Rockefeller-Funded Website Publishes “News” Piece Defending Rockefeller-Funded Activists at Center of AG Email Controversy
In the wake of the release of several FOIA’d emails and memos coming to light that show close coordination among environmental activists, the anti-fossil fuel Rockefeller foundations, and the offices of a handful of attorneys general launching climate investigations, InsideClimate News (ICN) – also funded by the Rockefeller foundations — is starting to sound a bit defensive.
Earlier today, ICN – whose factually deficient reporting on ExxonMobil and climate served as the pretext for those attorneys general investigations – issued what is effectively a press release masquerading as a straight news piece defending the activist groups at the eye of the storm. ICN dismisses the controversy – which has been covered extensively by the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, among others – by characterizing it this way:
“The conservative non-profit Energy & Environment Legal Institute, an ally of CEI, recently released emails that show that the attorneys general considering investigating Exxon were briefed by two environmentalists. E&E got the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Vermont attorney general’s office. Though such meetings with environmental and industry advocates are widely considered routine, E&E described the meetings as secretive collusion, an idea that has been echoed on conservative websites and among some mainstream media outlets.” (emphasis added)
ICN also quotes a spokesman at the New York AG office:
“The office routinely collaborates with other states and receives input from outside organizations,” said Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Ultimately, decisions on which cases we pursue are based solely on the merits and the law—and nothing else.”
Of course, ICN left out the most important part of what the emails revealed: the offices of the attorneys general deliberately tried to keep these meetings hidden from public scrutiny.
In an email to Lem Srolovic of 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 by public records requests. Nonetheless, Kline said “our office is okay with refusing to disclose covered documents,” assuming that doing so could be considered legal.
On March 30, anti-fossil fuel lawyer Matt Pawa sent an email to Srolovic, as well as to Kline in the Vermont Attorney General’s office, explaining that a Wall Street Journal reporter had contacted him about the meeting. Pawa asked, “What should I say if she asks if I attended? No comment? Let me know.”
Srolovic – again, a government official for the state of New York – instructed Pawa not to disclose information about the meeting. “My ask is if you speak to the reporter,” Srolovic said, “to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event.”
Curiously, the author of the “nothing to see here, folks!” ICN post – Neela Banerjee – has a history of defending plaintiffs who are trying to silence critics of climate advocacy.
Writing for Yale Alumni Magazine in 2013, Banerjee painted a sympathetic portrait of climate scientist Michael Mann, who infamously filed a lawsuit in 2013 to muzzle individuals he called “climate deniers” – including, ironically, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which was recently issued a subpoena by the Attorney General of the U.S. Virgin Islands (!) demanding basically every document it has ever produced.
Mann returned the favor by tweeting out Banerjee’s post:
“Exxon & Allies Invoke 1st Amendment to Fight Climate Probe” @NeelaEast @InsideClimate https://t.co/qGFqcsk6M1#CEI #Koch #ChrisHorner #Coal
— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) April 22, 2016
Mann is on the advisory board of the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI), which has been trying to mobilize these campaigns against oil and gas producers for years.
As Energy In Depth has noted before, in 2012, the CAI teamed up with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) – again, both funded by the Rockefellers – to hold a workshop in La Jolla, Calif., at which one of the topics discussed was the various ways they could get the government to investigate ExxonMobil. Apparently proud of the progress they had made, the groups released a report after the meeting entitled, “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages: Lessons from Tobacco Control.” The Rockefellers, of course, also funded the conference itself.
Recently the National Review linked ICN to a PR firm also run by the website’s publisher David Sassoon (who himself – wait for it — used to work for the Rockefellers):
“The nonprofit news organization InsideClimate News and the PR consultancy Science First are frequently mentioned together in public records, listed as though they are interchangeable. And by at least one credible account, Science First serves as the official publisher of InsideClimate News.”
Taking a look at ICN’s latest contribution to the discussion, it appears that not a whole lot has changed.