Ken Cuccinelli: the gift that keeps on giving

KEN CUCCINELLI: THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING…. We talked over the weekend about Virginia’s comically right-wing attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, and his concerns about the image of a bare-breasted Virtus appearing on his state’s flag and seal for the last 234 years. After noting some of Cuccinelli’s other greatest hits, reader veblen noted I’d missed an important one.

Good point. While it’s proving difficult to keep up with Cuccinelli’s exploits, the Republican state AG’s recent efforts against a climate scientist appear badly misguided.

Last month, reports The Hook of Charlottesville, [Cuccinelli] requested “a sweeping swath of documents” from the University of Virginia, relating to the climate research work — funded through state grants — of Michael Mann.

Mann worked at the university from 1999 to 2005, and now runs Penn State’s Earth System Science Center. If he were found to have manipulated data, Cuccinelli could seek to have the research money — plus damages — returned to the state.

It’s not clear that there’s much evidence of that, however. The climate-gate emails showed some scientists discussing ways to keep views skeptical of global warming out of peer-reviewed journals, among other things — but they did not show outright fraud. Nor did they undermine the broad expert consensus that man-made warming is occurring and must be addressed.

This has all the makings of an academic witch hunt. Cuccinelli doesn’t have evidence that Mann did anything wrong, but he doesn’t like Mann’s research (Cuccinelli questions the science behind global warming), so he’ll use the power of his office to see what he can find against the professor’s work.

That sends quite a signal to scholars, doesn’t it? Careful what you research, professor, because there are conservative state AGs out there with axes to grind.

And in the bigger picture, we have yet another example of Cuccinelli’s excesses. Virginia’s AG has, after all, been palling around with radicals, recently considered a literacy test for some Virginians wishing to vote, questioned President Obama’s citizenship, rescinded legal protections for gays at Virginia universities, argued publicly that it doesn’t cost the public any money when he and his office work on a frivolous lawsuit, and of course he also added a modesty shield to Virginia’s great seal.

And he’s only been in office since January. I get the distinct impression this guy will be blogging gold for years to come.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.