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ATI SUES NASA & Global Warming James Hansen

ATI SUES NASA & Global Warming James Hansen

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Published by Levitator
The American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center' transparency project now seeks to force NASA to release ethics records for taxpayer-funded global warming activist Dr. James Hansen, specifically those pertaining to his outside employment, revenue generation, and advocacy activities.


What we are trying to determine is whether NASA approved Hansen’s widespread, well-documented, high-profile and, it turns out, extremely lucrative “outside employment and other activities”, permission for which must be obtained in writing, in advance. Public financial disclosures and other documents reveal that he has received at least $1.2 million in the past four years, more than doubling his taxpayer-financed salary.


-This pursuit began on January 19 when ATI filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF) with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which Hansen directs, seeking records detailing his and NASA’s compliance with applicable federal ethics and financial disclosure laws and regulations and with NASA Rules of Behavior. Thus far the agency has denied ATI’s request for Hansen’s Form 17-60 “Application for permission for outside employment and other activity”, and internal discussions about same.

NASA argues rather implausibly that release would constitute a “clearly unwarranted violation of Hansen’s privacy rights”. More implausibly, NASA claims that ATI’s several pages of explanation failed to establish that the one-page, required applications — if they exist, which we have reason to question — would “contribute to the public’s understanding of the activities of the Government, or how it would shed light on NASA’s performance of its statutory duties.”

But of course, whether NASA complies with ethics laws is patently of public interest. This is affirmed by Hansen’s position being senior enough to require him to file vastly more detailed Public Financial Disclosure filings, or Form SF 278, which are made available to the public on request. Both are for the simple reason that a senior employee’s outside revenue-generating activities are inherently in the public’s interest according to the Ethics in Government Act.

Dr. Hansen engages in high-profile public advocacy with regard to global warming and energy policy, directly trading on his platform as a NASA astronomer to gain interest and attention. This outside employment and other activities relating to his work have included consulting, highly compensated speeches, six-figure “prizes”, a commercial book, advising Al Gore on his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and, lately, advising litigants on suing states and the federal government.


-As we note in our complaint Hansen, by his own admission, turned down the first offer of a mere $10,000, to avoid the improper appearance of escalated public advocacy being for the money. The offers soon became larger, sometimes much larger. He also became of a different mind.

While ATI sues today seeking only transparency, the fact remains that, under federal statutes and NASA rules, employees may not privately benefit from public office; also, outside income must be disclosed, certain activities avoided, and permission must be applied for before engaging in permissible outside employment or activities. Our FOIA Request and now our lawsuit seeks official documents which, if they in fact exist, would inform the public about NASA’s and Hansen’s adherence to all such rules which compliance, given records already obtained and the public record, is in doubt.


-NASA needs to clear the air by releasing the documents about Dr. Hansen’s outside employment and other activities, and whether he and NASA are fulfilling their statutory and regulatory obligations that come as conditions of their subsisting at the taxpayer’s expense.



http://biggovernment.com/chorner/2011/06/23/lawsuit-seeks-ethics-filings-of-nasas-global-warming-activist-james-hansen/#more-287664
The American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center' transparency project now seeks to force NASA to release ethics records for taxpayer-funded global warming activist Dr. James Hansen, specifically those pertaining to his outside employment, revenue generation, and advocacy activities.


What we are trying to determine is whether NASA approved Hansen’s widespread, well-documented, high-profile and, it turns out, extremely lucrative “outside employment and other activities”, permission for which must be obtained in writing, in advance. Public financial disclosures and other documents reveal that he has received at least $1.2 million in the past four years, more than doubling his taxpayer-financed salary.


-This pursuit began on January 19 when ATI filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF) with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which Hansen directs, seeking records detailing his and NASA’s compliance with applicable federal ethics and financial disclosure laws and regulations and with NASA Rules of Behavior. Thus far the agency has denied ATI’s request for Hansen’s Form 17-60 “Application for permission for outside employment and other activity”, and internal discussions about same.

NASA argues rather implausibly that release would constitute a “clearly unwarranted violation of Hansen’s privacy rights”. More implausibly, NASA claims that ATI’s several pages of explanation failed to establish that the one-page, required applications — if they exist, which we have reason to question — would “contribute to the public’s understanding of the activities of the Government, or how it would shed light on NASA’s performance of its statutory duties.”

But of course, whether NASA complies with ethics laws is patently of public interest. This is affirmed by Hansen’s position being senior enough to require him to file vastly more detailed Public Financial Disclosure filings, or Form SF 278, which are made available to the public on request. Both are for the simple reason that a senior employee’s outside revenue-generating activities are inherently in the public’s interest according to the Ethics in Government Act.

Dr. Hansen engages in high-profile public advocacy with regard to global warming and energy policy, directly trading on his platform as a NASA astronomer to gain interest and attention. This outside employment and other activities relating to his work have included consulting, highly compensated speeches, six-figure “prizes”, a commercial book, advising Al Gore on his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and, lately, advising litigants on suing states and the federal government.


-As we note in our complaint Hansen, by his own admission, turned down the first offer of a mere $10,000, to avoid the improper appearance of escalated public advocacy being for the money. The offers soon became larger, sometimes much larger. He also became of a different mind.

While ATI sues today seeking only transparency, the fact remains that, under federal statutes and NASA rules, employees may not privately benefit from public office; also, outside income must be disclosed, certain activities avoided, and permission must be applied for before engaging in permissible outside employment or activities. Our FOIA Request and now our lawsuit seeks official documents which, if they in fact exist, would inform the public about NASA’s and Hansen’s adherence to all such rules which compliance, given records already obtained and the public record, is in doubt.


-NASA needs to clear the air by releasing the documents about Dr. Hansen’s outside employment and other activities, and whether he and NASA are fulfilling their statutory and regulatory obligations that come as conditions of their subsisting at the taxpayer’s expense.



http://biggovernment.com/chorner/2011/06/23/lawsuit-seeks-ethics-filings-of-nasas-global-warming-activist-james-hansen/#more-287664

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Published by: Levitator on Jun 23, 2011
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1
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
AMERICAN TRADITION INSTITUTE )2020 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. )Number 186 )Washington, D.C. 20006 )))Plaintiff, ))v. ) Civil Action No. __ CV____ (___))NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND )SPACE ADMINISTRATION, )Headquarters )Washington, DC 20546-0001 )))Defendant. )
COMPLAINT AND PRAYER FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
1.
 
Plaintiff AMERICAN TRADITION INSTITUTE (“ATI”) for its complaintagainst Defendant NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION(“NASA”) alleges on knowledge as to Plaintiff, and on information and belief as to allother matters, as follows:2.
 
This is an action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C.§ 552, to compel production of certain NASA records relating to agency and agencyemployee compliance with their statutory and regulatory ethics and disclosureobligations. In a FOIA request initiated in January 2011, ATI sought documentsconcerning the integrity of internal NASA compliance with and oversight of ethics anddisclosure laws and specifically involving the conduct of one NASA scientist. For overfour months NASA has refused to comply with a specific request for records, obstructing
 
2
the FOIA process. The public needs transparency from its government about climatescience and about agency performance of its statutory duties, particularly involvingethics, with debate about transparency, climate-related science and related policiescapturing sustained national attention. Yet NASA has repeatedly and unlawfully refusedto produce the requested materials. NASA is accountable to the taxpayers and to thepublic. It should not be free to disregard its FOIA obligations. Plaintiff has exhausted itsadministrative remedies and has no recourse but this lawsuit.
PARTIES
3.
 
Plaintiff ATI is a public policy research and educational foundation with aphysical presence in Washington, D.C., dedicated to advancing responsible, economicallysustainable environmental policy. ATI's programs include research, investigative journalism, and its Environmental Law Center, which has a transparency initiativeseeking records relating to environmental and particularly climate change science andpolicy.4.
 
Defendant NASA is a federal agency whose stated mission is to pioneer the futurein space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. NASA’s GoddardInstitute of Space Studies (“GISS”) is a division of NASA based in New York City andstyles itself as a “leading center of atmospheric modeling and of climate change.”
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
5.
 
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) because thisaction is brought in the District of Columbia and 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the resolutionof disputes under FOIA presents a federal question.6.
 
Venue is proper in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because Defendant
 
3
NASA’s principal place of business is in the District of Columbia.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND
7.
 
This lawsuit seeks to compel NASA to respond fully and completely to aFOIA request dated January 19, 2011. The request sought information relating to thepersonnel or ethics file(s) of NASA employee Dr. James E. Hansen, specificallypertaining to the Ethics in Government Act, Hansen's outside employment and otheractivities, and his efforts to obtain the required waivers for such activities, which recordsreveal and otherwise reflect upon whether he and NASA have complied with certain andrespective financial disclosure, reporting and other ethics-related obligations.8.
 
NASA has refused to produce certain requested information and to provide entireor redacted versions of a specific NASA personnel form. NASA here continues itsdocumented practice of converting the FOIA process—which is intended to providecitizens with prompt and complete disclosure—into a protracted battle in which requestsare denied on plainly incorrect, inapplicable or otherwise unsupportable grounds. In theinstant matter Plaintiff’s request seeks to shed light on agency performance of itsstatutory duties, which NASA improperly recasts in order to seek shelter in a “morestringent standard for ‘agency wrongdoer claims’”, similarly dismisses as “mereunsupported allegations” internal records provided by Plaintiff which represent primafacie evidence of NASA not fulfilling its statutory and regulatory obligations, and refuseswithout explanation to consider redacting records to withhold potentially sensitiveinformation while providing transparency consistent with FOIA’s intent.

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