Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says that some global warming sceptics should be prosecuted under RICO (the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations act). He argues that some of the anti-global warming research is funded by energy companies, which is what Big Tobacco did in funding research that played down the health hazards of smoking, which brought down the wrath of RICO. That statute has also been used against pro-life activists, with the approval of the Supreme Court. We are seeing how unpopular ideas can be criminalized.
You have to read the estimable Mark Hemingway’s response to Sen. Whitehouse’s op-ed piece, linked to and excerpted after the jump.
From Mark Hemingway, Senator: Use RICO Laws to Prosecute Global Warming Skeptics | The Weekly Standard.:
That’s right — a sitting U.S. Senator is suggesting using RICO laws should be applied to global warming skeptics. Courts have been defining RICO down for some time and in ways that aren’t particularly helpful. In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled RICO statutes could be applied to pro-life activists on the grounds that interstate commerce can be affected even when the organization being targeted doesn’t have economic motives.
Obviously, there’s a lot of money hanging in the balance with regard to energy policy. But when does coordinating “a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts” go from basic First Amendment expression to racketeering? The tobacco analogy is inappropriate in regards to how direct the link between smoking and cancer is. Even among those who do agree that global warming is a problem, there’s a tremendously wide variety of opinions about the practical effects. Who gets to decide whether someone is “downplaying the role of carbon emissions in climate change” relative to the consensus? If message coordination and lobbying on controversial scientific and political issues can be declared racketeering because the people funding such efforts have a financial interest in a predetermined outcome, we’re just going to have to outlaw everything that goes on in Washington, D.C.