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U.Va.: Cuccinelli brief an 'editorial screed' that proves he's targeting academic

Rosalind Helderman

The war of words between Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the University of Virginia over Cuccinelli's attempt to subpoena the work of a former university professor heated up Tuesday as the university filed a brief in court deeming a Cuccinelli memo in the case an "editorial screed," a "lengthy harangue" that amounts to proof that Cuccinelli is targeting the professor for his scientific conclusions.

Cuccinelli has been going back and forth with the state university for weeks over a civil investigative demand he issued to the school in April, demanding research documents and e-mails related to the work of climate scientist Michael Mann, who was employed at the university until 2005. Mann's work concludes that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming -- a conclusion Cuccinelli rejects.

Cuccinelli has said the results of Mann's research isn't at question but that he is investigating whether Mann defrauded Virginia taxpayers as he sought five public grants while employed at the university.

But the university's lawyers alleged in court today that Cuccinelli's own court filings undermine that claim. They write:

The Attorney General's opposition itself makes clear that Attorney General did not issue the civil investigative demands under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers act to investigate fraud on Commonwealth taxpayers.Rather, the CIDs were issued in an unprecedented attempt to challenge a university professor's peer reviewed data, methodologies and conclusions. But FATA does not authorize the Attorney General to police academic debate -- and it certainly does not authorize the Attorney General to target for government investigation those who conduct scientific research with which the Attorney General disagrees.

In a 41-page brief filed in Albemarle County Circuit Court on July 13, Cuccinelli's lawyers argued in essence that a small group of scientists including Mann have, essentially, manipulated scientific conclusions for years to produce results that would support massive regulation of carbon dioxide.

The lawyers also spend some time disputing Mann's best-known scientific conclusion -- the so-called Hockey Stick graph that indicated that the earth has experienced a recent, rapid warming.

The university, ordinarily a client of the attorney general, has hired outside counsel to fight Cuccinelli's demand. They've asked an Albemarle County Circuit Court judge to set it aside, arguing that complying would compromise free inquiry at the university. Cuccinelli has asserted that academic freedom provides no shield to an investigation of possible fraud.

The long-awaited court hearing on the issue will take place in August.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 20, 2010; 3:33 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  | Tags: climate change, global warming, hockey stick, ken cuccinnelli, michael mann, university of virginia  
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If the University prevails, it is my hope that their legal fees and expenses will be reimbursed via deductions from Cuccinelli's salary.

Posted by: jeffersonian1 | July 20, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

So Cuccinelli wants to see if emails and other documents from and to Mann support the premise that a "small group of scientists including Mann have, essentially, manipulated scientific conclusions for years to produce results that would support massive regulation of carbon dioxide." to use Ms. Helderman's words.

If Mann knew that the basis for the work was not true when he applied for the grants or requested payment from the grants, then he is guilty of fraud. Pretty simple; its either true or it is not. Cuccinelli is just asking for the docs to see one way or the other. If there is no evidence of fraud then Mann has nothing to worry about. All the shouting back would say there is likely some merit to the assertion. I think Ms. Helderman has figured that out.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | July 20, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

BTW, Cuccinelli's July 13 brief is 40 pages, not 41. Forty pages is the limit agreed to by both sides for the briefs. The consent order also says the hearing will be Aug 20 at 2pm. Here is the link to the consent order with the schedule and limits:

Posted by: BruceFairfax | July 20, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

He is not a climate scientist nor has he shown proof of this conspiracy. This is a political witch-hunt akin to McCarthyism.

Posted by: jgluke | July 20, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

It's called peer review, BruceFairfax. Cuccinelli is no more qualified to judge climate science than he is to judge electron transfer rates in nanocrystals. He's a buffoon.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 20, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

We here in VA are paying for this waste of taxpayer $. Witch hunt for sure. This term can't end quick enough for me. I want these fools out of office, they are an embarrassment to this great state; we are laughing stocks when there are far greater issues to contend with, this fool selects climate research and he isn't a scientists, and UVA is our state university. We are on the same team. He should be made to pay back every dime that spent by his office and UVA, since the the citizen of VA fund both institutions.

Folks please vote with your intellect next time, Cuccinelli is a fool and a laughing stock to others state AG.

Posted by: Pstacy | July 20, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Roanoke Times reported over the weekend that Bobby Thompson (guy being investigated over Navy Vets organization) was recently dropped by his attorneys. He also can't be located. Funny that Ken Cuccinelli has so much time to go after nothing, but when crime stares him in the face and hands him $55,000 (yes $55,000....$55,000! much did you make after taxes and expenses last year? probably not $55,000) he doesn't do any investigation and puts the money in a slush fund. How convenient! How about going after people trying to manipulate our political system Mr.Cuccinelli? That seems to be the greatest threat to our populace. I mean, look at the disgraceful job you're doing investigating the guy -- its proof that $55,000 REALLY does buy you a get out of jail free card.

Mr.Cuccinelli would rather make Fox News headlines for a stupid climategate scandal, then uphold the honor of his office and investigate the malicious use of our honorable military veterans needs as a scam to bilk people for their goodwill.

Posted by: slydell | July 20, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Get a life leftists..

Posted by: wewintheylose | July 20, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Mann is the climate scientist whose e-mail to a colleague about how to manipulate data to show a false conclusion made headlines years ago when it was revealed.

Posted by: blasmaic | July 20, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Mann is the climate scientist whose e-mail to a colleague about how to manipulate data to show a false conclusion made headlines years ago when it was revealed.

Posted by: blasmaic | July 20, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Bruce... There's 41 pages. The Certificate of Service in the TOC is on page 41.

Old Cooch signed on 40, but the total length is 41. They provided a link.

Doesn't pay to be a nit-picker. Sometimes ya get fleas.

Posted by: NancyNaive | July 20, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Nancy, Certificate of service is no more part of the brief than the cover pages and the table of contents... they do not count toward the 40 pages, but thanks for looking.

One does not need to be a climate scientist to evaluate whether someone (Mann & others) indicate in their communications that they knew their requests for payment were knowingly based on fraud. Its pretty straight-forward, its either there or it is not and asking to see the documents is all that is being done right now. No accusations as yet.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | July 22, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli’s office responds to U.Va. brief

Cuccinelli’s office responds to U.Va. brief
By: David Sherfinski
Examiner Staff Writer
07/21/10 6:15 PM EDT
The University of Virginia filed a brief on Tuesday in support of its petition to set aside Virginia attorney general’s investigation into records associated with climatologist Michael Mann.

Cuccinelli’s office reviewed the brief Tuesday night, according to spokesman Brian Gottstein.

“Nothing in the university’s filings changes the basic issues,” Gottstein wrote in an e-mail. “Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act grants the attorney general authority to investigate whether or not any person has violated the act. It creates no exemptions for any particular class of citizens, but rather, imposes civil liability on any person who knowingly presents a false claim for payment to the commonwealth or one of its agencies. As noted in our prior filings, our office is investigating whether a false claim was presented to the university-nothing more and nothing less.

“Climate science is only an issue in this proceeding in a limited way. First, it establishes the context for the taxpayer-funded grants sought by Professor Mann. Second, the questions raised by others regarding the integrity of his work raise issues concerning what representations were made about that work in obtaining and working under the grants.”

Posted by: BruceFairfax | July 22, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

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