This article originally appeared on watchdog.org.
In the left’s latest assault on the First Amendment, three Democrats on the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works have sent out 100 letters to free-market think tanks and energy companies asking them to turn over funding records related to any research they’ve conducted on climate change.
In short, U.S. Sens. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer, D-California, andSheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, apostles in President Barack Obama’s climate change war, are on another political witch hunt demanding donor information and other records that are protected under the Constitution.
First Amendment defenders rallied to the side of the targeted groups, asserting the Democrats had overreached in setting up their enemies list, another thinly veiled quest in taxpayer-funded political opposition research.
“These folks have been trying to open the vaults of donor lists from all of our organizations over time. They have not been successful, and they are not going to be successful,” said Kory Swanson, president of the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-based free-market think tank.
The organization received a letter from the senators requesting information about “payments made … in support of scientific research and scientists, as well as support for other efforts related to climate change, if such payments have been made.”
As members of the Senate committee, the lawmakers claim they are interested in understanding how the organizations have “undertaken such efforts and the degree to which these efforts have been publicly disclosed …”
Their sudden interest arises following a piece in the New York Times that attacks, or by some accounts, “smears,” Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, an outspoken critic of man-made climate change.
The piece, headlined “Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher,” uses documents obtained by Greenpeace showing that Soon received more than $1 million from ExxonMobil, Southern Company and others in his work tracking the flaws in climate change research.
The story was picked up by the “growing mega industry of climate-alarmist blogs and organizations that receive billions of dollars from government agencies, tax-exempt foundations, and major corporations,” according to the New American.
“Following the typical smear pattern, many of the stories attempt to tar Dr. Soon with the ‘denier’ label, a vicious assault aimed at equating (man-made climate change) skepticism with Nazi Holocaust denial,” the publication states.
Soon did not disclose his funding in his peer-reviewed study.
The senators are going after anyone who would dare contest the science behind the climate change narrative.
They want it all, and they want it now.
In their letter, the senators demand the past 10 years of information from the organizations, including:
“Lists of funded research efforts (including but not limited to grants, fellowships, scholarships, consulting contracts, contracts, honoraria, and speaking events) on or related to climate, climate change, global warming, environmental issues, air quality, atmospheric or oceanic topics, greenhouse gas emissions, associated impacts of greenhouse gas in missions, carbon dioxide …”
For each payment made to individuals or organizations associated with the funded research efforts, the senators seek:
- Name of the recipient
- Institutional affiliation
- Payment and duration of the term of the funded research effort
- Reason for the payment
Majority members of the Senate committee reportedly were sending out letters Friday advising the target groups that they do not have to comply with the senators’ unconstitutional requests. Anonymous donations still are protected under the First Amendment.
First Amendment expert Hans von Spakovsky called the senators’ actions “outrageous.”
“This is clearly an attempt to intimidate anyone who has a different opinion on the issue than theirs,” said von Spakovsky, a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.”This is an abuse of power. Maybe these senators don’t understand or don’t care about the fundamental First Amendment rights of Americans and their membership organizations.”
The demand for donor information von Spakovsky said, is no different than what the state of Alabama did to the NAACP in the 1950s. In this case, the result could be freezing out political speech by shutting down potential donor contributions.
“What these 100 organizations need to do is to get together and what they ought to do is send one letter signed onto by every single organization that says, ‘We’re not providing you with this information and your attempt to get it is unconscionable,’” he said. “There is strength in numbers and they ought to stand for and push forward the principle that the government is not entitled to this information because it is a violation of their First Amendment rights.”
Swanson said he is not overly concerned by the senators’ political grandstanding now that he has been informed he does not have to turn over the targeted information. The think tank president said many donors do not want their identities released because of government-led reprisals for their beliefs.
“We will proceed on with our work and not get distracted by this,” Swanson said.