Deep-pocketed global warming activists have been pouring big bucks into attorneys general’s offices to pay for lawyers to advance their agenda and use the powers of the law to take actions they never could achieve alone, according to a new report.
Released Wednesday by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the 56-page document dubbed “Law Enforcement for Rent” paints a damning view of the cozy relationship between environmental activists and Democratic attorneys general in several states that have pulled off an end run around the democratic process — grabbing resources they have not been able to get from lawmakers.
“This is political. We have a policymaking process. They tried it and failed,” said Christopher Horner, a fellow at the think tank who wrote the report. “So their stance is, ‘It’s not working, so we’re going to use law enforcement.’”
Horner said the tactic has given environmental activists a new avenue to increase restrictions on carbon emissions after Congress rebuffed them, the Supreme Court blocked a regulatory plan then-President Barack Obama offered, and other supportive politicians lost races at the state and national levels.
“They failed at the ballot box,” he said. “They failed at legislation. They failed via the rule-making process … So they’re going to use the courts.”
At best, Horner said, the public-private partnerships are unethical. At worst, they are illegal, he said.
Environmental activists spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year in an attempt to discredit global warming “deniers,” according to the report. That eye-popping total emerges from a public records request by CEI that produced an email from an aide to California Gov. Jerry Brown last year to staff members of the governors of Washington and New York states.
The email made a pitch for asking private donors to underwrite a $50 million annual campaign to set up an off-the-books network of “support functions” to promote the global warming policy of a handful of progressive governors.
“Before you gasp,” the Brown aide wrote, “please note that foundations are currently spending over $1 billion a year on climate work.”
Matching Donors With AGs
A chunk of that $1 billion, according to the CEI report, goes to pass-through entities that allow donors to directly fund prosecutors assigned to specific work that attorneys general do not have the staff to perform.
Horner said he collected the documents through public records requests and several lawsuits after attorneys general fought his efforts to bring the campaign out in the open.
The report traces the campaign to a 2012 conference in La Jolla, California, organized by a coalition of groups supported by The Rockefeller Foundation. That conference produced a document that described how to make global warming the new tobacco:
“State attorneys general can also subpoena documents, raising the possibility that a single sympathetic state attorney general might have substantial success in bringing key internal documents.”
Several attorneys general signed on.
“It’s a helpful roadmap they would be too embarrassed to take down now,” Horner said.
The report describes how private money supports state-backed, climate-related litigation in three main ways:
- By providing money for in-house lawyers.
- By providing outside counsel to work directly for attorneys general’s offices.
- By providing money for public relations experts to promote the work.
One of the most aggressive attorneys general was New York’s Eric Schneiderman (pictured above left), who resigned earlier this year in disgrace after ex-girlfriends accused him of physical and sexual abuse.
Schneiderman appeared with former Vice President Al Gore and others at a March 2016 news conference to announce a global warming case against ExxonMobil.
Emails obtained by CEI reveal that the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) acknowledged in July 2015 that it was working on state-run investigations of opponents of the global warming agenda. Schneiderman issued his first subpoena related to the effort in November of that year.
By the time Schneiderman held the news conference in 2016, he had recruited 16 other Democratic attorneys general as part of a coalition named “Attorneys General United for Clean Power.”
Schneiderman’s office provided the UCS an invitation list of contacts. Prior to the news conference, an official from UCS briefed the attorneys general and Gore, according to the report. One presenter described the get-together as a “secret meeting,” the report states.
Attorneys general from across the country flew to the meeting — some at taxpayer expense, others on the UCS’s dime — to meet with senior attorneys on AG staffs, plaintiffs’ lawyers, academics, and activists. The meeting allowed attorneys general to meet prospective donors, according to the report.
Michael Bloomberg Bankrolls Activism
The report details how attorneys general agreed to specific instructions to use lawyers and investigators paid by private donors to work on global warming cases under a program established by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (pictured above right).
The former mayor set up the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at New York University School of Law. The public-private partnership worked like this: First a state attorney generals’s office would hire the center. Then lawyers from the center agreed to work on specific cases — at no expense to the state.
An application to the center by the New York attorney general’s office last year sought two lawyers and listed 16 cases those attorneys would work on in the office’s Environmental Protection Bureau.
The application also referenced “nonlitigation advocacy,” including “Opposing the Scott Pruitt nomination as EPA administrator [and] advocating the United States to remain in the Paris Climate Accord.”
The report raises questions about whether the private money funding environmental lawyers and staff at attorney general’s offices constitute a gift and whether those gifts violate gift bans or are properly reported as gifts.
Horner noted that the federal Antideficiency Act prohibits the central government from entering into contracts that are not fully funded in order to prevent agencies from augmenting their budgets by raising additional funds outside of those appropriated by Congress.
“Is that a dumb law that we have at the federal level, or do we have it for a reason?” he asked.
Horner pointed to a CBS News report in June detailing a lavish retreat at South Carolina’s Kiawah Island in which lobbyists from groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) contributed large sums of money to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) for the ability to rub elbows with attorneys general.
“Compare that to what we have found,” Horner said.
For the situations to be comparable, he said, the NRA would have had to pay to fly attorneys general to meet wealthy donors who could fund lawyers on AG staffs and assign them to pursue cases defending the Second Amendment.