Exxon Mobile filed court papers in Texas last month seeking to block a subpoena issued in March by the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands which alleges that Exxon is deceiving the public and shareholders about the effects of climate change. Exxon has said that the subpoena is an unwarranted fishing expedition into Exxon's internal records and violates its constitutional rights; "The chilling effect of this inquiry, which discriminates based on viewpoint to target one side of an ongoing policy debate, strikes at the protected speech at the core of the First Amendment" the court filing said according to the WSJ.
As we reported last year, Exxon found itself on the shocking receiving end of an administration with a clear agenda for payback.
Exxon signed an agreement which deepened ties with Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft just as the Obama administration was trying to isolate Russia and its economy. That payback, which had the added bonuses of cementing Obama's liberal global warming climate change crackdown (which incidentally benefits none other than carbon credit powerhouse Goldman Sachs the most) came when the New York Attorney General launching a sweeping investigation of Exxon mobile to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change, or to investors about how that risk might hurt the oil business.
Given that the U.S. Virgin Islands AG has now joined in, one thing that has become clear is that Exxon is now being targeted by the government for its alleged views on climate change, which implicitly run contrary to Obama's. Of course, the government applying pressure to those with opposing views is nothing new, with the government finally admitting to its targeting of conservatives through the IRS as a recent example.
In light of the continued push by state AGs to go after Exxon on climate change, five senators have sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch demanding that in two weeks, the Department of Justice "immediately cease its ongoing use of law enforcement resources to stifle private debate on one of the most controversial public issues of our time - climate change." Or, said otherwise, to end the government witch hunt against political opponents of president Obama's energy agenda.
As Breitbart adds, the five republican Senators warned the DOJ her that any improper assertion of federal investigatory or prosecutorial power is an abuse of power.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), David Vitter (R-LA), and David Perdue (R-GA), signed the letter warning Lynch that “As you well know, initiating criminal prosecution for a private entity’s opinions on climate change is a blatant violation of the First Amendment and an abuse of power that rises to the level of prosecutorial misconduct.”
They add, “These actions provide disturbing confirmation that government officials at all levels are threatening to wield the sword of law enforcement to silence debate on climate change.”
The U.S. senators note in their letter that “in 2015, the [DOJ] was asked by a ‘coalition of environmentalists and lawmakers’ to investigate whether the past decisions of a private sector company to adopt and publicly disclose certain views on climate issues, and to refrain from adopting and publicly disclosing others, may have violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and related laws.”
Statements from a March 29, 2016, press conference held by Democrat attorneys general from five states, and staff from Democrat AG offices in eleven other states, clearly exposed that similar investigations are ongoing, they write.
The 'coalition of environmentalists and lawmakers' consists of about a dozen people formed to "establish in public's mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution that has pushed humanity (and all creation) toward climate chaos and grave harm". Members include including environmental campaign veteran Kenny Bruno and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, two activists who helped lead the successful fight to block the Keystone XL pipeline according to the WSJ. Interestingly, the Rockefeller Family Fund hosted a closed door event in January that brought this group together. The Rockefeller family is run by heirs of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, which eventually became ExxonMobil.
The senators had strong comments on the subject, all of them sharing the same sentiment, which is that there is government intrusion on private lives in order to silence opposing views.
“Freedom of thought and inquiry is at the very heart of liberty,” Sen. Cruz said. “Sadly, the Obama administration and its allies in state attorney general offices across the country are threatening to use the power of government to intimidate and ultimately silence companies and researchers who do not agree with the government’s opinions about the allegedly harmful effects of climate change and what should be done about it. This is an abuse of power and a direct assault on the First Amendment. The Obama Justice Department should immediately cease any further consideration of such action and should instead do everything in its power to protect the freedom of thought of all Americans.”
“Threatening prosecution of those who dare to challenge the most outlandish scaremongering by climate activists strikes at the very heart of the Free Speech protections on which this nation was founded,” Sen. Lee said. “Issuing subpoenas to harass researchers and academics with whom they have communicated, as some state attorneys general offices have done, shows a basic disregard for Americans’ Freedom of Association. The public expects us to prevent such abuses, not perpetrate them. It is our responsibility to contain the inevitable chilling effects by calling for an end to any consideration by the Department of Justice of such harassment at once.”
“Unnecessary government intrusion of private citizens’ lives is an unfortunate characteristic of the reign of the Obama Administration,” Sen. Vitter said. “It is contemptible for the Justice Department to target and threaten individual American citizens and private or non-profit organizations in pursuit of its far-left environmental agenda.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange have filed a motion to intervene in the case involving Exxon's subpoena from U.S. Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker, who is seeking decades worth of internal records concerning the company's public statements over the potential impacts of climate change. Walker is seeking to determine if the company committed securities fraud, or violated the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
"This case is about abusing the power of the subpoena to force Exxon to turn over many decades' worth of records, so an attorney general with an agenda can pore over them in hopes of finding something incriminating." Paxton said, adding that it could "set a precedent that anyone can be criminally investigated" for views that differ from the federal government.
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Whether or not this is enough to stop the inquiry into Exxon, the message is clear: disagree with the government, especially on deeply liberal issues, at your own risk - few have pockets deep enough to fight these types of battles in court, even fewer can ride out the witch hunt that will lead many businesses to going under, something the government understands very well.
Full letter here: