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This congressman Is Investigating Exxon’s Investigators
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP
POLITICS

This congressman Is Investigating Exxon’s Investigators

Why Lamar Smith is defending the oil giant against the SEC.

Katie Herzog

Rep Lamar Smith (R-Texas) accused the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday of unfairly targeting oil giant ExxonMobile by investigating whether the company disclosed its financial risks from climate change and greenhouse gas regulations to investors.

In a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White, Smith demands that the commission provide his committee with documents related to the Exxon probe by Oct. 13.

Smith writes that the SEC has advanced “a prescriptive climate change orthodoxy that may chill further climate change research,” which seems odd for someone who doesn’t actually believe in climate change.

Still, it’s about what we’d expect from Smith, a recipient of $680,000 from oil and gas over his career.

Smith — who, ironically, is both a climate denier and the head of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology — has used his position to aid Exxon before: He’s accused 17 state attorneys general of violating the corporation’s right to free speech by looking into allegations that Exxon has known about climate change for decades.

Why does Smith go to bat for Exxon repeatedly, despite risking political backlash? Gretchen Goldman, an analyst at Union of Concerned Scientists (one of the groups being targeted by Smith), has a theory.

“If you’re talking about climate change and doing anything to try to hold actors accountable, he wants to intimidate you.”