Posts by Anthony Watts:
November 4, 2019 8:00 AM
Citing Newly Obtained Paris Climate Treaty Memo, GAO Files Suit against State Dept. Seeking Obama Administration Documents
As President Trump prepares to formally withdraw from Paris a newly obtained Memorandum of Law, if genuine, represents “major political and legal scandal”, “unlawful entry” to treaty
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. (GAO) filed suit against the United States Department of State under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking improperly withheld documents relating to the Paris climate treaty. The suit, on behalf of the nonprofit group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA), seeks records requested in June 2019, including the memorandum setting forth State’s “working law” claiming that the U.S. could enter Paris – what the Obama White House called “the most ambitious climate agreement in history” – without obtaining Senate approval required of treaties.
The complaint notes that EPA has come into possession of a document purporting to be the Obama State Department’s “Circular 175” memo, a required legal justification which State has been improperly hiding from the public. GAO’s Chris Horner, co-author of a 2017 paper “The Legal and Economic Case Against the Paris Treaty”, notes that:
If this document EPA has obtained is in fact the actual Circular 175 memo, it represents a major political and legal scandal with significant implications for U.S. participation in Paris, and the effort to bind the U.S. without following the Constitution.
This memo demonstrates the Obama administration’s unlawful entry into the Paris treaty.
This 18-page memo bases its argument that Paris need not face Article II, Section 2 “advice and consent” in key part on a gross and material misrepresentation of the history of prior climate agreements supposedly authorizing Pres. Obama’s unilateral “ratification” of Paris. The memo falsely asserts that the U.S. Senate, in ratifying the UN Framework Convention in 1992, limited agreements that “would need to be submitted to the Senate for advise and consent (Exec. Rept. 102-55, p. 14)” to those that claim to have “legally binding targets and timetables”. This is demonstrably false, and likely related to the secrecy with which State has treated this document.
Damningly, on this one point the advocacy-heavy “Memorandum of Law” curiously avoids quoting the cited page 14 of Exec. Rept. 102-55, “Report to Accompany Treaty Doc. 102-38”, which in fact says something very different. There the Senate clearly set forth two, distinct hypothetical agreements requiring Senate approval, one of which is any decision “to adopt targets and timetables” – not just those purporting to be “legally binding” (e.g., Kyoto, Paris).
The mystery since 2015 of how the Obama administration skirted this reality is now solved: the memo legally justifying U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement without Senate approval misrepresents the U.S. Senate position. It did so by sleight-of-hand, in a parenthetical invention:
“‘targets and timetables’ [was] understood in that context to mean legally binding targets”.
This is unsupported, and in Rept. 102-55 the Senate used both terms deliberately, to describe two distinct scenarios: first, any decision “to adopt targets and timetables would have to be submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent before the United States could deposit its instruments of ratification for such an agreement”, which of course describes Paris; “further”, any attempt to convert the UNFCCC’s non-binding promise then before the Senate into “legally binding targets and timetables …would alter the ‘shared understanding’ of the Convention between the Senate and the executive branch and would therefore require the Senate’s advice and consent.”
In short, the Obama administration misrepresented the facts to involve the U.S. in Paris, and to avoid a repeat of the Kyoto “accord” which died when the Senate refused to even consider it.
The Obama White House played Paris both ways: acknowledge that Paris was more ambitious than two prior treaties that came before it –requiring ever-tightening emission reductions, every five years, in perpetuity – while denying it was a treaty. The Clinton-Gore administration acknowledged that Kyoto was a treaty, which confronted popular resistance and proved that any such deal is a non-starter in the U.S. Senate, where it must go.
This lesson led the Obama administration to opt for a convoluted tale and placing a bet that the Senate would avoid institutional conflict. This new memo affirms that bet’s brazenness: although a Senate lawyer decried this “disturbing contempt for the Senate’s constitutional rights and responsibilities” by circumventing the body’s constitutional treaty role on Paris, as with the Iran “JCPOA” deal the institution shrunk from a constitutional fight. However, as Horner notes:
This memo affirms the political and constitutional imperative for President Trump to withdraw the U.S. from this unlawfully entered pact. The records EPA seeks in the suit filed by GAO are critical components of the coming, necessary and long overdue debate.
Key excerpts from EPA’s complaint include:
The records requested include and relate to the required “Circular 175” analysis of whether an agreement is a treaty. …
As EPA noted in its request, “These records are of immense public interest. The Obama White House declared the December 2015 Paris agreement the “most ambitious climate change agreement in history”, therefore more ambitious than two predecessor climate agreements acknowledged by all parties to be treaties. Most parties have ratified Paris as a treaty under their own systems but, regardless, for U.S. purposes Paris has every appearance of being a treaty under Circular 175, and has been ratified as a treaty by legislatures around the world — if “deemed” into existence by then-heads of government of a small number of outlier countries, including the United States and North Korea.”
Plaintiff has come into possession of a document purporting to be the Paris Circular 175 memorandum of law that is responsive to plaintiff’s request.
This document materially misstates, while studiously avoids quoting the actual, referenced text of the history of the agreements purportedly enabling the claim that Paris need not be subject to Article II, Section 2 “advice and consent”.
As such, if authentic, this document represents a significant legal and political scandal. Records responsive to plaintiff’s request would allow the public to evaluate this information and are the only means that would allow the public to do so.
GAO looks forward to the State Department releasing these records the public has a right to see.
The lawsuit in full is here: Case 119-cv-03307 (PDF)
The press release in PDF form:
Government Accountability & Oversight is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to transparency in public officials’ dealings on matters of energy, environment and law enforcement
 This is confirmed in “Treaties and other International Agreements: The Role of the United States Senate, A Study Prepared for the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, by the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress” (see p. 276).
 This is not supported in the memo, and is debunked in S. HRG. 102-973 – cited in the memo itself – at p. 119 (“Some targets were meant to be legally binding; others were “goals” or “aims” and included numerous caveats.”)
Emails show state officials attend Rockefeller Brothers Fund conference on phasing out natural gas
By Valerie Richardson– The Washington Times – Tuesday, October 1, 2019
After decades as one of the nation’s poorest states, New Mexico finds itself awash in revenue from the state’s oil-and-gas boom — so much so that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last month proposed free tuition for residents at state universities.
The influx of cash, though, hasn’t stopped her administration from embracing one of the fossil-fuel industry’s biggest threats: the climate-change movement.
Behind the scenes, the governor’s staff is working closely with national climate groups seeking to phase-out natural gas in power plants, transportation, even homes, according to emails obtained by the free-market Energy Policy Advocates.
Not only is New Mexico part of the 25-state U.S. Climate Alliance, but state officials participated in an off-the-record blue-state conference in July held by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a Keystone XL pipeline foe and advocate for fossil-fuel divestment, where topics included how to “reduce and eliminate petroleum and natural gas.”
“The top line Challenge-Opportunity is to move away from the use of natural gas in buildings as a first priority, then electricity, and industry, while simultaneously moving quickly to move transportation systems off petroleum,” said a background memo for the meeting at the RBF’s Pocantico Center in New York.
The involvement of New Mexico, where the development of the oil-rich Permian Basin has led to a $900 million budget surplus, illustrates the unique economic and political challenges for the rare “trifecta” blue state — one where Democrats control the governor’s mansion and both legislative houses.
Ms. Lujan Grisham credited fossil fuels Tuesday for making her free-tuition plan possible, saying the boom has provided “significant resources” to the small state.
“We are in a very good situation currently — oil and gas, we’re an extractive industry state, and so we’re seeing a billion dollars in revenue,” she told MSNBC.
Paul Gessing, president of the free-market Rio Grande Foundation in Albuquerque, said the Democratic governor finds herself in a “tricky spot.”
“She’s got a whole laundry list of things she wants to spend the money on, but she wants to kind of play footsie with the radical left,” Mr. Gessing said. “She’s in a bit of a tricky spot, and it’s unfortunate and disturbing that she’s sending people up to New York to meet with some of these really radical voices on these issues.”
The only comparable state would be Colorado, a far wealthier state with a diverse economy better able to withstand Gov. Jared Polis’s recent crackdown on fracking. In New Mexico, the industry accounts for at least 35% of the state budget.
“Gov. Lujan Grisham’s administration, while rhetorically embracing the energy industries that not only employ thousands of New Mexicans but underwrite so much of that state’s public services including education, is quietly working with activists to kill that golden goose,” said Chris Horner, an attorney who represents Energy Policy Advocates in numerous open-records cases.
“Her staff are being flown across the country to New York — to sit in apparently frigid air conditioning at the old Rockefeller place — to plot the demise of these industries specifically targeted in the activists’ own memos sent to staff,” he said.
‘Even-handed and collaborative’
Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki denied that she has worked at cross-purposes with the state’s top industry, citing the governor’s recent summit on industry technology and innovation in Santa Fe, which was co-hosted by Descartes Labs and attended by the Permian Basin Petroleum Association as well as environmentalists.
“The Lujan Grisham administration has been even-handed and collaborative in its approach to the oil and gas industry,” said Mr. Stelnicki.
Mr. Gessing agreed that the Democratic governor took a “hands off” approach during the legislative session, signing a renewable energy standard of 50% by 2030 for electricity utilities but taking no action against producers.
A week ago, however, she unveiled aggressive vehicle mileage standards, proposing to increase the average fuel economy starting with model year 2022 vehicles to 52 miles per gallon by 2025, as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Clean Car Promise.
“To combat climate change, to keep New Mexico’s citizens safe, to protect the air we all breathe, it’s essential we adopt more stringent clean car standards that increase fuel economy and reduce emissions,” she said in her Sept. 24 statement during Climate Week.
New Mexico’s industry helped propel the state budget from $6.3 billion to $7 billion, and the figure could rise to $8 billion in the next fiscal year, according to the Albuquerque Journal, despite the slowdown this year in the U.S. shale production.
“The mileage thing is not a direct shot at the Permian producers, because you’re obviously talking about the demand side versus the production side, but it is a direct shot in that oil-and-gas workers aren’t driving Priuses,” Mr. Gessing said. “They’re driving pick-up trucks that don’t get 52 mpg, rest assured.”
The July 17-18 Pocantico meeting, which included state officials from a dozen Democratic “trifecta” states, was also sponsored by Rockefeller grantees such as the Georgetown Climate Center, the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University and the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The move from coal to natural gas in power-plant generation has been credited with reducing U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions, which fell by 12.4% between 2005-17, but gas was in the crosshairs at the Rockefeller gathering.
“We are well past the point of using natural gas as a transition fuel, and new policies and programs should explicitly avoid further ‘lock-in’ investments like natural gas fueled municipal buses or energy efficiency funding for natural gas equipment,” said the memorandum.
In a May 23 email, a staffer with the New Mexico Energy Conservation and Management Division asked the U.S. Climate Alliance about receiving a “sub-grant” to bring on a “Climate Fellow,” which would “provide much needed assistance to our clean energy and climate efforts in New Mexico.”
The concept of bringing on staff funded by climate advocacy groups is similar to the climate “special assistant attorneys general” paid by the Bloomberg-funded State Impact Center at New York University, but USCA’s Julie Cerqueira said no such fellows have been assigned, although two states have requested them.
“Some states have indicated that capacity constraints are a challenge to meeting their climate goals, and that additional staff capacity is needed,” said Ms. Cerqueira in an email. “That’s what you will see in the released emails. As you see from below, we don’t have a program currently stood up (nor did we previously, despite Horner’s ‘expose’).”
Questions have been raised about whether such privately funded state staffers are appropriate, or even legal, but the New Mexico email said that state law allowed the department to apply for private funds “to carry out its programs, duties or services.”
New Mexico was one of six states to go “trifecta” blue in the 2018 election after Ms. Lujan Grisham succeeded term-limited Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
Full story here
Pressure is building on New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas over his office’s use of attorneys that are paid for by a group created with financial backing of New York City Mayor and climate activist Michael Bloomberg.
Balderas is one of 11 state attorneys general known to the public who has brought on such private attorneys funded by Bloomberg’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law. These attorneys are hired and have their salaries and benefits fully paid for by the Center, then are placed in state attorneys general offices specially to work on climate and environmental matters, including assisting with litigation against fossil fuel companies.
Western Wire first reported on the arrangement in Balderas’ office in September 2017.
Now Balderas is receiving criticism from Power the Future, an energy advocacy group, and the American Tort Reform Association, according the Albuquerque Journal. These criticisms have prompted a harsh rebuke from the newspaper’s editorial board.
They have accused Balderas of avoiding transparency by giving power to privately-employed attorneys to shape policy in New Mexico even though they’re funded by climate activists in New York. They contend these attorneys have no accountability to New Mexico taxpayers.
This growing public pressure has forced Balderas’ office to respond. His spokesman told the Albuquerque Journal that the attorney general has routinely hired attorneys funded by outside sources, although he cited legal settlements from anti-money laundering and mortgage cases and grants from the federal government, not private sources like Bloomberg’s group.
Government Accountability & Oversight (GAO) is a public interest law firm that litigates against AG offices to obtain records such as those relating to the Bloomberg program. GAO’s Chris Horner dismissed Balderas’ insistence that this is a common activity as “comparing apples to stethoscopes,” noting, “The group’s name affirms its objective is to obtain state-level policy changes, though it seeks to do so via law enforcement, not the policymaking process.”
The American Tort Reform Association isn’t buying Balderas’ claims. “The New Mexico Attorney General’s response to the revelation that outside activist lawyers are being placed in positions of significant authority within state government is alarming,” ATRA President Tiger Joyce told Western Wire. “That this is business as usual in the Land of Enchantment should worry legislators and taxpayers alike. State employees ought to be accountable only to taxpayers – not wealthy individuals and their preferred special interest groups who pay activist lawyers to push their personal agendas within the government.”
In Western Wire’s previous reporting on Balderas’ use of Bloomberg-funded attorneys, energy officials in New Mexico pushed back on his tough-guy rhetoric that was targeting the oil and gas industry – a major revenue stream in the state. Balderas has described himself as a “street fighter” in pursuit of environmental justice causes. But Carla J. Sonntag, President and Founder of the New Mexico Business Coalition, said Balderas’s priorities are misplaced.
“Our crime rate is among the highest in the nation and while it may excite his progressive base, that kind of talk only exacerbates the problem. Balderas should focus on correcting our out of control crime rate, not creating more issues for the extractive industries that help fund our state budget,” Sonntag told Western Wire last year.
But it’s not just legal work that the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center is focused on. Last year, Western Wire asked David Hayes, a former Clinton and Obama administration official, at a climate conference in New York about the status of the program. Hayes admitted much of the work is actually be done out of Washington, D.C. with the purpose of running a political-style campaign to sell their priorities to the public.
Hayes said there “will be seven people in Washington, D.C., about five lawyers and two communications folks, to help coordinate the progressive positions of AGs and help amplify what we are doing with communications.”
In 2017, Western Wire reported on Balderas’ connection to the “Green 20” group of state attorneys general who have pursued environmental ligation. Balderas had joined forces with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to combat the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back or review Obama-era environmental regulations. Both Massachusetts and New York have taken on Bloomberg-funded attorneys.
Balderas also joined a suit with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in 2017 against the Trump administration and the Bureau of Land Management over the decision by the agency to suspend its waste prevention rule on methane emissions.
Groups promoting the oil and gas industry in the state aren’t the only ones seeing cause for concern over the Bloomberg-funded program operating out of the attorney general’s office. After the Albuquerque Journal published the story last week, the newspaper’s editorial board followed up with sharp criticism of Balderas. The editorial questions whether Balderas is serving the taxpayers of New Mexico or a special interest group in New York.
On Tuesday, Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. filed a Reply in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment, opposing Maryland AG Brian Frosh’s effort to keep hidden from the public his “application” seeking Michael Bloomberg’s resources to pursue the climate litigation agenda.
Frosh is the only AG so hiding this document – and the only AG with three Bloomberg-financed special climate prosecutors – as GAO pointed out to the Court. His Office outrageously claims that these three privately hired and financed “Special Assistant Attorneys General” – each apparently paid $125,000 plus benefits specifically to serve in this role – serve pro bono.
Each of whom, ahem, just got a raise. Nice pro bono if you can get it.
Key excerpts from GAO’s brief addressing these points:
This is the meaning given to the term in Md. R. 19-306.1(b)(1), which requires Maryland-licensed attorneys to engage in “pro bono publico legal service,” defined as “rendering legal service, without fee or expectation of fee, or at a substantially reduced fee” to enumerated categories of public interests. It is difficult to conceive any arrangement more opposite to “without expectation of fee” than a contract asserting “[y]our annual base salary will be $125,000” plus employee benefits and that, “[d]uring your employment, you will be seconded to the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Maryland as a Special Assistant Attorney General.” Ex. E.
Claims these SAAGs are just going after Trump regulatory reforms so it’s ok:
Indeed, despite OAG’s assertion that its privately-funded prosecutors are to be used in a noble crusade against “the arbitrary, unlawful, or unconstitutional actions of the Trump Administration,” public filings show that SAAG Segal – and at least one other Bloomberg Center-funded SAAG – is exercising state authority to target not just the federal government, but private parties. (Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP, P.L.C. et al, Case No. 19-1644, Dkt. No. 92-1 (4th Cir. Sept. 3, 2019). ) Earlier this month, Mr. Segal and SAAG Steven J. Goldstein filed a 37 page amicus brief supporting the Mayor of Baltimore’s lawsuit “seeking to hold 26 fossil fuel companies liable for injuries resulting from climate change.”
Notably, other OAG “Applications” to the Bloomberg Center released to the public expressly name supporting the tort litigation campaign against private energy companies as a use to which they would put Bloomberg Center-funded attorneys. The heavily redacted application by AG Frosh may have indicated it would do so, as well, although the public has no way of knowing this in the face of these redactions.
Re claims Frosh’s “application” is Attorney-Client Privileged:
Not only is he an attorney himself, but indeed he is the chief legal officer of the State of Maryland, entrusted with the confidential information of the state’s most important legal matters. If OAG’s responses at issue truly did reveal so casually as much privileged information as it claims is obscured by the redactions at issue, it represents a stunning lapse in professional judgment.
Fortunately, Plaintiff does not believe OAG truly did make such a blunder. Indeed, the Retainer Agreement that OAG ultimately executed three months later, after winning the contest, contains four full paragraphs addressing confidentiality in connection with the common interest privilege. Ex. G at 1-2. But putting to the side the contractual terms that may ultimately have been decided upon by the “ethics experts” and others when the later Retainer Agreement (Ex. G) was executed, applicability of the privilege to Ex. B at issue in this case hinges on the OAG’s reasonable expectation of confidentiality at the time it made the communication in September. Forma-Pack, 351 Md. at 416 (privilege does not attach to communications that “could not reasonably have been expected to remain confidential.”). Taken as a whole, an attorney general could not reasonably believe that his responses to such a generic, multi-jurisdictional solicitation—one that explicitly warns that confidentiality safeguards are still under active consideration—would be invested with a privilege that all attorneys know only too well is incredibly fragile.
Finally, OAG is of course correct that the contents of other states’ applications may differ and do not in and of themselves “mean that the privilege does not apply here.” However, the fact that twelve other states released their applications without claiming attorney client privilege – despite discussing the same issues identified as problematic by OAG, Cross Motion at 13-14, such as “resource limitations” and “types of cases and matters [they] would pursue” if successful speaks to the lack of reasonableness of OAG’s claimed expectation of confidentiality. If in fact the solicitation from the Bloomberg Center was one that would, under the totality of the circumstances, cause a reasonable attorney general to believe he or she was making a privileged request for confidential legal advice, one would expect that at least one other attorney general would have taken advantage of the confidential forum to put forward a more compelling bid. That OAG stands alone in its breathtakingly overbroad assertion of the privilege should give the Court reason to doubt its reasonableness.
Minnesota AG releases Application for Bloomberg-Funded “Special Prosecutor”, Touting His Pursuit of #ExxonKnew: What is Bloomberg’s 1st AG Recruiter, Maryland AG Frosh Hiding?
Last week, CLW informed its readers that Connecticut Attorney General William Tong had released his “NYU Law Fellow Application” to the transparency group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA). As CLW readers know, these applications were in fact responses to a request for proposals by a group created by billionaire party donor and climate activist Michael Bloomberg, to place privately hired activist attorneys as “Special Assistant Attorneys General” (SAAGs”).
This week, even Minnesota AG Keith Ellison’s Office – something of a scofflaw in responding to open records requests on this subject, as EPA has pointed out in litigation – released his “application”.
While long overdue, surely this change of heart and assurance that other responses were forthcoming had nothing to do with learning that EPA will go to court to press the public’s rights.
In addition to litigating Trump administration reforms, these SAAGs are deployed investigating private parties, eerily similar to the help requested by the tort bar in its famous call for “a single sympathetic attorney general” to begin subpoenaing private party records and thereby give the plaintiffs’ campaign a boost.
Indeed, like so many other AGs and particularly New York’s OAG, Ellison’s application leaves no doubt that he seeks Bloomberg’s resources to use his public office to pursue private parties. The same parties the tort bar plead for help going after.
Although he only took office in January, Ellison specifically mentions his work “supporting state-led efforts to investigate ExxonMobil” as one of the areas where he would like more lawyers to help out with so “the Office can expand its role”.
CLW expects this understanding between the donor and AGs to be a key element of the ultimate downfall of these extraordinary public-private prosecutorial campaigns.
Ellison’s application is the same document released so far by other attorneys general who also submitted applications to the same donor for their own special-interest SAAGs: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Current lead Bloomberg recruiter, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, also recently released her plea for Bloomberg-funded Special Prosecutors for climate/energy, though it took EPA filing suit to dislodge the document. This release was one of several stunning reversals by Healey’s Office, about which travails CLW expects to learn more in the near future.
Notably, Maryland AG Brian Frosh has forced the public to file suit to obtain his application without extraordinary redactions, and is holding to his guns that his promises made to Bloomberg’s group must be kept from the public, even asking the court to only review them under seal.
Bloomberg picked Frosh out of a crowded Democratic primary in 2013 and has had a very good friend since. Frosh was even Bloomberg’s initial chief recruiter for OAGs to take on privately hired attorneys as “Special Assistant Attorneys General” (SAAGs) for climate.
Frosh is the only AG to have not one but three Bloomberg-funded “Special Prosecutors”.
The question remains what promises Frosh made to Bloomberg’s group that he is hiding, that no other AG dared to claim must be shielded from public view.
Reference: MN OAG NYU Application (PDF)
In Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. v. Office of the Attorney General, Maryland AG Brian Frosh has asked a court to seal Frosh’s application seeking Michael Bloomberg underwriting for Frosh’s “climate” policy and ideological activism.
CLW readers know that Bloomberg created a group to place privately hired attorneys in AG offices “to advance the agenda represent by” Bloomberg’s group. Meaning, Bloomberg’s agenda.
Frosh has two Bloomberg-funded climate prosecutors. Frosh was Bloomberg’s lead recruiter of other AGs (a role assumed by Massachusetts AG Maura Healey precisely one year ago). Frosh used his GMail account to execute this action obviously performed in his official capacity as AG.
Frosh also is the only AG to hide his plea for Bloomberg largesse from the public. Only Frosh, Bloomberg’s people, and a judge know what Frosh promised the Bloomberg group.
Frosh’s filing came in response to GAO’s recent Motion for Summary Judgment.
“The gist is that Bloomberg is funding through NYU some fellowship positions for midcareer environmental litigators to be farmed out to State Attorneys General to join the fight against Trump ’s rollback of our environmental protection laws and regulations,” wrote Maryland’s Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Quattrocki in a November 2017 email to colleagues.
A recent filing against the US EPA to block a Trump regulatory reform was loaded with attorneys from Bloomberg’s squad.
But there’s more going on, as revealed by the AGs’ applications for this scheme as well as public litigation filings — that is, when the applications are unredacted, as every single other application has been: AGs NYU Applications (Zip compressed folder)
In addition to Virginia AG Mark Herring’s outrageous vow to use his office to advance Bloomberg’s agenda, New Mexico’s Hector Balderas promised his “Office would work with the NYU Law Fellow to identify ‘pressure points’ on which litigation can be used to most effectively influence policy.” As CLW posts have detailed, New York’s application laid out that the mercenaries would pursue the climate-liability litigation industry, and true to NY OAG’s word they have. Massachusetts’ application also specifically noted that its “Special Assistant AGs” would investigate private parties for supposed “climate offenses”. And they are.
That is, the Bloomberg program is part and parcel of the #ExxonKnew tort campaign, something the plaintiffs’ bar sought as long ago as 2012.
Mr. Frosh, whom Bloomberg supported in a 2013 primary race and who served as the Bloomberg group’s first lead recruiter, heavily redacted his office’s request for Bloomberg resources, forcing GAO to file suit to obtain the full application. The suit revealed that Mr. Frosh requested a $125,000 salary plus benefits for his Bloomberg-funded special assistant (his first of at least two, we now know). Then Mr. Frosh appointed the lawyer under his “pro bono special counsel” authority.
The scheme is more troubling the closer one looks. Mr. Bloomberg is a major donor to Democratic politicians and causes. He has made electing progressive attorneys general his priority. Two Bloomberg-funded groups, Independence USA PAC and Everytown USA for Gun Safety, put more than $2 million into electing and re-electing Virginia AG Mark Herring. Bloomberg picked Frosh from a three-way primary back in 2013, and has had a very good friend since. Mr. Frosh doesn’t want the public to know how close this relationship is.
Of course, this “application” is a public record, barring some reason it isn’t. Every other AG knows this and has produced theirs — if sometimes to great embarrassment, and always some element of ethical, political and legal risk.
Frosh’s effort is extraordinary, then the paper trail in what is clearly an effort to let out/rent law enforcement offices would not be the subject of such fevered efforts to hide them. It does raise the question why, if things really are so on the up-and-up as the AGs and Bloomberg’s group say — and if Frosh’s promises to the Bloomberg group were benign.
Senator considers legislation to prevent special interest groups from influencing Minnesota Attorney General’s office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2019
Rachel Aplikowski, 952-913-8426
Kiffmeyer considers legislation to prevent special interest groups from influencing Attorney General’s office
Today Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R- Big Lake) released a letter sent from her office to Attorney General Keith Ellison. The letter outlines specific questions regarding the Attorney General’s arrangement for a fellowship position to be dedicated to environmental law and how the position is paid for by an outside special interest group. The questionable fellowship arrangement is being challenged in court. The letter from Kiffmeyer letter also raises concerns the fellowship arrangement is influenced by outside groups and special interest money.
Even with the lawsuit in Minnesota, Kiffmeyer said, “I am considering legislation for this upcoming session that would prevent an arrangement like from happening within the attorney General’s office in the future.” The Virginia legislature passed language that would only allow state or federal employees to conduct legal services on behalf of the state in response to a similar questionable fellowship arrangement by the Virginia Attorney General.
Kiffmeyer’s letter seeks to clarify who is funding the work done by the individual in the fellowship position, who does the fellow report to, and how common the arrangement is. “I do not think is it appropriate for an attorney in the Attorney General’s office to be paid for by a special interest group,” Kiffmeyer states in the letter. “While we await a legal ruling, I am requesting a release of the documents related to [this] hiring. The release of these documents will help shed additional light on this situation and provide answers to taxpayers who are concerned about this individual’s presence in the Attorney General’s office.”
Finally, Kiffmeyer clarifies the legislature approved a “substantive budget increase” to the Attorney General’s office in 2019. “I would think this allocation of funds should allow you to hire an environmental lawyer to do the work of the office,” she says.
Similar lawsuits to challenge the use of externally-funded legal counsel to influence state policy are already underway in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
Senator Kiffmeyer’s letter can be read here.
Read the release online.