The RICO-20 gang of climate academics commenced its supposed campaign against misinformation with false information about skeptic reactions to the Cuccinelli investigation. Barry Klinger, one of Shukla’s hangers-on at George Mason University, stated:
However, I don’t recall climate contrarians coming to the defense of Michael Mann when he was subject to ideologically-based legal harrassment from then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as well as from Republicans in Congress.
Klinger’s statement is completely untrue, as he could have discovered with a moment’s investigation. I, Ross McKitrick, Tom Fuller, Chip Knappenberger, Pielke Jr and John Christy, among others, all forcefully criticized the Cuccinelli investigation. In today’s post, I’ll rebut Klinger’s false information.
To be clear – and this nuance was not recognized by all readers – I did not challenge Cuccinelli’s right to investigate financial impropriety; my argument was against what I saw as an abuse of administrative authority – a topic on which I had strong opinions long before I had ever heard of climate. Had Mann’s name emerged from financial warning-flags, I would have taken a different position. Had there been evidence that Mann had, for example, funnelled NSF grants through a personal corporation and that Mann had double-dipped by paying himself and his wife through the personal corporation as well as his university salary, I would have had a different attitude. As many readers are aware, Roger Pielke Jr has identified apparent evidence of this sort of double-dipping by the leader of the RICO-20, Jagadish Shukla of George Mason University.
In a follow-up post, I’ll review this evidence. In today’s post, I will limit myself to refuting Klinger’s false claim.
When I learned of Cuccinelli’s attempted use of Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA), I immediately (May 2, 2010) spoke out against it as an abuse of process. In fact, I spoke out against it even before the Union of Concerned Scientists (May 7) or any of the critics credited in Mann’s book. Here’s what I said:
This is a repugnant piece of over-zealousness by the Virginia Attorney General, that I condemn.
Obviously, I think that Mannian effusions have negligible scientific value. However, the people in the field think otherwise and organizations like NSF seem ready and willing to lavishly fund analysis that seems to me to be little more than paleo-phrenology. Cuccinelli’s complaint lies with NSF rather than Mann. To the extent that Virginia citizens are concerned about public money being misappropriated, Cuccinelli’s own expenditures on this adventure should be under equal scrutiny. There will be no value for dollar in this enterprise.
To the extent that there are issues with Mann or Jones or any of these guys, they are at most academic misconduct and should be dealt with under those regimes. It is unfortunate that the inquiries at Penn State and UEA have not been even minimally diligent, but complaints on that account rest with the universities or their supervising institutions and the substitution of inappropriate investigations by zealots like Cuccinelli are not an alternative.
In a presentation at Heartland on May 16, 2010 a couple of weeks later, I re-iterated this objection to Cuccinelli (receiving a tepid response to such moderation, as several observers noted at the time):
Despite the failures of the inquiries to do their job, I strongly disagree with Cuccinelli’s recent investigation of potential financial abuse. Regardless of what one may think of the quality of Mann’s work, he has published diligently. In my opinion, Cuccinelli’s actions are an abuse of administrative prerogative that on the one hand is unfair to Mann and on the other provides an easy out for people to avoid dealing with the real issues.
On May 2, Tom Fuller published an open letter to Cuccinelli:
As co-author of a book (Climategate: The CRUtape Letters) that was harshly critical of the performance of Michael Mann and his colleagues, I write in criticism of your decision to investigate Mr. Mann for potential violations of state laws on fraudulent payment of claims.
Mr. Mann has been extensively investigated regarding his work product, and although I consider his actions to be often unprofessional and politically oriented, neither I nor any of the people interviewed for our book have any doubt whatsoever that Mann performed the scientific work he has been commissioned to do, or that he engaged in any fraudulent actions.
No matter what has prompted your investigation, there is no doubt that it will be interpreted as a witch hunt. If you are in fact investigating a credentialed scientist for results that do not suit your political opinion, that interpretation is correct. Unless you can reveal to the public prima facie evidence that shows cause for this investigation, I beg you to reconsider. There are ample avenues of professional and academic recourse for people like me who think he has done something wrong. But being wrong is not a crime, and intimidating scientists not a path that this country, including I presume Virginians, should ever pursue. You may consult with colleagues in Salem to determine how long it takes to live this type of thing down.
On May 7, 2010, Chip Knappenberg spoke out strongly (published by Andy Revkin), including the following:
I am not alone in thinking Mr. Cuccinelli’s investigation of Dr. Mann is unacceptable. His actions are being widely condemned across the blogosphere, including by some of Dr. Mann’s harshest critics (and no doubt the very people whose work has inspired Mr. Cuccinelli’s ill-advised actions).
They agree that this is not the correct way for Mr. Cuccinelli to handle his discontent. The potential harm to Science, with a capital “S”, greatly exceeds any potential gain. There are many arenas where science can be properly debated. The courtroom is not one of them.
Pielke Jr wrote several posts on the matter, including the following critique of Cuccinelli:
Cucinnelli has not, in my inexpert opinion, established a “prima facie case of reasonable cause” — far from it. Cuccinelli argues that his lack of proof is what justifies the investigation. Good luck getting that bizzaro logic and misleading application of case law past a judge! What more do you need to know to see that this is pure and simple a fishing expedition?
The opposition to Cuccinelli by Mann’s opponents was widely acknowledged at the time, even by anti-skeptics e.g. here:
McIntyre, by contrast, doesn’t let in even a bit of “Mann got what he deserved.” He appears to be following a principle–a principle that stands athwart politics-as-usual and leads him to a temporary alliance with a man he otherwise batters vigorously. He has even surprised some among his blog’s community, who complained about being “confused” by the “cognitive dissonance” he was showing in his defense of Mann. Several even make a sort of inverse Golden Rule argument:
“I’m sure that if the situation was reversed, and you were under investigation for the actions you took in order to expose the fraud of Mann et al, Michael Mann would encourage such an investigation and complain that it is not harsh enough. So let’s all wait and see what comes out of this and then comment based on facts not speculation (“Gad Levin“)”
To which McIntyre replies:
“I’ve taken a consistent position that the ends don’t justify the means. I don’t agree that you can justify withholding adverse verification r2 because you think that your cause is righteous or that you should exercise executive power capriciously or vindictively because you think that your cause is righteous. Both are slippery slopes. This is bedrock in our civil society.”
In a story on the affair in the New York Times, John Rudolf Collins reported, cited myself, McKitrick, Fuller and John Christy:
One might expect that his [Cuccinelli’s] efforts would find support among climate-change contrarians…
But in reporting the story, I found the opposite to be true: as it turns out, even many of Dr. Mann’s chief scientific foes are strongly opposed to Mr. Cuccinelli’s fraud investigation.
Even Treehugger recognized the pushback against Cuccinelli from “skeptics”:
The only thing Cuccinelli could accomplish here is kick-starting another political witch-hunt — at the expense of the scientific process. I don’t often offer kudos to climate skeptics, but in this case I’ll make an exception — thank you for honorably drawing a line in the sand to prevent this foolish, reckless piece of political theater from gaining traction.
As I explained to readers at the time of the eventual decision on the Cuccinelli CID, concern about abuse of administrative law is part of my family history – something that long precedes any interest in climate. I certainly thought that there were issues that warranted examination by a Penn State academic misconduct committee and have consistently taken the position that the Penn State committee failed to do its job, but that did not justify Cuccinelli abusing his authority. I tried to explain this nuance as follows:
I have a long-standing though passing interest in the topic of abuse of administrative law. My grandfather McRuer was a prominent judge in Canada and led a major Royal Commission that pointed to accretion of administrative authority without avenues for citizens to appeal. His commission led to measures in Ontario against abuse of administrative authority. My objection to Cuccinnelli’s CID was as an apparent abuse of administrative authority. I did not doubt his jurisdiction over the University of Virginia and other public agencies and, if Mann’s name had popped up on a short list using financial criteria under the Act, I would not opposed his CID. I thought that there were (and are) valid reasons why the University of Virginia should have carried out a misconduct investigation; indeed, Ross and I filed a formal complaint with the University of Virginia in 2005 which they refused to investigate. I spoke out against Cuccinnelli’s CID because he had provided inadequate evidence of an offence under FATA to justify the demand.
The above excerpts and links convincingly show that the Cuccinelli investigation was unequivocally opposed by Mann’s opponents as an abuse of administrative authority, precisely the sort of abuse that Klinger is now advocating. Klinger’s tit-for-tat rationalization is completely bogus. While Klinger may not now “recall” these widely publicized oppositions, the opposition would have been readily identified with a moment’s research. It appears that Klinger made these allegations without any due diligence to verify whether the allegations were true and that Klinger’s false allegations were made recklessly.
Ironically, Cuccinelli’s authority to investigate financial abuse was not contested if there was evidence of such abuse. Pielke’s revelations about Shukla’s double-dipping have taken this topic in a very different direction (more on this in a forthcoming post) and it will be interesting to see if Klinger and the RICO-20 will support a thorough investigation by George Mason University and NSF of Shukla’s handling of federal funds.