White House ‘Disinformation’ Campaign Against Climate Policy Critics Sparks Litigation

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Climate activists are working in coordination with the Biden White House and Democrat-dominated congressional committees to silence political opponents under the guise of “disinformation,” legal and energy policy analysts say. 

Under President Joe Biden, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has kept a tight lid on how the administration advances its climate agenda, Chris Horner, an attorney representing a government transparency group, told The Daily Signal.

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Horner said the White House science office refuses to respond forthrightly to related open records requests from his nonprofit group, Energy Policy Advocates. Such answers, he said, would enlighten Americans on the White House’s recruitment of outside activists and academics to discredit dissenters on climate change.

“It’s sort of like paying someone else to take your LSAT test,” Dan Kish, a senior fellow with the Washington-based nonprofit Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Signal.

Horner’s Energy Policy Advocates has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the White House science office after it declined to release records detailing some of the correspondence of two of its staffers.

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The lawsuit, filed in May, cites a “virtual roundtable” on climate change that the science office hosted Feb. 25 for the stated purpose of confronting “climate delayism.” A White House press release describing the roundtable identifies 17 outside participants, including communication strategists, professors, and researchers associated with universities across the country.

“We have filed numerous open records suits pertaining to ‘climate,’ seeking records from local, state, or federal bodies known to be working with what we view as a climate industry, or otherwise pursuing the agenda,” Horner said in an email to The Daily Signal.

He said Energy Policy Advocates, which is based in Washington state, went to court after the White House science office “failed to move” on one request under the Freedom of Information Act, or to determine that it would comply with that request. The office also “attempted to deny another request on what appear to be specious grounds that the material was ‘deliberative’ in nature,” Horner said.

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Horner is one of two lawyers representing Energy Policy Advocates in the litigation.

In an email, The Daily Signal sought comment from the Office of Science and Technology Policy on the lawsuit and the purpose of the “climate disinformation” campaign. The office had not responded by publication time.

Seeking Emails With Outsiders

In February, Energy Policy Advocates asked for correspondence about a climate event involving Eric Lander, a science adviser to Biden who resigned that month, and Jane Lubchenco, the science office’s deputy director for climate and the environment.

The request asked for email records spanning an eight-week period that was “used at any time for work-related correspondence that was sent to one or more … named outside parties,” the suit says.

Lander resigned from the White House science office in response to allegations that he “bullied and demeaned” fellow staffers, according to media reports.

Lubchenco previously served as undersecretary of commerce and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Obama administration. During that time, Energy Policy Advocates’ suit claims, Lubchenco used a previous employer’s email account for “official federal work-related correspondence.”

The nonprofit also filed numerous lawsuits at the state and federal levels to obtain records pertaining to other such efforts. At the state level, for instance, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid for unofficial consultants to work with progressive state attorneys general to pursue Bloomberg’s climate agenda, according to the litigation.

The overarching purpose of the FOIA requests is to “inform the public of high-profile ethics revelations” at the White House science office “and media coverage thereof, and also the genesis of a tendentious event and campaign” out of the office, according to the suit.

Horner said he views the White House “roundtable” event as part of a larger effort aimed at “freezing out opposing political speech.”

He points to Biden’s aborted attempt to create a Disinformation Governance Board within the Department of Homeland Security as an example of how the administration is working to cut off meaningful debate about climate change.

“It’s certainly a reasonable conclusion that this administration and its allies, including on Capitol Hill, seek to use the weight of the federal government to silence political speech in opposition to its ‘whole-of-government’ climate agenda,” Horner said.

“Whether that means attempts at criminalization or not, we shall see,” he added, in anticipation that the House Oversight and Reform Committee would make referrals to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. A related transparency lawsuit suggests that such a referral is one objective of the House committee.

‘Hypocritical Hearings’

Katie Tubb, an energy and environmental policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation, testified in February before the House Oversight and Reform Committee during a hearing titled “Fueling the Climate Crisis: Examining Big Oil’s Climate Pledges.” (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)

The climate hearing continued last year’s interrogations of energy companies that figure into Virginia talk show host Rob Schilling’s lawsuits. In her testimony, Tubb encouraged lawmakers to develop a better understanding of the “ongoing energy-price crisis.”

She told The Daily Signal in an email that the Biden administration’s “keep it in the ground” approach to energy policy “cedes ground to other producers to fill the vacuum in a global market that cannot find enough supply.”

“We tend to think of oil in terms of transportation products—jet fuel, gasoline, diesel,” Tubb said, adding:

Just that alone enables so much productive, worthwhile activity. But oil is also a feedstock for hundreds of other products that make our lives better (pharmaceuticals being just one category). We take that for granted in the U.S., which is expressed by some in Congress with hypocritical hearings.

The Daily Signal previously reported that Horner, an attorney with the nonprofit group Government Accountability and Oversight, represents Rob Schilling in that litigation.

This other lawsuit alleges that lawmakers received assistance from privately funded sources in violation of House ethics rules and federal law, for the purpose of steering their climate-related investigations.

Schilling also is executive director of Energy Policy Advocates, the plaintiff in the litigation against the White House science office.

‘Collusive Behavior’

Kish, whose Institute for Energy Research advocates free-market policies, expressed concern about the role privately funded activists could have in reshaping national energy policy.

“I’m flabbergasted to the extent I see this sort of collusive behavior between outside groups and the current leadership of the House via the committees,” Kish told The Daily Signal. “That’s just not supposed to happen. It’s sort of like paying someone else to take your LSAT test.”

Kish credits the lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act for calling attention not just to questionable ethics but also to Biden’s pursuit of green energy initiatives that, from his point of view, undercut American interests.

During the February roundtable, Alondra Nelson, a deputy assistant to the president who also directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy, told participants that the Biden administration is committed to reaching 100% clean electricity by 2035 and to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

“From a national security standpoint, and from an energy security standpoint, it’s imperative that if this country continues to go down the road toward green energy, that the American people be aware of just exactly the implications of that and who is behind pushing these programs and it all seems to lead back to China and to a certain extent, Russia,” Kish said.

“Under Biden, we are literally disarming and dismantling our nation’s energy, economic, and national security and turning over control of energy resources to China,” he said.

In a letter dated June 9, the White House science office informed Energy Policy Advocates that it would provide a partial response to its requests. The office cited exemptions under the law that allow federal agencies to withhold and redact information that federal officials view as legally sensitive.

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This article was published by the Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

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