A government-employed scientist calling for a racketeering investigation into climate skeptics may have illegally drawn a large taxpayer-funded salary from a nonprofit group, according to a senior member of Congress.
George Mason University meteorologist Jagadish Shukla and his wife received nearly $5.6 million from the Institute for Global Environment and Society between 2001 and 2014, public records show.
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IGES received about $63 million, or 98 percent of its revenue, from federal grants during those years. Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas) on Wednesday asked the inspector general for the National Science Foundation, one of the federal agencies that have supported IGES, to investigate potential legal violations.
While IGES brought in federal grants, Shukla was drawing a salary from GMU—he earned $314,000 in compensation in 2014—a public university in Fairfax, Va. Citing an internal university audit, Smith alleges that that amounted to "double-dipping."
"This practice may have violated GMU’s university policy, his employment contract with the university, and Virginia state law," he wrote in a letter to the NSF inspector general.
Smith, who chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, began probing Shukla’s lavish compensation after the scientist signed on to a letter asking President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch to pursue civil racketeering charges against organizations that "knowingly deceive" the public about climate science.
That letter was originally posted on the IGES website, but the group removed it after the Washington Free Beacon reported on its past federal financial support. It was replaced with a note saying it "was inadvertently posted on this web site."
Smith wrote to Shukla in October asking him to preserve records in anticipation of a potential congressional investigation into IGES and its role in pushing RICO charges for climate skeptics.
"To assist the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Inspector General (OIG) in any review you may deem appropriate, the Committee is sharing information obtained during its investigation, including an audit conducted by GMU. Please keep the Committee apprised of any work your office engages in on this matter," he wrote on Wednesday.
According to the GMU audit cited in the letter, Shukla’s compensation from IGES far exceeded permissible outside compensation. Employment guidelines at GMU stipulate that "outside employment and paid consulting cannot exceed the equivalent of one day per work week without written authorization from the collegiate dean or institute director."
"Dr. Shukla violated this policy five different time periods from 2003 to 2015 because he failed to receive approval for paid consulting in excess of one day per week," Smith wrote.
Since Smith began his investigation, IGES’s website has been taken offline. Shukla did not respond to a request for comment.
"It appears that grants provided to IGES did not serve the intended purpose of providing services to the public," Smith said. "Instead, taxpayers picked up the tab for excessive double dipping salaries, nepotism, and questionable money transfers."