A congressman is asking a taxpayer-funded environmental group to preserve records related to its president’s campaign to bring federal racketeering charges against climate change skeptics.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, revealed the committee will be investigating calls from George Mason University meteorologist Jagadish Shukla and nineteen other scientists to bring civil racketeering charges against companies and organizations that pay for scientific research that questions catastrophic human-induced climate change.
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Shukla was the lead signatory on a letter sent last month to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking them to bring charges under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was created to prosecute organized crime.
That letter was initially posted on the website of the Institute of Global Environment and Society, the environmental nonprofit that Shukla leads. It has since been removed and replaced with a message that says the letter "was inadvertently posted on this web site."
"IGES’s recent decision to remove documents from its website raises concerns that additional information vital to the Committee’s investigation may not be preserved," Smith wrote in a Thursday letter to Shukla.
Smith asked Shukla to preserve all internal documents and communications that could be relevant to the committee’s investigation, and to ask all current and former employees and contractors to do the same.
The investigation will likely focus on taxpayers’ extensive support for IGES through grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Shukla’s letter to Obama and Lynch "raises serious concerns because IGES appears to be almost fully funded by taxpayer money while simultaneously participating in partisan political activity by requesting a RICO investigation of companies and organizations that disagree with the Obama Administration on climate change," Smith wrote.
Smith’s letter cited prior reporting by the Washington Free Beacon revealing that IGES has received $63 million in government funds since 2001, which comprised 98 percent of its total revenue in that time according to annual tax filings.
In addition to congressional scrutiny, a conservative nonprofit group is probing whether Shukla or any of the letter’s other signatories used taxpayer funds to advance the effort.
Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has filed open records requests with six public universities that employ scientists who signed onto the letter.
"We are interested in the use of public resources afforded [to those scientists] to advance this unique twist on vigorous policy debate," Horner wrote in a series of open records requests filed last week.
Horner has also filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the NSF for communications related to its support for IGES.