GAP coalition partner Union of Concerned Scientists has released a letter signed by 800 scientists and professors in Virginia that urges Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to drop his inquiry into publicly funded work by a climate scientist formerly employed by the University of Virginia. The scientist, Michael Mann, was at the center of the so-called "Climategate" controversy last year, but has been cleared of any wrongdoing by a review at Pennsylvania State University, where he currently works. In addition, two reports by committees in the United Kingdom have found no evidence of wrongdoing by any of the scientists involved.
Despite Mann being cleared of all accusations against him, Cuccinelli is still asking the University of Virginia to turn over a massive amount of documents – including 10 years worth of emails with 40 other individuals! – relating to his research there, under a Virginia law called the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. Under this law, Mann would have had to knowingly present false information to the state in order to gain compensation – in this case, five grants. The Penn State inquiry cleared Mann of specifically that, saying there was "no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data." Climate Science Watch has been following this case in great detail.
In addition, the university, which had originally said it would comply with Cuccinelli's order, has retained legal counsel, which may signal its intent not to obey the order. In his first statement on the issue, the rector of the university has said:
"Research universities must defend the privilege of academic freedom in the creation of new knowledge."
Since taking office in January, Cuccinelli hasn't stopped at threatening academic freedom, though. He's also filed a suit against the EPA's endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, sent a letter to Virginia's public universities arguing that they should stop protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, filed a lawsuit to stop healthcare reform, and even unveiled a much-ridiculed non-nudity version of the classical art depicted in the Virginia state seal.
That's a lot of activist, politically-motivated work for just five months in office. We wish you the best of luck with the next four years, Virginia.
Beth Adelson is a Communications Fellow for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.