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Posted at 12:14 PM ET, 01/18/2011

Democrats sponsor bills to curb Cuccinelli

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

A trio of Democratic legislators is sponsoring bills to curb the power of Virginia's attorney general to issue civil subpoenas under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

The legislation is designed to limit inquiries like the one Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) is pursuing at the University of Virginia, where he has used the act to send civil investigative demands asking for documents and e-mails related to the work of a former university climate scientist.

Under current law, the attorney general can request documents to determine whether an investigation into whether public employees have defrauded the public is warranted. Cuccinelli has said he wants the university records to see whether he should launch an investigation into the work of global warming scientist Michael Mann.

Academics have defended Mann, who has worked at Penn State University since 2005. They believe Cuccinelli is unfairly targeting the scientist because he does not agree with the results of his research, which has shown that the earth has experienced rapid, recent warming. Several investigations, including one conducted by Penn State, have cleared Mann of wrongdoing.

But Cuccinelli says the university is subject to the law and the documents would help him decide whether Mann used public grant money appropriately.

A bill sponsored by Sen. J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax) would shield academic work at universities from being subject to civil investigative demands under the act by the attorney general. A broader effort sponsored by Sen. Don McEachin (D-Henrico) would require that the attorney general first file a lawsuit in court that can be reviewed by a judge before he is able to issue subpoenas under the act in civil cases.

"Jefferson would be turning in his grave to see what was coming from Richmond because of Attorney General Cuccinelli's efforts to capture private correspondence within faculty and staff at the University of Virginia," said Del. David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville), who is co-sponsoring the bill and whose district includes the university, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson. "If people are concerned about government intrusion into your private life, you ought to be very concerned about what the attorney general is attempting to do in this case."

Brian Turner, a political science professor at Randolph-Macon University who works with the American Association of University Professors, said the effect of Cuccinelli's request -- which seeks e-mails between Mann and 39 other scientists and university staff -- has been to discourage researchers from around the world from working with Virginia academics.

The University has been fighting Cuccinelli's request in court. An Albemarle County judge quashed one version of the subpoena, ruling that Cuccinelli had not properly explained his rationale for believing fraud may have been committed. But Cuccinelli reissued the request and the issue remains in litigation.

In his reissued Civil Investigative Demand, the attorney general wrote that he seeks the documents because Mann wrote two papers on global warming that "have come under significant criticism" and that Mann "knew or should have known contained false information, unsubstantiated claims and/or were otherwise misleading."

"Specifically, but without limitation, some of the conclusions of the papers demonstrate a complete lack of rigor regarding the statistical analysis of the alleged data, meaning that the result reported lacked statistical significance without a specific statement to that effect," the new CID alleges.

This post has been modified since it was first published.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | January 18, 2011; 12:14 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

Private lives cease to become private, when there is information as to the theft of public funds, for unjust enrichment.

Let's get to the bottom of this mess and move on. Democrats just seem to want to muddy up the waters, instead of seekeing clarity, especially if it is one of their "pet projrcts."

"The 'New Civility' is defined as the codeword for censorship."

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | January 18, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I still don't understand why people are upset about a duly-elected member of the Commonwealth of Virginia's government seeking government-owned information produced by government employees in a government-operated educational institution.

I think it's absurd that the government of the Commonwealth even needed a subpoena to get a government entity to turn over government property...does a company's internal auditors need to subpoena information from the company's own research department? Of course not.

Posted by: scott_bradford | January 18, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Witch hunt, using the government money for political purpose, because he does not want to believe on Global worming.

Posted by: tqmek1 | January 18, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

@Bradford ....

First, it's a witch hunt fueled by zealotry fueled by religious fundamentalism, not sound concepts of public policy, etc.

If Cooch thinks he can make his rationale stick, let him convince a judge who presumably is not part of his American Taliban mindset/ilk.

Second, if you understand anything about the history of Virginia, America, and Jefferson, you know that he would be retching & rolling over in his grave to see the this going on as a matter of free speech.

Third, Cooch is a patent hypocrite who is wasting thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on his fundamentalist jihad, putting the lie to any of his claims to be "conservative"

He's just another radical religious zealot trying to shove his views down the public's throat -- at our expense.

Posted by: fendertweed | January 18, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

@Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness:
There is no water to muddy, even though this is a total fishing expedition. The man is crossing lines that haven't been crossed like this before...and don't NEED to be crossed now except to spend OUR taxpayer dollars unnecessarily because of his zealotry.

I'm with fendertweed...Cuccinelli is showing his hypocracy. Are there really not bigger fish out there to fry? REALLY?

Posted by: tjjb | January 18, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli is claiming that Dr. Mann's research showed a lack of rigor regarding the statistical analysis.

I think that Cuccinelli is relying for evidence on the so-called Wegman Report, but Wegman is being investigated for research misconduct by George Mason University.

The Wegman report is criticized for plagiarizing long passages from a textbook written by one of Wegman's targets, but then Wegman altered certain passages to have a different meaning.

Wegman knew so little that he plagiarized the textbook of a man he was attacking!

Wegmann used information that was provided to him by Congressman Joe Barton instead of being an independent scientist.

Barton is that Congressman who apologized to BP Petroleum because he didn't like it when President Obama made BP have an escrow fund for clean up.

Barton is in the pocket of the oil/gas industry. Even other Republicans were shocked.

A computer expert found all of Wegman's plagiarism. Here is some information about the investigation.

http://deepclimate.org/2010/12/23/george-mason-universitys-endless-inquiry/

This is not Soviet Russia where the politicians force the scientists to make their research fit with the politics of the rulers.

I voted for Cucccinelli, but then I saw he TRICKS the people. His dad was a career gas lobbyist who gave 96,000 to his son's campaign.

I thank those Democratic politicians who are defending the scientists who are helping our country and the world meet the challenges of climate change.

The denialists are even parading around a washed-up former "CIA operative" named Kent Clizbe who is offering people millions of dollars if they will denounce Dr. Mann as a fraud.

This is to fool people who respect our CIA, but our CIA gives security clearances to many of our climate scientists so that they can study the satellite pictures that show global warming and climate change.

The denialists are promoting this "ex-CIA operative" Kent Clizbe, although thy could report on the work of Larry Kobayashi, Director of the CIA's Center on Climate Change and National Security.

The scientific organizations (except the fake science organizations created by the fossil-fuel companies) say there is climate change and global warming.

The fake science organizations even made up a fake "Evangelical" organization to fool people into thinking that believing in global warming is some heresy.

I am Protestant, and I believe there is global warming. The Vatican says there is global warming.

Christians are called be good stewards of the environment. We will all suffer from climate change, but especially poor people.

Luckily, we have brilliant scientists like Dr. Mann who can help us meet the challenge of global warming.

Why is Cuccinelli in government if he has such a low opinion of government? He is just there to protect the gas/oil/coal companies.

Cuccinelli is beneath contempt.

Posted by: crascal | January 18, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Cuccinelli snorfed out the corruption already ~ that's what it means in Virginia when you find legislators of either party passing beneficial legislation to protect particular state employees from investigation.

Look, the pukes at UVA are no different than the guys who run the prisons, or the State Police, or even the financial auditors.

It's the people's money and its use must be monitored lest the integrity and honesty of the state government be destroyed.

Just because it involves the wholly execreble Dr. Mann is no reason to engage in a cover up.

As a UVA graduate I say LET IT FLOW LET IT FLOW. Time to find out how Dr. Mann misused our tax dollars! Those who get in the way should be driven from public office.

Posted by: muawiyah | January 18, 2011 10:56 PM | Report abuse

"State Senate elections, 2011" should have been in the second sentence of the story. The Senate Dems are trying to create an issue to rally their base. It is not about academic freedom,it is about November elections.

Posted by: mrdaffyduck | January 19, 2011 8:26 AM | Report abuse

This will be a good thing if it goes to the Supreme Court. Then knowing that something have known contained false information, unsubstantiated claims and/or were otherwise misleading will knock the publicly funded teaching of "Intelligent Design" out of every classroom in this country, because there isn't anything more shady that the "rationale" behind its being included in public school curriculum.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | January 19, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

This will be a good thing if it goes to the Supreme Court. Then, knowing that something is known to "contain false information, unsubstantiated claims and/or ...otherwise misleading" information will knock the publicly funded teaching of "Intelligent Design" out of every classroom in this country, because there isn't anything more shady that the "rationale" behind its being included in public school curriculum.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | January 19, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

These bills go farther than just stopping the "climategate" civil investigative demands. They limit the fraud investigative powers of this and future Virginia AG's. For this reason alone these bills should give pause.

More commentary at
http://northernvirginialawyer.blogspot.com/2011/01/sen-mceachin-proposes-to-eliminate.html

Posted by: ppradoslaw | January 19, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

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