I just got off a press call with former UVA Professor and world-renowned climate change scientist Michael E. Mann, along with Virginia State Senators Donald McEachin and Chap Petersen. The point of the call was to highlight Tea Party candidate Mark Obenshain’s continued efforts to cover up his extreme record, in this case specifically about his stance on Ken Cuccinelli’s personal crusade against Dr. Mann’s climate science work.
*Dr. Mann kicked of the call and made a few key points about Ken Cuccinelli’s attacks on him, on climate science, and on the the University of Virginia. He noted that Mark Obenshain supported Cuccinelli on the anti-climate-science witch hunt, but is now trying (misleadingly) to claim otherwise.
*Mann argued that what Cuccinelli did was “completely unacceptable,” a “witch hunt,” an “inquisition,” a “crusade,” all of which “threatened me and my family all to advance his political career,” “simply because he finds the science of climate change inconvenient to the special interests which fund his campaign.”
*In fact, Mann explained, Cuccinelli was completely wrong on the science of climate change, which has only become stronger and more certain over time.
*”It was Mark Herring who was the first…Virginia politician who was willing to stand up and say this attack was completely unjustified, back in 2010.” Others, like Senators Petersen and McEachin, introduced legislation that would have prevented another Attorney General like Ken Cuccinelli from doing this type of thing again. This was also about whether you think the office of Attorney General should be hyperpartisan and allow you to attack people you disagree with.
*According to Mann, “The ONE person who stood up to oppose the bill [aimed at preventing another anti-climate-science witch hunt] was Mark Obenshain, and that speaks volumes…about what sort of person he is, what sort of Attorney General he would be. Now he’s claiming…that he would have done things differently, but when this was happening he stood firmly behind Ken Cuccinelli’s attack on me and the University of Virginia.
*It appears, in Mann’s view, that Obenshain “will say or do anything to get elected, based on his sudden…denial of what he had originally said and done with respect to the Ken Cuccinelli attack.”
*”This Cuccinelli-Obenshain approach to governing is to put politics first and then try to tell the voters something different…That same approach means denying climate change and denying any scientific findings that are inconvenient to the special interests that fund your campaign…that’s extremely dangerous for Virginia.”
*”Obenshain has said that he wants to take the baton from Ken [Cuccinelli] and build on his work without missing a step, those are his words. And clearly the vote to continue giving Cuccinelli carte blanche to investigate whoever he wants and then pretend it didn’t happen shows that Obenshain in fact will be just like Ken Cuccinelli, somebody who puts extreme ideology ahead of the interests of the people he’s supposed to represent.
*Sen. Chap Petersen said he sponsored Senate Bill 831 in 2011, which “specifically responded to the UVA inquisition.” The bill would have “limited the power of the Attorney General to issue subpoenas and to go after entities in the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.” Petersen’s bill specifically excepted “matters of academic inquiry and research from being considered grounds for quote unquote frauds on the taxpayer.” It was done “to protect people like Michael Mann…in whatever academic discipline…I don’t want professors being inhibited by thinking if they pursue a grant or pursue research that they would be leaving themselves exposed to a lawsuit by the state.”
*What really struck Chap about what Cuccinelli did is that he was using taxpayer funds – “my funds as a taxpayer” – to go after someone who’s an academic who’s researching issues of significant public policy interest.
*Chap’s bill “came out of committee with a solid vote…went to the floor,” where it was opposed on by Sen. Obenshain. It went on to pass by a bipartisan vote, including the Senate Minority Leader who voted for it, but “it was opposed by Senator Obenshain.”
*Sen. Donald McEachin said that Mark Obenshain has been trying to “change his stripes” during this campaign. The question is, would Obenshain have acted the same way as Cuccinelli vis-a-vis the anti-Michael Mann “witch hunt?” The unquestionable answer is “yes,” as Obenshain answered a question from a conservative blogger (D.J. McGuire) about Michael Mann, and Obenshain’s answer was “absolutely.” Case closed.
*Just as bad, Obenshain said he wants to continue Cuccinelli’s approach as Attorney General, sees him as the “model Attorney General.” Cuccinelli, Obenshain, and E.W. Jackson are “in fundamental agreement with one another.”
*Obenshain, just like Cuccinelli, would “pursue his own personal, narrow agenda to accomplish his own ends.”
*In Virginia we believe in academic freedom, that the sorts of things that happened to Professor Mann should never happen to anyone. The problem with Obenshain is that he’d pursue the same exact witch hunts that Cuccinelli has pursued.
P.S. A question came up on the call about where exactly Obenshain distanced himself from Cuccinelli on this issue. Two seconds of Googling found the answer in the Daily Press, where Obenshain said “he thinks certain academic research is protected…’I understand the principle of academic freedom.'” Yeah right! LOL