Hansen’s resignation from NASA GISS may not be what it seems
Guest Post by Chris Horner, CEI
So, NASA’s in-house celebrity activist James Hansen says the following in explaining his departure from a lucrative perch — salary alone: $180k per year — one that proved extremely lucrative while there was a useful foil in the White House:
Indeed, on top of that cool $1 million-plus in outside cash tossed Hansen’s way after he ratcheted up the alarmism and — more important to many — politicking, he presided over an elaborate document removal/destruction operation run by his protégé and presumptive successor, Gavin Schmidt.
Now, we are to believe that Hansen is so concerned with his ethical obligations as a government employee that he is willing to operate by his own set of rules that, this time, are more restrictive than the real ones.
The fact is that Hansen, as a government employees, is not barred from testifying against the government. Ethics rules applying to Hansen at NASA simply say that he must seek permission to testify, just as he (usually, but not always) sought and, as the world knows in deed if not according to the rhetoric, received permission for his other global warming advocacy.
That requirement that Hansen first receive permission before testifying exists “to prevent an employee from using public office for the employee’s personal private gain”. Which (chuckle) is the same rationale behind the other ethics provisions under which Hansen sought and was routinely granted permission to make lots of outside money on his advocacy. Under George W. Bush.
So Hansen had no reason to believe he would not be permitted to do as he says he wishes.
Ah, yes. Hansen’s current attention-getting story, when squared with the ethics rules, is that he has been denied approval to serve as an expert witness per 5 C.F.R 6901.103(d) and 5 C.F.R. 2635.805(c) (serving as a fact witness requires overcoming no such impediments).
Further curious is that his testimony would be a particularly easy approval if “the subject matter of the testimony does not relate to the employee’s official duties”. Which we know would be the case — despite our having argued the absurdity of the idea — because since 2006 he has been absolutely cleaning up with outside income only made acceptable by the supposed reality that his various speeches and prizes, etc., were apparently deemed by NASA as not relating to his official duties. Under Bush.
But now, suddenly, under President Obama, it seems that the subject matter of his activism would indeed relate to his professional duties. Per the administration. According to Hansen’s clear implication. Huh.
If we are to believe Hansen — and face it, we all want to believe him — he was denied permission to serve as an expert witness. If this occurred, it is clear that this is a recent development. That is, during the Obama administration.
Which administration is, apparently, “muzzling” Hansen.
Surely you’ve seen the stories.
Of course, it could be that Mr. Hansen is talking through his hat. Some might argue, not for the first time. For example, what case or cases did he inquire about? Or, did someone who mattered merely let on that, if he asked to testify against the administration, they would deep-six the idea?
It is entirely plausible that Hansen has simply found that his NASA gig isn’t what it used to be in better times for the global warming advocate. Times when, for example, the media had no torn allegiances between Hansen’s bombast and the White House.
For example, that whole “Bush muzzling Hansen” mythology was just that; useful to everyone pushing it to superstitiously or conveniently explain the world, but not supported by much evidence (and belied by thousands of interviews).
Notwithstanding this, it remains worth noting that Team Obama putting the squeeze on Hansen is far less far-fetched.
Sure, early on their Department of Justice did work hard to protect him, a valuable advocate in pushing “the cause,” from having his ethics records disclosed to us, maintaining specious legal claims well after we filed suit.
Then, after Hansen made a pain of himself by drawing even more unwanted attention to the festering Keystone XL pipeline decision, getting arrested with (other) celebrities in front of the White House, the caginess suddenly evaporated. I received a call asking where I would like to have a messenger deliver the entirety of Hansen’s relevant ethics records we had sought.
Which is how we, and anyone else interested, learned about just how lucrative Hansen’s NASA employment had become for him.
So long as the right foil was in the White House. Then, a government astronomer could make an astronomical sum off of global warming alarmism. Whatever the rules said. Maybe Keystone XL really is proving to be the “game-changer” the greens have said.
Christopher Horner is a fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author, his most recent book being “The liberal War on Transparency