(From Climate Litigation Watch)

A new CLW video,  citing to a recent report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “Law Enforcement for Rent,” lays out the most stunning revelation about an extensive and elaborate campaign to use law enforcement, in coordination with major contributors and activist pressure groups, to attain a policy agenda that failed through the democratic process.  Among the source documents released for the first time was an agenda of what one presenter called a “secret” fundraiser for which senior attorneys general attorneys flew in — some at taxpayer expense, others on the donors’ tab run through a pressure group — to brief “prospective funders” on “potential state causes of action against major carbon producers”.

This agenda was obtained by court order in the face of a determined and coordinated resistance that one Deputy Attorney General warned of as “an affirmative obligation to always litigate” requests looking into the scheme.

As detailed in CEI’s report, and source documents available on, organizers avoided “includ[ing] any specifics about the event” in handouts. One presenter described it not once but twice in emails to friends as a “secret meeting”; it was secret enough that the Vermont Office of Attorney General litigated to withhold the agenda—under implausible claims of privilege—for a year and a half before being compelled by a court to release the lineup for what turned out to have been an attorneys general-assisted fundraiser focused on pursuing opponents of the climate political agenda.

The event was held at Harvard University Law School and was co-hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Previous emails obtained by litigation in Horner et al. v. George Mason University showed that UCS had been secretly working with activist AGs to pursue opponents of the climate agenda since before July 2015.

Fundraiser participants involved senior attorneys from the activist OAGs. Harvard Law clinical instructor Shaun A. Goho, who previously worked for the green litigation group Earth Justice, led the effort to organize the April 2016 briefing. He noted to one AG lawyer, “[W]e know that there will be people from at least … California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York.”

Interestingly, given follow-on lawsuits filed by cities and counties, other emails suggest the April 2016 “secret meeting” also included municipalities.

Presenters included much of the cast from the 2012 La Jolla meeting at which activists and plaintiffs’ lawyers sought “a single sympathetic attorney general” to assist this cause by subpoenaing private parties’ records in service of a campaign of litigation against opponents of the “climate” agenda.

References to “the Harvard event” appear throughout OAG Email correspondence obtained in open records productions from several state attorneys general offices in 2016-2018, including describing it as:

  • “a secret meeting”;
  • designed “to inform thinking that is already underway in state AG offices around the country regarding legal accountability for harm arising from greenhouse gas emissions”;[1]
  • “a private event for staff from state attorney general offices:”[2]
  • “the “carbon producer accountability convening;”[3]
  • for “prospective funders”; and
  • a “climate science and legal theory meeting.”

Given further revelations from record productions received in 2018, the Vermont AG’s claims of phantom privilege suggest apprehension over the prospect of this document seeing the light of day. Details were going to emerge; the only real question was when. What to do?

The host groups decided to belatedly blog about the event as if it were routine, responding to charges not made by anyone — what with the briefing being “secret” and therefore not (yet) public knowledge. UCS’s Peter Frumhoff, after appealing to his longtime involvement with the issue, closed his May 11, 2016, blog post with “Harvard Law School routinely hosts meetings that provide policy makers with opportunities to confer with scholars and practitioners. State attorneys general and their staff routinely confer privately with experts in the course of their deliberations about matters before them.” For its part, Harvard stated in an undated May 2016 post: “It is the normal business of Attorneys General staff to keep informed and to have access to the latest thinking about issues important to their work.” Nothing to see here.

For whatever reason, neither post mentioned that participating plaintiffs’ attorneys had been introduced to AGs by at least one major donor to make their pitch. Neither hinted that UCS paid AG lawyers’ way to what presenters were apparently informed was a “secret meeting”, which also avoided mention. Neither noted that this meeting, for which OAG attorneys flew in to assist with possible AG investigations and lawsuits, was in fact a green-group fundraiser.

For context, also recall that these AGs, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts’s Maura Healy had, just weeks before the “secret meeting,” vowed at a press conference to use any means necessary to go after opponents of the political agenda, which other public records show immediately followed a briefing from some of the same presenters from La Jolla and Harvard. Emails show the OAGs also asked the apparently very informal advisors to deny their role in briefing the AGs and Gore.

All of this is detailed in CEI’s report.

You can watch CLW’s new video here .

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