At CAP event, Former Dem AG Admits #ExxonKnew Crusade “Politically Motivated”

In the wake of a federal judge issuing a discovery order to determine if Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman acted with “bias or prejudgment” in issuing a subpoena to ExxonMobil, one former Democratic Attorney General has openly admitted this is indeed the case.

At an event held at the Center for American Progress (CAP) this week, keynote speaker Douglas Gansler, the former Attorney General of Maryland, must not have gotten the memo that the #ExxonKnew campaign has been denying they are motivated by politics, because he openly admitted the entire affair is “politically motivated.” Not only that, but he actually said it’s “good politics”! Here’s exactly how he put it:

“The idea that AGs are politically motivated is an old one and a real one. Yes, they’re politically motivated in the sense that they are part of the political process; they have to run for office, they have to do what their constituents ask for, the voters that put them in office ask for, and there is no bigger issue that they ought to be thinking about and working on than climate change. And yes, that’s politically motivated. It’s good politics.”

It may not have been such “good politics” for billionaire activist Tom Steyer who is a major funder of CAP and has spent millions of dollars trying to make climate a key issue in the election. Steyer ended up being the “biggest loser” in the 2016 election season, with the majority of his candidates suffering major defeats.

This revelation by Gansler comes only a few months after a hearing where lawyers representing Healey’s office swore their subpoena was not political. But the federal judge, Ed Kinkeade, wasn’t buying it, saying, “like Al Gore wasn’t frickin’ involved!”

Speaking of politics, Gansler could barely contain his enthusiasm for the Martin Act – the nearly century-old law that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is using to investigate Exxon – noting that the law is so powerful that Schneiderman doesn’t even need to provide proof that Exxon committed fraud before bringing charges against the company.

“The wonderful component of using the Martin Act as an enforcement tool, as a litigation tool, is that it is unique in the sense that no proof of intent to deceive or that anyone was actually defrauded needs to exist.”

In other words, it’s the perfect tool to initiate a politically motivated crusade, like #ExxonKnew. That’s exactly why prominent legal experts have pushed back against Schneiderman’s use of the Martin Act. As Columbia Law Professor Merritt B. Fox wrote in an op-ed earlier this year,

“The Exxon subpoena is an abuse of [the Martin Act’s] extraordinary powers…At the extreme, the Martin Act subpoena power could be used to bully corporations into any kind of desired reform under the guise of a securities investigation.”

“Good politics”?

Schneiderman has repeatedly refused to turn over documents related to his investigation. The Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) has been forced to sue to obtain them, and a New York Supreme Court judge just ordered that he will need to comply with that request.

It’s not surprising that he hasn’t been forthcoming, considering that every time the curtain has been drawn further back, it becomes more and more apparent that politics is the motive here.

Instead of maintaining the confidentiality that is expected in a case such as this to avoid bias or prejudgment, Schneiderman went on a media blitz to promote his investigation. Mere hours after Exxon received Schneiderman’s subpoena, The New York Times was reporting on it, noting that it focused on “the company’s own long running scientific research” on climate change. Only a week later, Schneiderman appeared on PBS NewsHour to proclaim that his investigation of the company centered on his concerns that Exxon had “shifted [its] point of view” on climate change over the years. Less than a month later, Schneiderman attended a Politico event in New York where he was openly prejudicial in his rhetoric about his investigation into ExxonMobil.

If that’s not enough, Schneiderman and his coalition of AGs tried to make their investigations an even bigger story by announcing their grand, partisan plans at their March 29th press conference with Al Gore. At the event, Schneiderman and Healey made it very clear that they had already determined Exxon’s guilt before the investigation ever began.

Emails obtained through freedom of information requests reveal that environmental activist lawyer Matt Pawa and Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) briefed the AGs behind closed doors ahead of their March 29th press conference with Al Gore. But, when Pawa wrote to the New York Attorney General’s office to inform them he’d been asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter about his involvement, Lem Srolovic of Schneiderman’s office told him“My ask is if you speak to the reporter, to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event.”

As part of their effort to keep their correspondence secret, the AGs also signed on to a Common Interest Agreement, and the document shows that the agreement was not related to a legitimate law-enforcement objective – instead it was focused on “limit[ing] climate change” and “ensuring the dissemination of accurate information about climate change.”

It’s been abundantly clear from the start that the motivation is political and that the AGs were acting in “bad faith.” Former AG Gansler’s admission further confirms that fact.

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