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« Republican probe off again | Main | Government rejects deep greens »

Virginia legislators to thwart Cuccinelli

Democratic senators in the Virginia State legislature are going to launch an attempt to thwart Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's probe into the work of Michael Mann. Their aim is to repeal the section of the Virginia legal code that permits the AG to issue demands for information - the so-called CIDs that Cuccinelli is currently directing at the University of Virginia.

The senators, A. Donald McEachin and J. Chapman Petersen, will meet this morning with Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, at the Capitol to discuss the legislation.

“This particular statute has been used to get at an issue that would be discussed more appropriately by scientists, not legislators or elected officials. This bill would repeal the whole statute. I’m not sure it has to go that far, but that’s what the bill seeks,” Toscano said.

Officials in Cuccinelli’s office said they have not seen the bill and cannot comment until they get a chance to read it.

The idea of repealing legislation to prevent an investigation, even a politically inspired one, from going ahead seems extraordinary to me.

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Reader Comments (29)

The only tool legislators have to get what they want is legislation. So that's what they do. The courts can then rule in the future if that legislation is legal/constitutional.

It's a process.

Jan 18, 2011 at 5:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

As Cuccinelli has already been given legal permission to go ahead, can any subsequent legislation be used retrospectively- surely not?

Jan 18, 2011 at 6:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Since Virginia's legislature is controlled by Republicans, this seems like an exercise in futlity for the Democrats.

Jan 18, 2011 at 6:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterMichael B Combs

Is there no depth to which politicians will sink to hide the dirty linen?

Sorry about the mixed metaphors.

Jan 18, 2011 at 6:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

How big of an impression of guilt do they want to generate? After all the delays, struggles and whining, it won't matter if Mann is squeeky clean, the public will only remember how hard everyone fought to avoid telling the truth. If you've got nothing to hide...

Jan 18, 2011 at 7:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

It is a fundamental principle of the rule of law here in the UK that nobody - not even the Queen - is above the law. I had always thought that was the case in the USA as well. But if they change the law to allow one man off the hook where will it all end?

Jan 18, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterrupert matthews

Mann's data must be even worse than we thought!

Jan 18, 2011 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

The sums of money involved must be very large. I mean, who stands to lose enough by an investigation that his Democrat placemen are doing his bidding in attempting to supress it?

Jan 18, 2011 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

I hope this is not bad blog manners, but I posted this previously at the Air Vent. It shows how legislative change can be costly. In our case, many hundreds of millions of $. It might also be interesting to see the way in which legislators & regulators are trying to avoid the scrutiny of the judiciary. Australian case law is sometimes quoted in US courts and vice versa.

In the early 1970s when we started finding large uranium deposits in the Northern Territory, the Federal Government issued Mining Leases in response to our applications for them. A condition of each lease was that we spend stipulated monies on bringing mines into production, or face a penalty.

Meanwhile, our Foreign Affairs Minister was binding Australia to international treaties, one of which was World Heritage. This arm of the Federal Government (eventually) amended existing law and decreed that if we undertook any mining-related activity, including exploration, on land they had nominated for World Heritage status, we would be breaking the law, even on leases and licences already granted by them.

It did not matter if fairness, morality, economics or any other theory of conduct was available to analyse the problem, because there was no solution except the amendment of one of the pieces of legislation. Or Solomon’s sword down the middle. Eventually, there was another solution, which was the expiry of the 21-year leases whose status was held in doubt by successive slight regulatory adjustments.

There was no requirement to show harm. Australia was (and still is) deprived of the potential for economic development of minerals in these huge areas by administrative fiat, applied when we appeared to be winning the legal battle based on denial of legitimate expectations.

This led to some precedents such as are discussed in Federal Law Review The introduction is “The non-justiciability of certain executive decisions is based upon a number of notions including that of ‘polycentricity’, the unsuitability of certain types of power for review, deference to executive judgment, and the question of the judicially enforceable limits to power. In this article, it is argued that the concept is redundant. It is sufficient to consider whether a ground of review, invoked with an appropriate regard for the legalities merits distinction, is available. There is no further question of ‘justiciability’.”

Jan 18, 2011 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

Oh, that will go down really well in the history books: Democrats seek to change the law to block the state Attorney General from doing his business and investigating fraud. Sure, we get to see that sort of behaviour in 2-bit fascist regimes with tin-pot dictators, but do the Democrats really want to be lumped in with that crowd?

Jan 18, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

"The idea of repealing legislation to prevent an investigation, even a politically inspired one, from going ahead seems extraordinary to me."

Really? Berlusconi did it on a far more blatant scale.

Jan 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

I agree, this is an extraordinarily stupid move on the part of the Democratic senators. Repealing a bill specifically in order to prevent the state Attorney General investigating a suspected case of fraud - politically motivated or not - is the dumbest thing they could do.

They might as well erect a crass, motel-style huge pink neon sign of an arrow pointing at UVa, with the words (in electric blue) "Secret Hiding Place".

Jan 18, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Phillip Bratby

Sorry about the mixed metaphors.

Consider that the pool is a cesspool, in which case it is not a mixed metaphor, but an accurate description.

Jan 18, 2011 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

This is absolutely extraordinary. What is hidden is so important that laws must be changed to keep it hidden!

Jan 18, 2011 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

I'm still uncomfortable with political investigations of scientific activities, but if you call them "Political Science" then, to me, the enquiries seem more appropriate. Do you have "political science" as a university course of study in the UK by that name?

Jan 18, 2011 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Really? Berlusconi did it on a far more blatant scale.

Berlusconi is a caricature of himself. Completely without shame But having said that, apart from getting smashed in the mouth with a miniature statue, I wouldn't mind being him for a day :p.

Jan 18, 2011 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Before the 2003 Congressional hearings called by Republican Senator James Inhofe, a similar air of preparatory and anticipatory activity was evident. Willie Soon and David Legates were called to give evidence by the US Republicans.

Writing about the event, Michael Mann wrote in his email to New Zealander Jim Salinger:

Hans Von Storch's resignation as chief editor of CR, which I think took a lot of guts, couldn't have come at a better time. It was on the night before before the notorious "James Inhofe", Chair of the Senate "Environment and Public Works Committee" attempted to provide a public stage for Willie Soon and David Legates to peddle their garbage (the Soon & Baliunas junk of course, but also the usual myths about the satellite record, 1940s-1970s cooling, "co2 is good for us" and "but water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas!").

Fortunately, these two are clowns, neither remotely as sharp as Lindzen or as slick as Michaels, and it wasn't too difficult to deal with them. Suffice it to say, the event did *not* go the way Inhofe and the republicans had hoped. The democrats, conveniently, had received word of Hans' resignation, but the Republicans and Soon/Legates had not. So when, quite fittingly, Jim Jeffords (you may remember--he's the U.S. senator who was in the news a couple years ago for tilting the balance of power back to the democrats when he left the republican party in protest) hit them with this news at the hearing, they were caught completely off guard. The "Wall Street Journal" article you cited was icing on the cake.
Inhofe, who rails against the liberal media, will have a difficult time doing so against the WSJ!

What is particularly notable here is this passage from above:

...[von Storch's resignation]...couldn't have come at a better time

Suffice it to say, the event did *not* go the way Inhofe and the republicans had hoped. The democrats, conveniently, had received word of Hans' resignation, but the Republicans and Soon/Legates had not.

It was Jim Jeffords of the Democratic Party who contacted Hans von Storch, then the editor-in-chief at the journal Climate Research about the Baliunas and Soon paper published in the journal. The apparent politicization of the paper prompted his attempt to change procedures at the journal. These changes were not accepted by Otto Kinne the publisher, precipitating von Storch's resignation.

From a Wall Street journal article detailing the event:

Then, last week Dr. von Storch was contacted by Sen. Jeffords's staff, which was looking into the paper in preparation for Tuesday's hearing, where Dr. Soon and Dr. Mann were scheduled to appear. After hearing from Sen. Jeffords, Dr. von Storch says he decided to speed an editorial into print criticizing publication of the paper.

But publisher Otto Kinne blocked the move, saying that while he favored publication of the editorial, Dr. von Storch's proposals were still opposed by some of the other editors. "I asked Hans not to rush the editorial," Mr. Kinne said in an e-mail. That is when Dr. von Storch resigned, followed by two other editors.

Otto Kinne, the publisher of Climate Research and von Storch, its editor-in-chief, were both united in their traditional approach to deal with the Baliunas and Soon paper and any incoming replies to the paper. When contacted by Jeffords the US senator, von Storch wanted to put forth his views and criticism of the paper independently, in his own journal. The rift was caused at this point. When refused by his publisher, von Storch saw this as undue interference with his duties and resigned. The 'two others' who resigned were both from the CRU.

The circumstances surrounding the resignation are therefore clearly political in nature. Hans von Storch's resignation was however, and is to this date, pointed out as corroborating evidence against the scientific validity of the Soon and Baliunas paper. The announcement of von Storch's resignation at the hearing by Jeffords, therefore served as an important step to "deal with" the "clowns", catching the Republicans "completely off-guard".

It should be noted as well, that 'getting rid' of journal editors was then on the long-term agenda for climate science - to maintain the pristine state of its literature.

Tom Wigley, wrote Tom Carter:

Note that I am copying this view only to Mike Hulme and Phil Jones. Mike's idea to get editorial board members to resign will probably not work -- must get rid of von Storch too, otherwise holes will eventually fill up with people like Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Michaels, Singer, etc. I have heard that the publishers are not happy with von Storch, so the above approach might remove that hurdle too.

So it is was Michael Mann who had ideas of inducing editorial board members at 'CR' (Climate Research) to resign.

In summa therefore, it is very surprising indeed. The Democrats were 'tipped off' by someone about von Storch's resignation, and Micheal Mann had offered ideas of inducing editor resignations at Climate Research and von Storch's resignation apparently proved 'scientific deficiencies' of the SB paper.

Mann was employed at University of Virginia when the entire event and its behind-the-scences preparations took place.

(Partly from a comment posted here earlier):

Jan 18, 2011 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Nothing underscores the corrupt nature of something like getting your friends in the legislative arena to simply ban an inquiry.
The smoke level coming from U Virginia is approaching three alarm levels.
I wonder if there could just possibly be a fire?

Jan 18, 2011 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

I'm almost certain you must be correct about this.

Jan 18, 2011 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

They really are desperate aren't they? There must be something truely harmful to the cause hidden in there.

Jan 18, 2011 at 6:28 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

There are trillions of dollars at stake. A few million sprinkled here and there amongst the legislators will grease the wheels. Will enough of them have the moral stamina to refuse it? We'll soon see.

Jan 18, 2011 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Like I said: send in the state police and seize them. It's called a subpoena.

Jan 18, 2011 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered Commentermojo

I repeat, Republicans control the Virginia legislature. Democrats will not be able to change the law. The only thing remarkable is that they would even try, since it obviously generates a negative reaction.

Jan 18, 2011 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael B Combs

Three very interesting points, little noted: 1. The University is protecting some communication that it originally denied having. 2. The effort to fight Cuccinelli is privately financed, and there must be some record of that. 3. Eventually, the University of Virginia may decide that its interests diverge from Mann's and those of the private backers.

Jan 19, 2011 at 1:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Makes me wonder if there is hard evidence of a plan to "get rid of the MWP".

Jan 19, 2011 at 1:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

Michael Mann is only a pawn in the game.

That is why every effort will be made to try to block the disclosure of more information.

If the Climategate iceberg completely melts, leaders of the scientific community may be held accountable for decades of misinformation about the Sun's: a.) Origin; b.) Composition; c.) Source of Energy; and d.) Influence on Earth's climate.

Eisenhower warned of the danger of this abuse of government science in 1961:

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

Jan 19, 2011 at 4:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterOliver K. Manuel

Do I sense a small case of absolute panic here, or can those Democrat legeslators not count?

Surely they know they are in the minority?

Have they just miscalculated how this proposal will look to the voting public, who already support the Republicans?

What's up Doc.?

Jan 19, 2011 at 6:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterAusieDan

"This bill would repeal the whole statute"

I wonder what the impact of such a repeal would be on all the other investigations undertaken by the AG. There may be some very happy mafiosi in Virginia if the repeal actually goes through. And I wouldn't be confident that 100% of Republican State Senators will vote to quash a repeal. Whoever is behind this clearly has a lot of money -- and Republicans value campaign 'contributions' just as much as their Democratic colleagues do.

Jan 19, 2011 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJane Coles

Yes, politicians can count. Behind the scenes, democrats and republicans were working together.

If the Climategate iceberg completely melts, both sides will have a lot of explaining to do.

So they will pretend to be opponents, but behind the scenes they will work together to squash the investigation. Unless the recent Tea Party success scared enough of them to make a difference.

That's my opinion.

Oliver K. Manuel

Jan 19, 2011 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterOliver K. Manuel

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