Just when we thought liberalism couldn’t get any more authoritarian, the Obama administration reminds us that it can.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently confirmed that she had “referred” the “matter” of whether climate change “deniers” should be brought to court on racketeering charges to the FBI.
Yes, that’s right. If you happen to disagree with the administration’s views of global warming, you could face a civil suit accusing you of fraud and corruption.
This represents a breathtaking corruption of the law. Laws designed to catch mafia figures on corruption charges could be twisted to punish Americans whose only crime is to contest the Obama administration’s view of climate change.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who asked Lynch about climate change at last week’s hearing, has been at this game for some time. He has long accused the fossil fuel industry of falsifying scientific research. He wants to target oil companies with Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization, or RICO, laws, in the same way they were used against the tobacco industry.
Where to begin? First of all, it was a travesty to apply RICO laws to the tobacco industry. They were designed to catch murdering mafia bosses, not scientists or private companies engaged in research. Even so, there is a huge difference between the health impacts of smoking and climate change.
The former is well documented while the latter is not even remotely established as a scientific fact. What is more, where do Whitehouse and the others get off assuming that funding influences only one side of the argument? They argue that scientists supported by oil companies are corrupt, but why is a pro-global warming scientist receiving funds from a pro-global warming organization any less corrupt? The climate change world is awash in millions of dollars of politically motivated research in favor of global warming. What is the difference?
Might the answer be that Whitehouse prefers funding only for his side of the argument?
Whitehouse is not alone in waging an official crusade against so-called climate change “deniers.” Rep. Raul Grijalva, a ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, once demanded information on the financial records of certain professors who were skeptical climate change orthodoxy.
Let’s pause a moment to reflect on what this means. A government official demands the private records of an American citizen solely on the basis of where that person stands on a political issue. The professor has committed no crime, but merely holds a scientific view opposed, for political reasons, by a congressman.
So who is manipulating science here? A scientist who has the credentials to draw a scientific conclusion, or a congressman with no scientific credentials at all questioning the integrity of a scientist?
And then there are the actions of the attorney general’s office in New York. It has launched a sweeping probe of Exxon Mobil to determine whether it hid risks of climate change from investors. Using a broad interpretation of the state’s consumer protection and securities laws, the attorney general is also investigating a leading coal company, Peabody Energy, for the same reason.
All of this is truly Orwellian. As I explain in my forthcoming book, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind,”
“The intent could not be clearer: the state should suppress any questions about the reliability of climate change findings or data. In other words, a court should be invited to silence one side of a public policy debate.”
This is official harassment pure and simple. It is intended to stifle free and open debate and inquiry.
Thus do threats by federal officials, congressmen and state prosecutors to silence people, join campus radicals in the closing the liberal mind. It’s a sad day not only for freedom of thought and expression, but for the rule of law.
Kim R. Holmes, a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation, oversaw the think tank’s defense and foreign policy team for more than two decades. He's the author of the upcoming book, "The Closing of the Liberal Mind."
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.