Minnesota Attorney General Claims Ignorance When Pressed on Donor Influence

In a recent interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he does not know who funds the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at New York University Law School – the program that has paid the salaries of two Special Assistant Attorneys General (SAAGS) serving in his office that have played a major role supporting his climate lawsuit against energy producers.

During the interview, MPR host Mike Mulcahy asked Ellison about his use of these SAAGs, who are supported by a Michael Bloomberg-financed program, and which has been under scrutiny by a Minnesota State Senate committee, as EID Climate noted last month:

“What about this issue that your office employs at least one lawyer, maybe two, that is being funded by a nonprofit with money from the Michael Bloomberg family foundation. There is a bill in the state senate that would actually stop that. Is that a good practice because it seems like it could be used by another attorney general to you know hire someone funded by the Donald Trump family foundation or some other foundation?”

Ellison initially responded to Mulcahy that he did not know where the money is coming from to pay for these SAAGS:

“Now, where do they get their money from? Truth be told, I know more about that from our detractors than I do from the contract grant.”

But Ellison then acknowledged the role that Bloomberg money plays in this arrangement but feigned ignorance:

“I don’t dig into who the donors are so I’m hearing about this all from a third party. But according to the critics, the foundation that Michael Bloomberg started, which is governed under the laws of the state of New York, which has an independent board that makes decisions, which is a professional charitable foundation, donated to New York University. And then New York University set up the program.”

Ellison is on the right path – showing he knows a lot more than he’s letting on – so, here’s a helpful explainer for anyone else wanting to know about the money behind the SAAGs serving in his office.

In 2017, the Washington Post reported that money from Michael Bloomberg set up the program:

“NYU School of Law will launch a new center, financed by Bloomberg Philanthropies, aimed at helping state attorneys general fight any federal moves to roll back renewable energy, environmental protections, and climate policies.

“The grant of nearly $6 million, which will establish the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, marks a new step in the escalating battle between state attorneys general and the Trump administration over the nation’s energy and environmental trajectory.”

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