On July 8, the American Tradition Institute (ATI), a free-market think tank which receives much of its funding from the fossil fuel industry, was fined by Virginia’s highest court for filing a frivolous lawsuit. The ruling comes after more than 4 years of harassment and malicious attacks against the University of Virginia and former professor Michael Mann.
Mann’s research revealed the link between the burning of fossil fuels and rising global temperatures. Following the release of his “Hockey Stick Graph,” in 2010, Mann was viciously attacked by the conservative media and various representatives of the fossil fuel industry, including ATI, an organization which promotes climate change denial.
According to Facing South, ATI, which has since changed it’s name to Energy Environment Legal Institute, is a spin off of a group that has been involved in a range of dark money controversies, American Tradition Partnership.
Former Virginia Attorney General and recently failed candidate for governor of VI,
Ken Cuccinelli, was also heavily involved in the effort to discredit Mann’s work, using his position as then Attorney General to accuse Mann of falsifying data and defrauding taxpayers, charges which were repeatedly shown to be false.
ATI has also harassed climate scientists at Texas Tech and Texas A & M, and filed lawsuits over state renewable energy policies.
In 2012 Mann filed a suit against conservative media outlet, the National Review, National Review reporter Mark Steyn, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and analyst Rand Simberg. The suit came after the National Review published malicious and false statements claiming that Mann falsified research data and comparing him to a convicted child molester.
While the recent ruling vindicates Mann and also underscores the unscrupulous behavior of the fossil fuel industry and the front groups that do that industry’s bidding, it will do very little to discourage these sorts of false attacks against climate scientists. The judge ordered ATI to pay a $250 fine, which is laughable considering the context and the level of malicious intent involved.
Mann’s suit against the National Review is still awaiting a judge’s decision.