A professor who has demanded a criminal investigation of those who disagree with his views on climate change could be facing scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service for for alleged misuse of federal funds.
Cause of Action, a government watchdog group, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank, filed a joint IRS complaint Tuesday against the Institute of Global Environment and Society to have the organization stripped of its tax-exempt status.
The complaint alleges that IGES, run by George Mason University climate dynamics professor Jagadish Shukla, has received more than $60 million in federal grants for the stated purpose of climate research but that the funds have actually gone to benefit Shukla and his family.
“It’s incredibly ironic that while Dr. Shukla accuses global warming skeptics of deceiving the public, his own environmental organization has been pulling a fast one at taxpayer expense,” said CEI general counsel Sam Kazman. “His attempt to use RICO to silence public debate is groundless, and so is his organization’s tax-exempt status.”
Shukla did not immediately respond to an inquiry from TheBlaze for this story.
In September, Shukla was the lead signer with 19 other college professors of a letter to President Barack Obama asking for a racketeering investigation into companies and organizations that raised doubts about climate change. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO, is used to prosecute a criminal enterprise — which can include organized crime, terrorist groups or corporate criminals, all of which would involve conspiracy.
“We appreciate that you are making aggressive and imaginative use of the limited tools available to you in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. One additional tool — recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse — is a RICO investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change,” the letter to Obama said, referring to Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, who first proposed prosecuting climate change skeptics under RICO laws in a Washington Post op-ed in May.
The professors asserted in the September letter that companies denying climate change were similar to tobacco companies.
“A RICO investigation (1999 to 2006) played an important role in stopping the tobacco industry from continuing to deceive the American people about the dangers of smoking,” the letter continued. “If corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters are guilty of the misdeeds that have been documented in books and journal articles, it is imperative that these misdeeds be stopped as soon as possible so that America and the world can get on with the critically important business of finding effective ways to restabilize the Earth’s climate, before even more lasting damage is done.”
However, a congressional investigation by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee is now looking into the accusing professor’s use of federal grants to IGES. According to the committee, the organization received $63 million in federal tax dollars from the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.
The committee, citing the IGES Form 990, determined that in 2014, Shukla worked an average of 28 hours per week and received $292,688 in compensation. Shukla was also paid $39, 348 for “Retirement and other deferred compensation.” As a “business manager” for IGES, Shukla’s wife was paid $146,045 and another $18,861 in retirement compensation.
Also, according to the House committee, “IGES shifted $100,000 in grant money to an education charity that transferred the money to a school in India that was apparently founded by Dr. Shukla.”
“It appears that grants provided to IGES are not serving the intended purpose of providing services to the public,” committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a letter to Shukla. “Instead, taxpayers appear to be picking up the tab for excessive salaries, nepotism, questionable money transfers, and political activity while receiving little or no benefit. The public expects non-profit organizations that receive taxpayer money to exercise responsible stewardship of their tax dollars.”
Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein alleged that Shukla and his family are privately profiting from the funds directed to IGES.
“Benefits for nonprofits exist in our tax code for organizations which are helping the community and educating the public. An abuse of federal funds by a nonprofit is clear grounds for revoking its tax-exempt status," Epstein said, "and the IRS should seriously consider this complaint and revoke IGES’s tax status.”