Blasting "McCarthy-Like Overreach," State AGs, Climate Groups Won't Comply With GOP Subpoenas

October 3, 2020 0 By JohnValbyNation

The House Science Committee’s effort to obtain documents and information related to the ExxonKnew investigations was met with a brick wall on Wednesday after state attorneys general and nonprofit organizations refused to comply with the subpoenas, calling them an “intimidation tactic” with “McCarthy-like overreach” that violates the First Amendment.

The “requests to attorneys general and non-profit organizations are as meritless as his position on climate change,” said Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA—one of the groups targeted by the committee—of chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). “The American people know this Congressional subpoena is Rep. Smith’s signature move to turn attention away from the real issue at stake, which is the investigations into Exxon’s climate denial,” she said.

As Common Dreams reported, when Smith’s committee two weeks ago issued the subpoenas—with a deadline of Wednesday to hand over the documents—the move was met with scathing responses by the groups. Now they, as well as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey—who are conducting investigations into whether Exxon committed fraud—have formally refused to submit.

Schneiderman’s letter (pdf) to Smith, signed by chief counsel Leslie Dubeck, calls the subpoena “an unprecedented effort” that “raises grave federalism concerns” and would “have the obvious consequence of interfering” with the ExxonMobil probe.

“Although the Committee purports to be acting out of First Amendment concerns, those concerns cannot be anything but pretense as ‘the First Amendment does not shield fraud,'” letter states.

Healey issued a similar letter, penned by chief legal counsel Richard Johnston, to Smith, calling the subpoena “an unconstitutional and unwarranted interference with a legitimate ongoing state investigation” and “a dangerous overreach by the committee and an affront to states’ rights.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) sent a letter (pdf) to Smith as well, stating that it will not comply with the subpoena. UCS president Ken Kimmell called the subpoena “unlawful” and “an intimidation tactic.”