RICO Ructions Round-up

Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is the ability of the climate activist community to make make spectacular tactical blunders in the game of Climateball.

The most recent of these is the call for a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) investigation of “corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change”.  The letter is dated 1 September, addressed to President Obama and the Attorney General, and signed by 20 people who in the letter describe themselves as climate scientists.

The letter seems to have been first found around Sept 16th and was discussed by Judith Curry who called it “more insane U.S. climate politics”. (Curry and others had been the target of another insane political attack, the “Grijalva witch-hunt“, just a few months earlier, which seems to have backfired badly).  The sceptic blogosphere has given the letter considerable attention, while climate scientists have kept very quiet about it.

The letter promotes the climate activist conspiracy theory of powerful, sinister fossil-fuel organisations knowingly misleading the public, and employs the familiar tobacco smear.

Those signing the letter included Jagadish Shukla, Ed Maibach and Barry Klinger. All three are at George Mason University.  A painful irony here,  as pointed out by Paul Driessen, is that George Mason was one of the creators of the US Bill of Rights!






As first noted by Roger Pielke, around 20 Sept, Shukla (left, the first name on the letter) seems to be doing rather well out of the climate change industry, as do members of his family. This was picked up by Bishop Hill on Sept 21 and then explored by Steve McIntyre on Sept 28th with his usual forensic detail. Shukla’s so-called “non-profit” organisation, IGES, pompously proclaiming itself as “in service of society”, was in fact paying him millions of dollars.

The second person to sign the letter is Ed Maibach (centre), whose research is in “Climate change communication, public health communication, social marketing”, and whose website says “His research currently focuses exclusively on how to mobilize populations to adopt behaviors and support public policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions…”. Yet the text of the letter says “as climate scientists we…”, so Maibach is misrepresenting his academic credentials by signing the letter – he is not, by any stretch, a climate scientist.  This seems to be a fairly serious breach of professional integrity, in a letter to the President calling for prosecutions.  It’s also curious that someone who is supposedly an expert in communication strategies should make such a communication blunder.

Also signing the letter is Barry Klinger (right).  He attempted to defend the letter in a statement on his web page, repeating the oil and tobacco smears. He claimed that he did not recall any climate contrarians criticising Cuccinelli’s investigation of Mann. As pointed out by McIntyre, several did, and Klinger had absolutely no excuse for being unaware of this since the fact was even reported in the New York Times.

At this point the story might have gradually faded away.  But it was kept alive by a continuing sequence of tactical blunders by the #Rico20 team.

On about 26 September (first noted in a comment at CA) the letter was removed from the IGES site.  This was of course quite pointless, since the letter was available at the internet archive and elsewhere.  This apparent admission of an error provoked considerable interest, see Donna Laframboise, Bishop Hill and WUWT.

Then on 29 Sept a new much shorter note appeared at the same URL where the original letter had been posted, saying:
“The letter that was inadvertently posted on this web site has been removed. It was decided more than two years ago that the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES) would be dissolved when the projects then undertaken by IGES would be completed. All research projects by IGES were completed in July 2015, and the IGES web site is in the process of being decommissioned.”
This raises further questions. How do you ‘inadvertently’ post a letter on a website? Was the research relating to all the money taken in 2014 really all completed by July 2015?

Also on 29 Sept, Klinger posted an update on his web page, in which he acknowledges his earlier error. He also says “My own ambivalence about the RICO letter…”. Why would you put your name to a letter to the President calling for prosecutions if you were ambivalent about it?

Other links:

A new low in science: Criminalizing climate change skeptics and blog post


Legal expert: Using RICO against climate change skeptics an attack on free speech

Backfire on the #RICO20 and Jagadish Shukla is imminent; wagon circling, climbdown, dissolution begins

Getting Rich off Climate Extremism



Oct 1: Lamar Smith, Chair of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee writes a letter to Shukla, regarding the funding of IGES, in particular “This letter raises serious concerns because IGES appears to be almost fully funded by taxpayer money while simultaneously participating in partisan political activity…”. Expressing concern about removal of documents from the IGES website, he asks them to preserve all electronic documents back to 2009 and provide a list of all employees. See press release and letter.
WUWT reports Pat Michaels saying this may be the “largest science scandal in US history”, which seems way over the top to me.

Oct 5: The story of both letters is reported in Science magazine: Climate scientist requesting federal investigation feels heat from House Republicans. The article includes a quote from Shukla showing the same pompous self-righteousness mentioned above: “We can not believe the viciousness of attacks because we signed a letter as our civic duty with the ultimate goal of repairing our planet”.

Oct 8: Inside Climate News have their spin on the story. “I signed this letter as a private citizen on personal time, urging action on climate change, and I have been shocked by the reaction,” Shukla told InsideClimate News. “Any allegations of inappropriate behavior are untrue.”

Oct 9: Shut Up—Or We’ll Shut You Down in the WSJ.

Oct 14: Call for using RICO Act for climate skeptics is irresponsible and unconstitutional.

Oct 16: Watchdog.org reports that Lamar Smith has written to NASA, NOAA and NSF, requesting information regarding funding related to IGES. The article has links to the letters, and also includes a good summary of the history of the story.

17 thoughts on “RICO Ructions Round-up

  1. > Klinger had absolutely no excuse for being unaware of this since the fact was even reported in the New York Times.

    I am sorry for not being unaware of that reporting in the NYT. My non-assiduous reading of the NYT is no excuse. I apologize for any trouble that unawareness may or may not have caused to anyone, past, present, and future, real or fictional, natural or artificial persons.

    Oh, and thank you:

  2. Willard, thanks for confirming that I used the term correctly! I believe you were the originator of the word.

    In the game of Climateball, if you plan to make a statement along the lines of “I don’t recall climate contrarians…”, it’s advisable to a do a quick google, which yields a CA post, the NYT piece and a Thinkprogress blog. Otherwise you lose points in the game.

  3. > if you plan to make a statement along the lines of “I don’t recall climate contrarians…”

    Better yet, don’t. If Klinger had any experience playing ClimateBall with contrarians, he’d learn this the hard way. I have one at Judy’s that is arguing that the word “supporters” can mean just any anyone, e.g.:


    A better way would have been to identify who the hell you’re talking about. If the point was to talk about conservative media, then say something like “the Fox News and the conservative echo chamber.”

    (Oh, and strictly speaking, they’re contrarian outlets, not contrarians, Barry.)

    The same applies to mind-probing words like “disinformation” to describe sentences that start with “I don’t recall,” BTW. There are many ways to exploit such construction without faltering on the opacity of beliefs. Is that an own goal too?

    I hope you understand that ClimateBall is an inclusive term and applies to more than what you tendentiously call the “climate activist community,” PeterM.

  4. My interest is in why Shukla? I’ve never heard of him before. Was the idea his or was he the most senior person who said ‘sure I’ll be part of that?’ Was he chosen because he didn’t have a track record with sceptics?

    This has all been stoked by the likes of Naomi Oreskes and her Merchants of Doubt meme. She’s doing the consensus side no favours by ignoring the very real grass roots sceptic feeling. Lots of people are naturally sceptical of climate catastrophism. It has nothing to do with secret industry influences. That doesn’t mean somebody isn’t whispering in the ears of politicians but they’re talking about tax income, industry competitiveness and pensions. There’s a genuine economic case to be made for fossil fuels. No talk of AGW necessary. For every sceptic scientist that receives money that started life in business, the same companies are financing many consensus scientists. If AGW turns out to be overblown will the same companies be charged under the same law but for the alternative view?

  5. Why Shukla?

    Not fully sure, but he does believe this stuff. See his presentation, linked to at CA, particularly slide 55.

    A lot of scientists glibly believe some simplistic folk stories about the world around them. They don’t bother to think a bit harder.

    Oreskes pushes the tobacco thing.

    John Mashey did a fellowship with Stanton Glantz at UCSF.

    See here: Glantz is the big guy with the orange sweater, Oreskes is in the middle, Mashyey’s in the back, straining to appear in the frame.


    Eli Rabett shares Mashey’s prohibitionist urges.

    Senator Whitehouse the RICO promoter relies on Skepticalscience for his climate information.

    From Michael Mann to Shukla, the bibliography (and the ideologic toolbox) is limited. Mann recommends only 5 books to read, in his book. The RICO letter cites about 5 books. Titles by the Desmog pair Hoggan and Littlemore and Naomi Oreskes are common to both.

    Mashey is friends with Hoggan. He used to write long posts with Piers Corbyn’esque pdfs for Desmog.

    Utterly and completely out of ideas, climate activists will run with anything to keep their dead horse in the news. Klinger perfectly encapsulates the sentiment: ‘Hey, I don’t want to hinder free speech or send anyone to jail, I just wanted a few headlines for my cause.’

  6. This will have legs for three reasons. Lamar Smiths congressional committee has direct oversight of NSF and NASA, two of the three big grant supporters of Shukla’s IGES (the other being NOAA). So Smith drives the first two.
    1. IGES is a non-profit, therefore prohibited from political activity. And, NSF money is not to be used for political activity. The disappeared letter was plainly political activity.
    2. More important, NSF rules prevent double dipping like Shuckla plainly did for years, reported on IGES form 990. That is a clear violation of writtenNSF grant rules (the so called 2/9). Not only does that mean misappropriation of NSF funds, it calls into question the quality of NSF administration. There is an NSF OIG. My guess is that person will be incentivized to investigate before Smith does and then gets the OIG fired for malfeasance.
    3. As a GMU prof, Shuckla is a state of Virginia employee, reguired to annually disclose his financial interest in IGES (he is apparently sole, owner, and CEO at a 2014 salary of $300k (the double dip of point 2 on top of his $314k GMU salary to which the 2/9 rule applies for all the NSF grants to IGES). McIntyre has gotten those forms for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Shuckla did not identify IGES, and did not file schedules F and G which would have otherwise been required. That is most likely perjury, and also a criminal violation of the Virginia state law motivating the annual state employee disclosure. So the Virginia attorney general will get involved. The AG just sent the former governor to jail for not stopping his wife from accepting $100k in favors from a businessman seeking state contracts. This appears much worse.

  7. The problem here Paul and Willard is that while the climate debate has some game like aspects, it is not at bottom a game but deadly serious. The invoicing of RICO in this matter would be a threat not just to a few innocent scientists but to the rule of law in the United States, and we already have a lot of lawless behavior sanctioned by the Obama administration and a lot of federal corruption in the equal enforcement of the law.

  8. ristvan and David, this is an interesting question. Is the RICO letter a serious threat to the rule of law, democracy, free speech etc, and is the Lamar Smith letter going to have serious consequences for Shukla and IGES? Or are both letters just part of a childish game that will have no real impact on either side?

    As implied by the tone of this post, I lean towards the latter view, though I may turn out to be wrong.

  9. Ed Maibach is covered in this post from 2010:


    He shares the source of his climate epiphany with the Pope:

    “Back in 2005, Maibach and his wife joined some family members on an educational walking trip through the Dolomites in Italy. Members of the trip spent the mornings listening to leading climate scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the afternoons climbing mountains.

    “After listening to these lectures four mornings in a row, the epiphany struck,” says Maibach. “I finally made the connection between global warming and public health — “global warming is likely this century’s most profound threat to public health and well-being. When that epiphany struck, I realized exactly what I had to spend the rest of my life working on.”

    In fall 2007, after joining Mason’s Department of Communication, Maibach founded the Center for Climate Change Communication and became its director.”

  10. Paul, it appears Lamar Smith’s committee will take this seriously for the reasons given upthread. He has held several hearings on climate, inviting people like Curry and Christy to testify. Which led to Rep. Grivalja demanding funding sources from Lamar’s hearing speakers including Curry, Christy, and Pielke Jr. Smith can get a little payback, in my opinion.
    The only thing not clear is whether at the time the evidence retention letter was sent, Smith’s staff knew about the Pielke/ McIntyre discovery that Shukla as PI had also grossly the NSF 2/9 rule.

  11. Shub’s Oct 3 comment above barely scratches the surface of the interconnectedness of citation sources within the RICO letter. I covered that in more depth in an AmericanThinker piece which in turn linked to more material at my own blog about the fatal fault at the core of the RICO prosecution notion: “Those scientists who want to use RICO to prosecute AGW ‘deniers’ have a big problem” http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/10/those_scientists_who_want_to_use_rico_to_prosecute_agw_deniers_have_a_big_problem.html

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