Earlier this year Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse suggested the Justice Department prosecute the fossil fuel industry and climate change deniers in the same way it went after the tobacco industry, using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, the law intended to take down mobsters with enhanced penalties and civil court action.
Whitehouse pointed out that in 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against tobacco companies, saying, “Defendants coordinated significant aspects of their public relations, scientific, legal, and marketing activit
y in furtherance of a shared objective — to . . . maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public.”
Earlier this month a bunch of climate change acolytes weighed in from amen corner with a letter to the administration backing Whitehouse’s plan.
While both are assaulting free speech in an aggregious manner, neither noted that a court has tossed out part of the prior enforcement against tobacco.
A week before Whitehpise’s posting, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled tobacco companies must tell consumers cigarettes are addictive, but the court said tobacco companies did not have to say they had purposefully made cigarettes addictive and had been deceptive.
The court split hairs over the extent of the law, but this was not what RICO was meant to do.
As John Milton said, truth will win in a free fight. It is not the purview of some judge.