News: CJ Exclusives

Burr, Tillis, Haugh condemn attacks on free-speech rights

Ross, Democratic Senate nominee and former state ACLU director, silent on "Web of Denial" campaign by Democratic U.S. senators targeting JLF, other groups

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., singles out the John Locke Foundation's work in a Tuesday speech on the Senate floor as part of the Democrats' coordinated "Web of Denial" campaign. (Image from C-Span)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., singles out the John Locke Foundation's work in a Tuesday speech on the Senate floor as part of the Democrats' coordinated "Web of Denial" campaign. (Image from C-Span)

Spokesmen for North Carolina Republican U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr condemned Senate Democrats’ attacks on the John Locke Foundation, Carolina Journal, and 47 other organizations that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., accused of concocting a “Web of Denial” through research and reporting that creates a skeptical view of climate change alarmism.

In an orchestrated campaign, 19 Democratic senators have been pushing a concurrent resolution hoping to compel the free-market organizations to participate in unspecified investigations that the senators contend would show the groups deceived the public about the putative dangers of manmade climate change, a theory many scientists have challenged.

The measure condemning the 48 organizations is considered to have little chance to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Rather than use their time and energy to stifle the First Amendment rights of American citizens, Senate Democrats should start doing their jobs and work with Senate Republicans to fund our troops and military,” said Tillis press secretary Daniel Keylin.

Senate Democrats are using a filibuster to block the $575 billion 2017 Defense appropriations bill that funds military operations, while spending two days in a series of floor speeches pushing the concurrent resolution.

“There are more than 100,000 active duty soldiers in North Carolina. What do I tell them when I go home? In spite of all of these threats, politics is above the principle of funding our troops and protecting our nation?” said Tillis in a Republican press release.

Burr chastised the Democrats’ campaign against JLF and other organizations through press secretary Taylor Holgate.

“Senator Burr does not believe it is the role of the United States Senate to silence free speech or involve itself in academic research,” Holgate said.

Deborah Ross, Burr’s Democratic opponent in this year’s general election, and former N.C. state director of the American Civil Liberties Union, did not respond to multiple attempts seeking comment.

But Sean Haugh, a Libertarian challenging Burr for his seat, called the “showboating” action by 19 Senate Democrats to spur a Senate condemnation of JLF and the other organizations “a despicable tactic.”

“If you set aside for a moment what the issue is, and how you might feel about it, it’s just bad governing precisely because they’re trying to persecute people for stating their opinions, and putting their points of view out there,” Haugh said. Democrats are “trying to spread culture war,” he said.

There needs to be “robust debate among the people” on topics such as climate change because “the science is not settled,” Haugh said.

The Democrats’ concurrent resolution alleges fossil fuel companies “developed a sophisticated and deceitful campaign that funded think tanks and front groups, and paid public relations firms to deny, counter, and obfuscate” studies purporting to show climate change is caused by human activities and will have catastrophic consequences. JLF neither markets nor produces fossil fuels.

“This kind of tactic, I think, really is deliberately meant to chill free speech and free debate over this kind of issue,” Haugh said. “It’s thought crime is what they’re talking about.”

Aside from basing their condemnation on unsettled science, Haugh said the Democrats’ call for action against the 48 organizations is duplicitous.

Democrats, particularly, are “perfectly willing to go along with treaties and legislation that allow their corporate donors to continue polluting, and they come up with crazy schemes like carbon tax credits” that do not address or abate the speculative problems they rail against, Haugh said.

Speaking from the Senate floor on Monday, Whitehouse took aim at billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who have become the bogey men of the left for their political funding of many conservative groups and causes.

He said 43 of the 48 groups Democrats are condemning are “Koch-linked,” and 28 “are either Koch front groups, or the beneficiaries of regular Koch funding, groups like the James Madison Institute, the John Locke Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council. … The Kochs blow their dog whistle, and the hounds appear.”

On Tuesday Whitehouse became even more direct and accusatory, using charts during his floor remarks to describe what he sees as a web of climate change denial, and naming donors to free market organizations.

He specifically and repeatedly accused the John Locke Foundation and CJ of being key agents in what he called the “climate change denier and countermovement organizations.”

Whitehouse has compared the potential dangers of “climate fraud” to the “scheme of fraud” perpetrated by tobacco companies on smokers, and has called for civil lawsuits, seeking financial penalties against fossil fuel producers much like the $246 billion global settlement in 1998 between tobacco companies and state governments.

“The insertion of this authoritarian narrative — that climate change hysteria is the final word, and that to exercise your First Amendment rights to question such claims may make you subject to government surveillance — is an assault on the idea and practice of democracy in the United States,” JLF’s CEO and President Kory Swanson said on Tuesday.

Whitehouse was among a cadre of Democrats who last year sent a demand letter to JLF and 106 other groups ordering, without authority, that they surrender 10 years of voluminous records about research, funding, activities, donors’ names, and a broad array of other documents. JLF refused, and Senate Republicans roundly condemned the Democrats’ overreach.

David Legates, a University of Delaware professor and former Delaware state climatologist who has been targeted by left-leaning climate activists for his research, has argued there is no convincing evidence that human activity is causing catastrophic change to the climate.

In a previous interview with CJ, Legates said that political interference in the scientific method, and attempts by government and its vested researchers to shut down conflicting ideas and findings, are both real, and harmful to pure science and public policy development.

Legates said President Eisenhower warned in his farewell address against creating a scientific technological elite, “where if the government starts funding science to a specific level to get a certain answer, that’s the answer they’re going to get regardless of whether it’s true or not. And I think we’ve seen this in climate change.”

That approach, along with intimidating research professors and others whose research findings differ, “stifles science,” Legates said.



  • ProudlyUnaffiliated

    When the government attacks law-abiding private individuals, companies, and organization — for whatever reason — they are saying they want tyranny. It takes us another step closer to civil war 2.

  • Robert Wilhoite

    Eff Tillis and Burr; they’re part of the problem in DC. I WILL NOT be voting for Burr this go around and I’m sure many other Conservatives will not as well. Burr is a RINO, he pretends to be a Conservative during election years and then he goes back into the fold of McConnell.

    Tillis was drinking the kool-aid way before he got to DC; it was all about him when he was a state senator. Since John Locke Foundation is a NC entity they’re stepping up but when it comes to positions unqualified individuals being nominated for they vote yea.

    Tillis quit using the “funding of the military” as an excuse for you NOT do your job for North Carolinians and Americans.

    Tillis and Burr are failures and hopefully Burr will be gone this year; maybe it’ll wake up Tillis. I’m in NC02 and I’m glad Ellmers is gone.