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It's unlikely the company will be successful in blocking the subpoena. (Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr/cc)

As Exxon Tries to Duck Subpoenas, Groups Keep Urging Clinton to Reject Big Oil

"The First Amendment does not shield any company being investigated for fraud."

Nadia Prupis

Amid the presidential election and with renewed public scrutiny over its role in the decades-long suppression of climate science, oil giant ExxonMobil is going to court in Texas over a subpoena issued by the Attorney General of the U.S. Virgin Islands in an attempt to avoid answering questions.

Exxon on Wednesday filed a petition in Fort Worth after Attorney General Claude Earl Walker and his counterpart from Massachusetts announced they would join the effort, along with those concurrently ongoing in New York and California, to investigate what exactly the fossil fuel industry knew about climate change.

It's unlikely the company will be successful in blocking the subpoena, writes InsideClimate News, one of the outlets that helped exposed the fossil fuel industry's collusion in the coverup.

The oil giant claimed the subpoena, issued last month, is "a pretextual use of law enforcement power to deter ExxonMobil from participating in ongoing public deliberations about climate change and to fish through decades of ExxonMobil's documents with the hope of finding some ammunition. The chilling effect of this inquiry, which discriminates based on viewpoint to target one side of an ongoing policy debate, strikes at protected speech at the core of the First Amendment."

However, Walker responded by arguing, "The First Amendment does not shield any company from being investigated for fraud."

On Thursday, activists released a letter urging the Clinton Foundation to return the more than one million in donations it has received from Exxon.

"ExxonMobil is a company that has been fighting efforts to address the climate crisis for over 25 years," the letter states. "This includes spending $30 million to support groups whose basic purpose is to encourage doubt and denial about the facts of climate change. Given that [the Clinton Foundation] does work to fight climate change, we are writing to urge you to return the more than $1 million that your foundation has received from ExxonMobil in recent years."

Recent reporting has revealed that the fossil fuel industry was aware of the dangers of climate change as recently as the 1940s. Attorneys General in California, New York, Massachusetts, and the Virgin Islands launched investigations into Exxon and other oil giants following revelations based on reporting by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times that they had worked to suppress climate science for decades.

"When future historians give their verdict on the twenty-first century, Exxon will be a top contender for committing the worst crimes against the earth—from the devastating Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska to funding a disinformation campaign focused on casting doubt on climate change," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch and one of the letter's signatories.

The release of the letter was organized by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) Action Fund, a grassroots climate advocacy group based in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. The group also launched a website to help others understand the call. It comes on the heels of a similar action coordinated by the climate group 350.org.

"Our request today is direct, simple, and imminently doable for a philanthropy that gives away hundreds of millions of dollars a year," said Mike Tidwell, CCAN Action Fund director. "Returning ExxonMobil's money sends the right signal to American citizens and the world at a time when Antarctic ice is imploding, seas are rising, and extreme weather is battering the four corners of the world."


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