By Chris White
The Democratic attorney general in U.S. Virgin Islands dismisses claims he’s violated the Constitution’s First Amendment with his inquisition targeting fossil fuel companies and global warming.
Claude Walker, the attorney general for the U.S. territory based in the Caribbean islands, was reacting to claims made in a court motion by the free market group Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which argues the investigations infringe upon the constitutional rights of free speech.
“CEI is wrong that the First Amendment shields CEI or Exxon from cooperating with this lawful investigation,” Walker’s legal team said in legal brief to CEI’s motion for sanctions against the attorney general. “This is an investigation into whether Exxon committed fraud, and it is well established that the First Amendment does not shield fraud.”
Walker claimed in a subpoena filed earlier this year that CEI was responsible for aiding Exxon in hiding information on climate change. He later withdrew the subpoena.
“Similar arguments for First Amendment protection were decisively rejected in the United States’ case against tobacco companies, which held cigarette manufacturers financially responsible for and imposed sweeping injunctive relief to address a decades-long scheme by those defendants to misrepresent the scientific facts regarding smoking cigarettes,” Walker’s response added.
Walker blithely dismissed CEI’s motion, saying, “CEI has wasted enough of [the Virgin Islands Department of Justice’s] and the court’s limited time,” on what he called “frivolous” ventures.
CEI President Kent Lassman blasted Walker on Monday, saying in a prepared statement that the attorney general believes he is “above the law.”
“As if from a parallel universe where everything is reversed,” Lassman continued, “Walker claims that CEI’s motions in response to overreaching and abusive action initiated by his office are a waste of his time and resources.”
Environmentalists met behind closed doors in April to brainstorm ideas on how best to get attorneys general to take down Exxon Mobil, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“A key meeting in the new push unfolded in January behind the closed doors of a Manhattan office building,” the WSJ reported. “The session brought together about a dozen people, including Kenny Bruno, a veteran of environmental campaigns, and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, two activists who helped lead the successful fight to block the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Walker, among other attorneys general, justify their investigations by pointing at reports from InsideClimate News and Columbia University criticizing Exxon for supposedly funding global warming skeptics for decades.
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