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Is ExxonMobil Responsible For Lying About Climate Change? Republican Senators Say Fraud Is ‘Free Speech’

A group of Republican senators has written a letter to the U.S. Attorney General to stifle any future federal inquiries concerning climate change, claiming it violates the First Amendment rights of corporations like ExxonMobil, which suppressed its research into the phenomenon for several decades, according to an explosive report from Inside Climate News last September.

A group of Democratic senators has since responded with their own letter, asking the Attorney General to stay the course.

The first letter, signed by Republicans Ted Cruz, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee, David Perdue, and David Vitter, accused the attorney general of suppressing debate on the validity of climate change, a violation of the First Amendment rights of corporations who have continued to question the validity of climate change.

Privately-funded scientific research can be actively misrepresented, they argue, even despite the global implications of doing so. It’s not fraud, it’s free speech!

“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,” the letter, addressed to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, reads. “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.”

“Threatening prosecution of those who dare to challenge the most outlandish scaremongering by climate activists strikes at the very heart of the Free Speech protections on which this nation was founded,” said Lee, one of the senators who signed the letter, in a statement that appeared on Cruz’s Senate page.

Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, and Sheldon Whitehouse, some of the most liberal Democrats in the chamber, shot back with their own statement claiming that companies like Exxon committed fraud, which isn’t protected as free speech under the First Amendment, when suppressing the findings of its own scientists on the effects of fossils fuels.

“We write today to urge that you view the Republican Senators’ May 25 letter as Exhibit A among the reasons why the Department of Justice should take a full and honest look at possible fraud in the fossil fuel industry’s climate denial operation,” read the Democratic senators’ response. “It has always been and remains good law that fraud is not protected by the First Amendment. It would be a sorry world in which corporations engaged in fraud could pull the screen of the First Amendment over any investigation of their fraud.”

The senators said that their Republican counterparts were using tactics once used by the tobacco industry and its supporters to suppress scientific scrutiny of the harmful effects of cigarettes on humans.

“The Republican Senators’ letter reprises the tobacco lawsuit’s own early history of efforts from Congress to discourage or interfere with that lawsuit in order to protect the tobacco industry,” continued the letter. “The Republican Senators’ letter also reprises arguments made in the press against bringing the tobacco lawsuit, and made in court against that lawsuit: to wit, that the First Amendment should prevent the investigation or determine the litigation. This argument was soundly rejected by the Department, and then by Judge Kessler, and then by the United States D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

It’s ironic that the party of climate change deniers is demanding that their side be given the freedom of speech to air their politically motivated, unscientific opinions on climate change while consistently opposing any discussion of the real effects by anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Last year, aided in part by Cruz, Republicans claimed that NASA was wasting money monitoring weather patterns that have revealed already the real effects of climate change. “The core function of NASA is to explore space,” said the Texas senator. “NASA in the current environment has lost its full focus on that core mission.”

He was predictably annoyed that NASA was actively educating the public about the realities of climate change and sharing the data it collected with the global scientific community.

While Republicans may want to continue to question and deny the scientific validity of climate change, even their bankrollers are beginning to come around to the reality that fossil fuels are shifting the planet’s weather patterns and causing extreme weather to occur more regularly. On Wednesday, ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded energy company in the world, voted to make it easier to elect climate change advocates to the company’s board of directors in a vote approved by 62 percent of the company’s shareholders.

“We are not ignoring the risk that is out there,” said Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson following a shareholder meeting in Dallas, when pressed by one shareholder about climate science. “I don’t think we see it all that differently. Our differences are in how we’re going to address it.”

That wasn’t the case for decades, when Exxon hid the scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change. Now, Republicans want to protect the rights of other corporations to lie about the potentially catastrophic implications of their private scientific research.

Endorse This: Louisiana Says ‘Adieu’ To Bobby Jindal

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The new Democratic governor-elect of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, recounted to reporters Sunday the gracious call he received from the outgoing GOP governor (and ex-presidential candidate) Bobby Jindal, who offered warm wishes to him and family.

And then Edwards proceeded to throw some serious shade at his soon-to-be predecessor — by outlining his agenda to reverse just about all of Jindal’s major policies in Louisiana.

“The last thing that I want to do is compound the problems that Gov. Jindal has created,” Edwards said, notably from Jindal’s opposition to Medicaid expansion and his many socially divisive state executive orders.

And now thanks to a Democratic governor in this deeply Republican state, a lot more people will be getting access to health care — all because Edwards’s GOP opponent in the election, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, was a hypocritical social conservative champion best known for his own prostitution scandal. Laissez les bon temps rouler! — or, “Let the good times roll!”

Video via NBC News.

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Democrat Wins Louisiana Governor Election In Upset For Republicans

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) — Democrat John Bel Edwards won election on Saturday as the next governor of Louisiana, staking a rare victory for his party in the conservative U.S. South, daily newspaper The Advocate and WWL-TV projected.

Edwards, a 49-year-old state legislator, defeated Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in a hotly contested runoff election that defied the political headwinds in a state where Republicans currently hold all statewide offices.

Vitter, 54, was haunted during the race by his entanglement in a 2007 prostitution scandal in Washington. After a bruising primary last month left state Republicans divided, Edwards seized the opening to become the only Democratic governor south of Virginia.

Edwards, an anti-abortion, pro-gun Democrat, will replace outgoing Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who is unpopular in his state and barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Jindal did not endorse a candidate.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein. Editing by Kevin Murphy.)

Photo: Louisiana Gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards speaks to reporters during a Veterans Day event in Baton Rouge, Louisiana November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Lee Celano

Late Night Roundup: ‘Swamp Sling’ In Louisiana

Trevor Noah highlighted the gubernatorial election this Saturday in Louisiana — and the ability of Democratic challenger John Bel Edwards to turn just about any question into a knock on family-values Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s prostitution scandal: “That comeback was like a brothel — Vitter walked right into it!”

Stephen Colbert examined the hate being stirred up by politicians against Muslim refugees: “This kind of selective immigration is nothing new. Like the plaque on the Statue of Liberty says: ‘Give us your tired, your poor, mostly Christians, and maybe one or two Indian guys with engineering degrees.'”

Larry Wilmore shamed the sports fans who have yelled out inappropriate stuff during observations for a moment of silence at the stadiums.

Jimmy Fallon did an interview with “Bobby Jindal” (played by Aziz Ansari) in the wake of Jindal dropping out of the presidential race.

Conan O’Brien: “At a campaign rally, Donald Trump said he would, quote, ‘Bomb the s@#t out of ISIS.’ It’s all part of his new campaign slogan: ‘Donald Trump — The Drunk Guy Next To You At The Sports Bar.'”