Image Credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images / Facebook, Mark Herring

PoliZette

Virginia AG Faces Lawsuit for Claiming He Could Hire Privately Funded Environmental Activists

He said there was no law prohibiting the execution of the Bloomberg-funded program — but was unable to prove it

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (shown above right) was hit with a lawsuit on Wednesday for his involvement in a questionable program that places privately funded environmental activists in his office.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute filed the lawsuit as part of its continuing efforts to expose what it sees as a scheme.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (above left) launched a program alongside the New York University School of Law that places lawyers in the offices of state attorneys general. The purpose: to go after energy companies and advance environmental policies.

Democratic state attorney generals in several states signed onto the program — but it has seemed to taper out since facing increased legal scrutiny in recent weeks.

Virginia posed a rather interesting case and thus attracted the lawsuit over the other states.

The top attorney in the state simply said there was no law prohibiting the action, but then was unable to prove that assertion.

Related: Bloomberg Buying State AG Jobs to Launch Anti-Trump Enviro, Energy Lawsuits

“The question is, did they, in fact, conclude this,” CEI senior fellow Chris Horner told LifeZette. “Or did they just say it? Because it is inconceivable that the top legal office for the state, if it looked at the law, could conclude there are no legal impediments to a privately funded Special Assistant Attorney General in Virginia. And it’s equally inconceivable the top lawyer for the state would just say that, without looking at the law.”

Every attorney general in the program had to first certify that it was legal in his or her particular state before participating. A few states were able to point to statutes that showed it was. Virginia supposedly checked the state code of professional responsibility and didn’t find any prohibitions.

CEI then asked for any memorandums, analyses, conclusions and opinions asserting that this is authorized.

The Virginia attorney general responded to the request by claiming there were no records backing up that assertion. This raised a red flag — for if they did look into whether the program was legal, there would likely be records and some analysis to that effect.

CEI was essentially left with the question of whether the attorney general concluded it on legal grounds or just said it as his opinion.

“Which of these two inconceivable scenarios is the reality? This is the AG’s office. It could not possibly have simply declared that it can do what it wants, without an analysis. And no analysis or opinion could conclude that those statutes, they’re no problem. This is a very curious situation.”

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The University of California Board of Regents was also sued under the state public records law to compel UCLA Law School for information related to the program including alleged secret meetings.

The meetings were apparently used to talk with prospective funders. CEI accused the college of stonewalling its request for information.

The board also noted concern over how such scheme could erode trust in the justice system.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board published a piece last week arguing that the ethical problems should be obvious when looking at the program generally.

The board also noted concern over how such scheme could erode trust in the justice system.

Herring, Bloomberg, the UCLA Law School and the New York University School of Law did not respond to requests for comment by LifeZette.

And if you didn’t catch this video on midterm-related activity by Michael Bloomberg, click below:

meet the author

Connor D. Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected].