George Mason professors call for RICO probe of 'climate change deniers'

Global warming scientists are demanding a federal investigation of skeptics using a law originally intended for prosecution of mobsters. 

A group of 20 climate scientists, including six from George Mason University, have sent an open letter to President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging them to use the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to investigate "corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change."

The George Mason University signers – professors Jagadish Skula, Edward Maibach, Paul Drimeyer, Barry Klinger, Paul Schopf and David Straus – contend: "If corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters are guilty of the misdeeds that have been documented in books and journal articles, it is imperative that these misdeeds be stopped as soon as possible so that America and the world can get on with the critically important business of finding effective ways to restabilize the Earth’s climate, before even more lasting damage is done."

One of the professors at the Fairfax, Va.-based school says a federal probe does not raise First Amendment concerns; but critics say the idea is a threat to free speech.  

In a webpage Q&A, Klinger states he does not believe the science of climate change is settled; nor that "climate contrarians" should be denied their right of free speech. Nor does he wish to "throw anyone in jail." Klinger says his aim is a RICO investigation that is, "very narrowly focussed on whether companies were engaged in fraud in order to continue selling a product which threatens to do harm."

AMI Newswire requested comment from the other signers, but none has responded.

Paul Driessen, senior policy adviser for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and a climate change doubter, told AMI Newswire: "This could easily represent the next phase in the climate change fight. It would mean bringing the enormous power and wealth of the federal government down on people who simply disagree with government statements, policies and agendas – on people who lack the financial and other resources to fight back effectively, and who could easily be bankrupted by trying to fight such absurd charges. It is clearly another blatant and outrageous attempt to silence debate and First Amendment freedom of speech."

The RICO Act was enacted in 1970 and was originally used to prosecute members of organized crime families, such as the Gambinos and Luccheses. More recently, RICO has been used to indict officials of the international soccer governing body, FIFA, and executives of five of the group's corporate sponsors.

This is not the first time climate science and the law have crossed paths in Virginia. In 2009, then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli launched a state investigation into former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann, alleging that Mann had defrauded the taxpayers of Virginia. A state court eventually dismissed the charges.

Regarding the Mann investigation, Klinger writes on his website: "I don't recall climate contrarians coming to the defense of Michael Mann when he was subject to ideologically-based legal harassment from then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli."

Driessen told AMI Newswire the two cases are entirely different: "[Cuccinelli] sought to enhance discussion, debate, transparency and accountability by people who want more taxpayer funding to support one-sided climate studies. [It] never sought to silence or penalize academic freedom, freedom of speech or open, robust debate."