A prominent Democrat probing outside funding for seven university professors who stake out skeptical or controversial positions on climate change said his request for their correspondence with funders and others was an "overreach."
But Rep. Raul Grijalva is also strongly defending his search for ties between fossil-fuel interests and climate research against charges that it's a "witch hunt," arguing that the thrust of the inquiry is aimed at providing important disclosures.
The Arizona Democrat sent letters last week to seven universities seeking information on the sources and amounts of external funding for research, consulting, travel, and more.
The letters also broadly asked for "communication" regarding the funding, and communication related to testimony to Congress and other bodies prepared by the professors.
"The communications back-and-forth is honestly secondary, and I would even on my own say that that was an overreach in that letter," Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, told National Journal on Monday. "I want the disclosure [of funding sources]. Then people can draw their own conclusions."
His probe follows revelations that Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who disputes the scientific consensus that human activities are the main driver of global warming, failed to disclose research funding from Exxon, Southern Company, and other fossil-fuel industry sources.