The Grand Tradition of Harassing Researchers -- Virginia Edition

by Matt Shudtz

May 06, 2010

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli II has taken his climate change vendetta to a new low, announcing that he will use Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act to force officials at UVA to spend months digging through a decade of university records in search of evidence that Dr. Michael Mann "defrauded" the Commonwealth by seeking funds to explore the boundaries of climate science.

Tuesday's article in the Washington Post gave the attention-seeking politician all that he needed from the civil investigative demand issued to Dr. Mann's former employer.  Now Cuccinelli will move on to his next headline-grabbing venture without a care for the disruptions he's left in his wake.

As others have pointed out, threatening academics with legal penalties sets a terrible precedent that will stifle the innovation and progress that are the hallmarks of the United States' great research universities.  It was bad enough when Rep. Joe Barton first started harassing Dr. Mann over his work, signaling to all climate scientists that they'd better be careful what they researched or the full force of a congressional investigation might be in their future.  Now that Cuccinelli has set the precedent of making onerous demands on the universities that employ researchers who work on the cutting edge, there will be another dimension to the pressures that will constrain American academics.

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Matthew Shudtz, J.D., is the Executive Director of the Center for Progressive Reform. He joined CPR in 2006 as policy analyst, after graduating law school with a certificate in environmental law.

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