Horner: Virginia’s Cavalier Ethics: ‘Mann used…hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars building on his work and the name he had created for himself with the Hockey Stick’


By: - Climate DepotMay 17, 2010 12:02 PM

Special to Climate Depot

Virginia’s Cavalier Ethics

By Chris Horner

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli is a smart, aggressive conservative who scares the heck out of the Left, which includes the establishment media. And former University of Virginia tree-ring expert Michael Mann is a darling of the same crowd.

This ensured a combustible mix when, exercising his authority (and, I suggest, responsibility) under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, Cucinelli sought records from the University of Virginia which were produced during Mann’s days there. It was from this perch that Mann developed the infamous and now disgraced “hockey stick.” The Hockey Stick portrayed for the first time a stable climate until the horrors of Industrial Man. Then temperatures began an unprecedented spike. Or so we were told. Often and loudly.

Mann’s algorithm rewrote history so that it was no longer as those who lived it had chronicled in diaries, agricultural records and cultural artifacts. That politically expedient abandonment of a thousand years of accumulated knowledge was just too good to receive a skeptical reception. It was instead hailed as the “smoking gun” of the IPCC Third Assessment Report – in a chapter which, by chance, Mann was lead author – and proof of man-made global warming.

Upon scrutiny by the Wegman Committee, this proved to be no more than Mann-made warming. Mann’s house of cards began to collapse, but not before he had parlayed it into a research unit at Penn State. Along the way Mann used University of Virginia resources and otherwise hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars building on his work and the name he had created for himself with the Hockey Stick.

Then late last year ClimateGate exposed the climate industry, through 1,000 emails, computer code and code annotations showing how scientists collaborated to subvert the peer-review process, distort research, and violate transparency laws. The focus of much of this subterfuge was protecting Mann’s work from challenge.

ClimateGate placed a billowing cloud of smoke in the public domain suggesting that Mann operated in violation of the Virginia taxpayer-protection statute. Cucinelli is looking to see if there is fire. The Left is furious. I suggest they know what he will find.

Now, suddenly, the University of Virginia, Michael Mann, the Washington Post and others among the politically attuned Left are up in arms about this law over which, incidentally, they were silent in the past. Their true objection appears to be over Cucinelli daring to apply the law to one of their own.

The arguments to date by all comers – including prominent skeptics Steven McIntyre and Chip Knappenberger – distill to an acknowledgement that the law applies but concluding it’s a bad idea to actually apply it. That’s actually not an argument.

Lost in their hysteria is that the law passed Virginia’s legislature unanimously. 99-0 in the House of Delegates, 40-0 in the Senate. No amendment was made to exempt academics or those whose politics are correct. No similar paroxysms of indignation issued at the time, or since. Until it was applied to them, or those they identify or agree with.

As further proof that the legislature was serious, it created a ten-year statute of limitations.

Mann’s defenders embrace the dissent of McIntyre, the Hockey Team’s original tormentor. This is particularly odd given that this statistics expert wasn’t sufficiently a “scientist” for their standards when it came to catching their hijinks with statistics. But, now, Steve’s enough of a lawyer for them in this pinch.

I may be at somewhat of a disadvantage in any discussion about this statute, having read it. But consider the following.

The statute makes it unlawful to engage in a variety of untruthful behavior at taxpayer expense (§ 8.01-216.3). § 8.01-216.4, states that “The Attorney General shall investigate” such matters – presumably contemplating those times, like these, no “fishing” is necessary given the wealth of information in the public domain revealing the possibility of violation.

§ 8.01-216.10, “Civil investigative demands; issuance”, states that “Whenever the Attorney General has reason to believe that any person may be in possession, custody, or control of any documentary material or information relevant to a false claims law investigation, the Attorney General may, before commencing a civil proceeding under this article, issue in writing and cause to be served upon such person, a civil investigative demand requiring such person” produce and testify about the materials at issue.

That is what Cucinelli has done. If Cucinelli finds a violation, he may bring a civil action. The statute is clear. So the Left is having fits of political cover for the activist UVA administration.

Here’s the coup de grace: the University of Virginia has indicated that it will not cooperate with the Attorney General, but instead will seek judicial determination that they need not comply with the law whose terms on their face apply to the records at issue. At the same time, the University has notified former Mann colleague, Dr. Pat Michaels, that Michaels’ records are about to be turned over to Greenpeace, under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

To date the University has refused at least one state lawmaker copies of Mann’s records under the FOI Act on the grounds that Mann left the University, so they were destroyed. Oddly, Michaels left the school, too. I am informed he was told, upon confronting them, that “different peoples’ records are treated differently.”

Anyone who knows the players’ respective profiles and histories sees how this is not merely sleazy or even abusive. It is prima facie malicious. Dr. Michaels may well end up a wealthy man when all is said and done. Of course, as always, it will be the taxpayer, not those who have done wrong, who actually pay.

The media and the rest of the Left are getting the Mann issue wrong with their shrieks of “witch hunt!”. This rhetoric and the organized campaign surely seem designed to pressure Cucinelli to back off, eschewing his legal obligation to investigate. This is yet another disgraceful episode for them. But it is also a disgraceful day for the University of Virginia.