Oh, the humanity.
Now that the professor in question - and the global warming theory that made him famous - have been discredited, with questions having arisen about his veracity and the possible massaging of the theory's foundational data, an inquiry into the possible misuse of public funds seems appropriate. Highly so.
And as to the legal standing that Mr. Cuccinelli might have in the matter, well ...
Climategate Taxpayer Fraud Investigation Draws Ideological HeatThat's really what this is all about. At a point in time when Michael Mann was a government employee (working for you and me), he may have committed a crime by falsifying data and making unsubstantiated claims so as to achieve personal gain. What taxpayer wouldn't want that investigated?
By Mark J. Fitzgibbons, American Thinker
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has used the power of government to seek documents from the University of Virginia regarding its former professor and Climategate figure of "hockey stick" fame, Michael Mann. Mr. Cuccinelli is investigating whether Professor Mann engaged in fraud to obtain taxpayer money to fund his research.
The civil investigation is making some people sweat, and raised howls of protest from sources ranging from the liberal Washington Post to the libertarian Reason. Academicians are protesting it as a threat to academic liberty. Daniel Lashof, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, penned a letter calling Cuccinelli's actions "political harassment of climate scientist Michael Mann."
As someone who has fought unlawful and abusive government investigations, including ones by state attorneys general, I am more than just a little aware of how government abuses its investigative powers. They are abused for political reasons, and out of sheer incompetence.
I agree, however, with Moe Lane's abbreviated assessment that "the Commonwealth of Virginia can investigate this because Mann took state money to do his research." The issue, however, is more complex and goes deeper than just taking government money. After all, when government is everywhere, who these days doesn't have some link to government money?
Grant recipients solicit grants by making certain representations. Professor Mann's research was funded through a grant of taxpayer money. An intentional misrepresentation of a material fact to induce the grant would constitute fraud at common law.
Mr. Cuccinelli bases his investigation in statutory authority given him under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, which provides considerable detail about what the attorney general must do to bring such an investigation. The statute also allows Virginia to intervene on behalf of actions filed by private individuals under what are called qui tam lawsuits. Private citizens in Virginia, therefore, could bring actions under the fraud statute that presumably would allow access to the University of Virginia's records at issue, provided the litigants complied with the criteria in the qui tam statute.
If Mr. Cuccinelli's investigation does not meet the statutory thresholds, then a court could limit his investigation. I doubt that Mr. Cuccinelli, a litigator with an engineering degree, failed to nail it down. Also, academic freedom is not a recognized legal privilege that could be raised to block an investigation into alleged fraud to obtain taxpayer money.
Besides the statutory authority under which Mr. Cuccinelli is proceeding, another aspect of his investigation involves the doctrine of "visitation" described in the 1819 landmark decision, Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward. Visitation involves the authority to control and investigate. The government has far greater visitation power over public entities than over private ones.
Michael Mann was employed by the University of Virginia, which is not a private institution, but a state school. If the University of Virginia were a private school, it would have a stronger argument to oppose a government investigation. However, being a state entity, the University of Virginia has little room to argue that the government may not control and investigate it.
The public-private distinctions under the doctrine of visitation are lost on liberal statists, who often ignore reasonable cause or even lawful authority to investigate private entities and matters, but are guardians at the gate blocking investigations of public institutions and taxpayer-funded leftwing projects.
Professor Mann's work would not only serve as a basis for society-changing legislation such as cap-and-trade, but would influence the direction of many hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money and the financial markets. Fortunes and fame are often incentive for fraud. [link]
Well, the protectors of the people at the Washington Post, apparently.
And the legions of "open-minded" leftists on campus for another.
And we might add all the other of the world's "scientists" who have gained - and stand to continue to gain - from the perpetuation of their global warming hoax for as long as they can keep pumping hot air into it. It's been, for them, a very lucrative ride.
So Ken Cuccinelli wants to know if laws have been broken. And liberals around the country respond with, "We don't want to know."
One seems to have right on his side.
Let's see what he turns up.