the investigation did not violate the organization’s free-speech rights.
“This subpoena is part of an investigation into potential fraud, and it is well established that the ‘First Amendment does not shield fraud,’” Linda Singer, an attorney with the Cohen Milstein firm, said in a May 13 letter.
Mr. Walker has also issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil for its documents and communications related to climate change with more than 100 universities, researchers and free-market think tanks, including CEI.
ExxonMobil is challenging the subpoena, saying it violates the company’s right to free speech and represents an unreasonable search and seizure.
At least four members of the attorneys general coalition are pursuing fraud accusations against ExxonMobil based on a series of articles released in September saying that some of the company’s researchers had concerns about the potential harm from greenhouse gas emissions, prompting the social media campaign #ExxonKnew.