House Republicans have scheduled a congressional hearing in September to examine the (now unraveling) investigation by Democratic state attorneys general into businesses that they accused of fraud for “lying” about climate change.
Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, in July issued subpoenas to the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts and eight environmental groups requesting information about their phony campaign against Texas-based ExxonMobil. The AGs and the environmental groups refused to comply, setting up a possible contempt-of-Congress show-down when Congress reconvenes in the fall.
“The committee is disappointed that the New York and Massachusetts Attorneys General and the environmental activist organizations behind the AGs’ efforts have refused to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas,” Smith said in a statement in late July. “Their noncompliance only raises additional questions. As discussions with the individual subpoena recipients move forward, the committee will consider using all tools at its disposal to further its investigation.”
Smith scheduled the Sept. 14 hearing to demonstrate his congressional authority to investigate the attorneys general. Both New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey have said Smith doesn’t have the authority to conduct his investigation.
“The hearing will examine Congress’ investigative authority as it relates to the committee’s oversight of the impact of investigations undertaken by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts at the behest of several environmental organizations,” a committee notice read.
“Specifically, the hearing will explore the validity of the committee’s current inquiry in the context of Congress’ broad oversight authority, as defined by legal precedent.” The hearing will offer testimony from three conservative legal scholars to demonstrate that the committee’s investigation “easily [falls] within Congress’s legislative and oversight competence.”
The attorneys general opened an investigation into news reports that showed Exxon in the 1970s had covered up its own scientists’ data that showed the harm climate change posed to its business. They argue that by keeping the information from public view, the company committed a type of fraud. The company adamantly denies the allegations and in recent weeks has been successful in pushing back against the attorney general subpoenas.
Because as the Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins Jr. recently explained on Opinion Journal, “it was a phony-bologna case to begin with.”
The charge was that Exxon had conducted some climate change studies in the 1970s and then lied to the public about what it had found. But Exxon had been totally transparent all along, publishing the studies in journals and making them available to anyone who wanted to see them.
Smith and several of his committee’s Republican members argue that the AGs’ subpoenas of the oil giant represent an affront to free speech, meant to chill any debate on the issue of climate change.
WHEN: Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at 10:00 a.m. EST
· Jonathan Turley, J.B. & Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law, The George Washington University Law School
· Ronald D. Rotunda, Doy and Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law
· Elizabeth Price Foley, Professor of Law, Florida International University College of Law
On July 13, 2016, the committee issued subpoenas to the state attorneys general and organizations. To date, both the state attorneys general and organizations have refused to comply with the Committee’s subpoenas citing various Constitutional and state law provisions.