Special Investigation: Who's behind the 'information attacks' on climate scientists?

In the fall of 2011, Facing South published an investigation by Editorial Director Sue Sturgis into a free-market think tank that filed a controversial Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the University of Virginia seeking emails and other documents related to former professor Michael Mann. An award-winning climate scientist who's now at Penn State, Mann has become a focus of the climate-denial movement because of his research documenting the recent spike in earth's temperature.

The investigation found that the group behind the suit -- the Colorado-based American Tradition Institute -- is part of a broader network of groups with close ties to energy interests that have long worked to cast doubt on the reality of climate change in an effort to fight greenhouse gas regulation. It also discovered that ATI has connections to the Koch brothers, Art Pope and other conservative donors seeking to expand their political influence.

Facing South's initial report was featured by other blogs including Grist and by media outlets including the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette and the British newspaper The Guardian.

We will continue to report on this story as the lawsuit winds its way through the courts, so check back for updates. Here are the pieces published so far:

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: WHO'S BEHIND THE 'INFORMATION ATTACKS' ON CLIMATE SCIENTISTS? (10/31/2011) Dirty-energy interests, wealthy conservatives and the think tanks they fund have joined forces to target global-warming researchers using the Freedom of Information Act -- and this week they're set for a showdown in a Virginia courtroom.

A WIN FOR CLIMATE SCIENTIST IN GLOBAL WARMING DENIER LAWSUIT (11/2/2011)  A judge decided to allow Mann to intervene in the American Tradition Institute's lawsuit against the University of Virginia in order to protect his privacy interests, which he did not believe would be adequately protected by the other parties.

ATTORNEY WITH GROUP TARGETING CLIMATE SCIENTISTS' EMAILS FEATURED AT KOCH-FUNDED CONFERENCE (11/4/2011) Christopher Horner, director of litigation for the global-warming denier group the American Tradition Institute, was one of the featured speakers at an Americans for Prosperity conference in Washington, D.C.

CLIMATE-SCIENCE DENIERS JOIN FORCES AGAINST NC RENEWABLE-ENERGY PROGRAM (12/9/2011) The American Legislative Exchange Council, American Tradition Institute and the John Locke Foundation are preaching against wind energy and renewable mandates in presentations that play fast and loose with the facts.

CLIMATE SCIENCE ATTACK GROUP TURNS SIGHTS ON TEXAS PROFESSORS (7/9/2012) The American Tradition Institute continues its campaign to discredit prominent climate scientists using freedom of information requests -- and it's particularly interested in their communications with journalists.

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA PREVAILS AGAINST CLIMATE SCIENCE ATTACK GROUP (9/18/2012) A Virginia circuit court judge rules that the school does not have to turn over former professor Michael Mann's e-mails to the American Tradition Institute, a fossil-fuel-funded think tank that works to discredit climate scientists. The case is now expected to move on to the state Supreme Court.

DID ATTORNEY FOR CLIMATE SCIENCE ATTACK GROUP VIOLATE ETHICS RULES? (10/10/2012) The official paper trail suggests that an attorney involved in the American Tradition Institute's lawsuit against the University of Virginia seeking a prominent climate scientist's emails did not have the proper permissions to do the work from the Environmental Protection Agency, where he held a taxpayer-funded position at the same time.

CONSERVATIVE GROUP DEMANDING CLIMATE SCIENTISTS' EMAILS IS LESS THAN TRANSPARENT ABOUT ITS OWN TAX STATUS: (10/25/2012) The American Tradition Institute has aggressively sought the emails of climatologists as part of its effort to discredit the science of global warming. But when it comes to following the rules about its own legally required disclosures, it's less than compliant.