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Posted at 1:38 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Va. Senate adopts bill to limit attorney general's power to investigate at colleges

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

The Democratic-led Virginia Senate has approved a bill to strip the attorney general of the power to issue civil subpoenas of academic work at universities, a reaction to an attempt by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to seize e-mails and other documents related to the work of a former University of Virginia climate scientist.

The Senate adopted the bill on a vote of 24 to 16, after one of the chamber's most conservative members acknowledged that Cuccinelli's effort has made even some Republicans uncomfortable.

Two Republicans -- Sens. Thomas K. Norment Jr. (James City) and Frederick M. Quayle (Chesapeake) -- voted with all 22 of the chamber's Democrats in approving the bill, which will most likely be rejected by the GOP-led House of Delegates.

"There are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who share these same concerns about that particular use of the attorney general's investigatory powers," said Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg). But Obenshain urged the senators to reject the bill as overkill.

"Are we really going to suggest that because you don't like what the attorney general has done in an investigation of an area that is apparently politically verboten -- climate change -- that we ought to strip the attorney general's office for time immemorial of the ability to investigate fraud in a public body?" he asked.

But supporters of the legislation said the attorney general's efforts are violating academic freedom, and his power to solicit documents at universities -- particularly prior to filing a formal civil action in court that can be reviewed by a court -- should be restricted.

"I think we have better things to do than going through their in-boxes," said Sen. J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen (D-Fairfax), the bill's sponsor.

Using a 2002 law designed to root out public corruption,
Cuccinelli has demanded that the university turn over documents and e-mails related to the work of Michael Mann, a former university climate scientist whose research showed that the Earth has been warming.

Cuccinelli has said he wants the documents, including grant applications and e-mails exchanged between Mann and 39 other scientists and university staffers, to help determine whether Mann committed fraud by knowingly skewing data as he sought publicly funded grants for his research.

Several previous investigations of Mann's work, including one by Pennsylvania State University, where Mann has worked since 2005, found that there was no evidence that Mann engaged in efforts to falsify or suppress data.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | February 3, 2011; 1:38 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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This is good news with respect to Cuccinelli's attempt to find something wrong with Dr. Mann's work. As I showed here:

The hockey stick-shape temperature plot that shows modern climate considerably warmer than past climate has been verified by many scientists using different methodologies (PCA, CPS, EIV, isotopic analysis, & direct T measurements).

Consider the odds that various international scientists using quite different data and quite different data analysis techniques can all be wrong in the same way. What are the odds that a hockey stick is always the shape of the wrong answer?

Politicians need to stop shooting the messengers when they do not like the message.

Posted by: ProfMandia | February 3, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

It is very appropriate for the state to be able to review documents being used by state funded institutions.

What are they attempting to hide?

The East Anglia e-mails were released when it was apparent that they were going to be deleted to avoid a FOIA disclosure.

What does the Global Warming Gang have to hide?

Posted by: JustJoe3 | February 3, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Hey Cootch! Investigate this!

That carbon we've poured into the air traps more of the sun's heat near the planet. And that extra energy expresses itself in a thousand ways, from melting ice to powering storms. Since warm air can hold more water vapor than cold, it's not surprising that the atmosphere is 4% moister than it was 40 years ago. That "4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms," said Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the government's National Center for Atmospheric Research. It loads the dice for record rain and snow. Yesterday the Midwest and Queensland crapped out."

Posted by: thebobbob | February 3, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The 'Global Warming Gang' has nothing to hide- in fact, independent investigations have already cleared both Micheal Mann and East Anglia of any apparent misrepresentations:

I would think you and Your 'Gang' would be more concerned at this point that the AG continues to waste tax payers money on a witch hunt that has already taken place.

Posted by: foglifter | February 3, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Yeap. In fact, did you know that Currently, many insurance companies do not allow adult children to remain on their parents' plan once they reach 19. Companies cannot do that any more. Search onilne for "Wise Health Insurance" and you can insure your kids if you are in the same boat.

Posted by: dichack | February 4, 2011 5:27 AM | Report abuse

And who in the AG's office is competent to decide which scientific conclusions are valid and which are not? The last time I looked, climate science was not on the curriculum at law school. Of course, I'm sure the AG will go hire, at taxpayer expense, his own favored outside consultants who will find what he wants them to find.

Posted by: ksu499 | February 4, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

It is very appropriate for the state to be able to review documents being used by state funded institutions.

Cuccinelli is invoking a law regarding state funds there was not even in place when Mann was at UVa. You can't change a law and then go after all the people who did something different years before the law was created unless they are still doing those actions today. Dr Mann had already moved on to other universities, in other states.. Besides 6 different inquiries, coming from both sides of the Atlantic has cleared Mann and his coleagues of any wrong doing and exposed the so called "smoking gun emails" as statements that were taken out of context and even out of the oanversations they were part of. Yes, phrases like "hiding the evidence" sound very ominous, except in that actual discussion they were talking about a specific species of tree and its odd growth ring pattern during a certain decade in comparrison to other species in the same area. Now it sounds like a boring discussion of plant growth. But that would be useful for the group that "leaked" the East Anglia emails, so they only leaked "specific lines"

Posted by: schnauzer21 | February 4, 2011 8:43 AM | Report abuse

There is no place for agenda-driven, political intrusions. As was the case in the climate study case. Period.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 4, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli is an extremist political hack and clearly out of step with Virginia main stream. He should be recalled and thrown out of office.

Posted by: JHigginss | February 4, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

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