Republicans were upset to learn that the Internal Revenue Service was allegedly delaying the approval of tax exempt status for conservative organizations filed before the 2012 elections, leading to calls for the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Last week, several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Georgia’s David Perdue, sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch charging that the Justice Department was using law enforcement resources against those who oppose President Obama’s climate change agenda.
The senators’ concern arises from a March oversight hearing in which a Democratic committee member expressed frustration that the “Department of Justice has done nothing so far about the climate denial scheme,” to which Attorney General Lunch responded: “This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for what we could take action on.” In the letter, the senators also expressed concern that the justice Department had been asked by some environmental groups whether certain actions by private companies could have violated RICO laws.
A portion of the letter reads,
These actions provide disturbing confirmation that government officials at all levels are threatening to wield the sword of law enforcement to silence debate on climate change. As you well know, initiating criminal prosecution for a private entity’s opinions on climate change is a blatant violation of the First Amendment and an abuse of power that rises to the level of prosecutorial misconduct.
In a press release, Senator Perdue had this response:
I have serious concerns any time that the Department of Justice uses its power to repress constitutionally protected speech and open dialogue on any public policy issue. Given the unprecedented politicization of the Obama Justice Department, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s oversight responsibilities have become more important than ever before. There is no place in our democracy for politically-motivated investigations by the Department of Justice.
The letter asks AG Lynch to confirm within 14 days that any investigations of individual views on climate change be stopped. In addition to Perdue, other senators signing the letter include Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and David Vitter (R-LA).