A legal fight over free speech continues between the Virgin Islands attorney general and a public policy organization.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Claude E. Walker served a subpoena on the Competitive Enterprise Institute seeking documents relating to the Institute's research on global warming or climate change.
The attorney general's effort is connected with the AGs United for Clean Power, a network of state attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil and other organizations to determine whether they have lied about climate change.
CEI, along with many other organizations, say such legal accusations raise First Amendment concerns.
Attorney General Walker has since dropped his subpoena amid criticism that he was abusing his power. But prior to that announcement, CEI filed a court motion in the District of Columbia to have Walker sanctioned.
In recent days, Walker's legal team claimed that CEI is wrong that the First Amendment shields the organization from cooperating with this lawful investigation. The legal team went on to say, "This is an investigation into whether Exxon committed fraud, and it is well established that the First Amendment does not shield fraud."
Sam Kazman, CEI general counsel, tells OneNewsNow that all of this stems from positions CEI has taken. If it's not an attempt to shut down free speech, he says, he's not sure what is.
"(This) is clearly aimed at shutting down the global warming debate," the attorney alleges. "It is aimed at chilling the speech of not just CEI but groups and individuals like CEI, and it is aimed at intimidating supporters of groups like us."
CEI relies on voluntary contributions, he explains, and putting an "element of fear" into those supporting the organization threatens CEI's existence.
CEI is asking a court to require A.G. Walker not only to pay the think tank's legal fees, but be fined for having abused his office and the legal process.
"I should mention that even though he did withdraw the subpoena, his letter, which was somewhat arrogantly worded, nonetheless reserved the right expressly stated he might reissue the subpoena if he changed his mind in the future," Kazman says. "We're not about to sit idly by with that sort of threat hanging over us."
Kazman went on to say that it is CEI's sincere hope that if one attorney general is forced to not only withdraw the subpoena but pay a monetary penalty, then that will make other attorneys general think twice.
"You've got this (group of) 17 state attorneys general that calls itself AGs United For Clean Power," says the attorney. "In our view, what they really mean is AGs United For More Power."