DC Court Rules: No Power to Balance Interests, Congressional Use of Activist-'Consultants' Beyond Public Scrutiny - Climate Litigation Watch

DC Court Rules: No Power to Balance Interests, Congressional Use of Activist-‘Consultants’ Beyond Public Scrutiny

Today, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against award-winning journalist Rob Schilling’s effort to obtain records pertaining to a congressional committee’s “year long investigation” of private parties with the assistance of activist-consultants at least some of whom, donor websites boast, were provided for that very purpose. A purpose which, on its face, would represent Members violating House Rule XIV.

Late last month Schilling had recently pointed out to the Court, in a Supplemental filing, further inconsistencies in the principals’ own statements. Earlier today, CLW pointed out yet one more.

But, no matter the seriousness of such matters the Court ruled that, due to Speech and Debate immunity, it has no power to conduct a balancing test and examine if the public interest outweighs Congress’s interest in maintaining secrecy:

About this ruling, Schilling says:

“The DC District Court today acknowledged that I raised serious concerns about a possibly “unlawful alliance” of activist donors funding congressional ‘staff’ and congressional subpoenas. Nevertheless, the Court ruled that it simply has no power to engage in a balancing test to determine whether the records I sought — specifically, emails and agreements pertaining to outside-activist “consultants” which a House Subcommittee Chairman has boasted of bringing in to help guide an investigation of private parties — should be released to the public, regardless of how serious or even unlawful the underlying activity I sought to uncover and may be. 

Given existing opinions in the DC Circuit, and recent changes of narrative and story by that committee’s Chairman, and in light of a new admission by one of these consultants as reported in the press, I am considering my options and will make a decision as to next steps at the appropriate time.”

Journalist Rob Schilling