Late last week, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) was forced to file suit against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after their repeated requests via public records laws for documents related to his #ExxonKnew crusade were refused or ignored.
Since previous open records requests have uncovered a number of major developments that Schneiderman and his #ExxonKnew friends would have rather kept secret, we’re left with the important question: what else is Schneiderman trying to hide?
While it may take a lawsuit to find out, the fact that his crusade is motivated by politics rather than the practice of the law is so clear that the New York Post wrote that Schneiderman “should just declare he’s running for governor in 2018” and be done with it. The Post continued noting,
Schneiderman’s Exxon climate-change probe is just as political. Sunday, The Post cited an e-mail from Ted White, a partner of rich enviro-activist and Exxon foe Tom Steyer, noting the AG sought “a call with Tom regarding support for his race for governor . . . regarding Exxon case.”
Was Schneiderman squeezing Steyer for cash for a 2018 bid based on his Exxon probe?
Monday, the Daily Caller reported the AG snagged thousands from “monied individuals with ties to lawyers and environmentalists” backing his probe. Major greenie George Soros and his family gave close to $300,000. David Einhorn, another “clean energy” investor, forked over at least $122,300.
Considering what’s been revealed in past batches of FIOA’d emails, we’re not surprised that Schneiderman doesn’t want anyone to know what’s been going on behind closed doors. Let’s have a look at the top five revelations that have come from recent records requests:
#1. Activists briefed the state AGs ahead of their March 29th press conference with Al Gore: In April, Reuters reported on FIOA’d emails, which revealed that Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists and activist lawyer Matt Pawa had secretly briefed the attorneys general ahead of their March 29 press conference with Al Gore to announce the Exxon investigation. In an email to Lem Srolovic with the New York Attorney General’s office, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Scott Kline expressed concerns about sharing documents related to the meeting, as they could be discoverable to the public via a records requests. Kline said “our office is okay with refusing to disclose covered documents.” The New York Attorney General’s office then requested a “Common Interest Agreement” be signed to avoid having the public find out about their meetings.
#2. NY Attorney General’s Office told activist not to tell a reporter he had attended the meeting: Those same FOIA’d emails also reveal that the New York Attorney General’s office specifically told activists not to reveal that they had attended this meeting with the attorneys general group. On March 30, Pawa sent an email to Lem Srolovic with the New York Attorney General’s office, as well as Scot Kline in the Vermont Attorney General’s office, explaining that “a WSJ reporter wants to talk to me. I may not even talk to her at all but if I do I obviously will have no comment on anything discussed at the meeting.” Pawa then asked, “What should I say if she asks if I attended? No comment? Let me know.” Srolovic responded that Pawa should effectively stonewall the WSJ reporter. “My ask is if you speak to the reporter,” Srolovic wrote, “to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event.”
#3. AGs drafted Common Interest Agreement to keep correspondence secret: In August, Reuters broke the news that a Common Interest Agreement, which had been alluded to in a number of batches of FIOA’d emails, was finally been made public through litigation by E&E Legal. The AGs signed on to this agreement to make sure their correspondence regarding the Exxon investigation was kept secret. After a number of AGs’ offices refused to disclose the actual agreement, it was ultimately obtained through litigation with the District of Columbia.
#4. RICO20 professors were working directly with Senator Whitehouse and Rockefeller-funded activist groups: Another batch of emails revealed that after George Mason University (GMU) professors Jagadish Shukla and Edward Maibach – who sent a letter in September 2015 with 18 other colleagues to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and President Obama asking them to explore RICO charges against climate “deniers” and their funders – were coordinating with Senator Whitehouse and his staff on their efforts. After their letter was widely criticized, they went into “full damage-control mode,” seeking communications advice from Climate Nexus, an environmental PR firm funded by the Rockefeller foundations, which are also bankrolling the entire #ExxonKnew campaign.
#5. AGs were running far away from Schneiderman’s investigation: Finally, another batch of emails revealed that many of the AGs in Schneiderman’s climate coalition didn’t want to be associated with his investigations at all. The Virginia AG’s office said it makes them “nervous” to say they are working together and asked Schneiderman’s office to “dial that back one notch.” The Iowa AG’s office called Schneiderman a “wild card” and apparently tried to get out of attending the press conference, but felt they’d have to “ride it through.” Another set of FIOA’d emails revealed that just a few weeks after the Delaware AGs office agreed to sign on to the Common Interest Agreement, they suddenly pulled out, telling the other AGs that they would no longer be participating: “Our AG has determined that Delaware will not be involved in this worthy effort, and thus will not be signing the common interest agreement.”
That’s why this litigation is important: it will ensure that Schneiderman complies with the transparency laws that were implemented to hold public officials accountable. And considering what we know so far, it’s safe to say, there’s a lot more to be revealed.