It came to light last year that a handful of rich left-wing donors led by Michael Bloomberg have collaborated with New York University Law School to recruit, place and pay for lawyers in attorney generals’ offices around the United States. These lawyers, compensated outside the executive structure of state government, are embedded in state governments to pursue lawsuits that fit Bloomberg’s liberal agenda. In particular, they are directed to bring lawsuits against oil companies and others based on “climate change.” Bloomberg’s scheme is corrupt, poses inevitable conflicts of interest, and in some states is flatly illegal. This video by the Clear Energy Alliance presents a good summary of the scandal:
A group called Energy Policy Advocates requested documents relating to this scheme from the office of Minnesota’s Attorney General, Keith Ellison. EPA’s requests were made pursuant to Minnesota’s broad Government Data Practices Act. The requests were narrowly tailored to ask for documents relating to 1) correspondence between the AG’s office and a plaintiffs’ law firm, and 2) correspondence between the AG’s Office and a specific individual in another state who was recruiting attorneys general to join Bloomberg’s scheme. The Minnesota Attorney General replied that there are no such documents, or, if there are, they are privileged and will not be produced.
So EPA sued, represented by a brand new public interest law firm called the Upper Midwest Law Center. (Disclosure: I am on the UMLC’s board of directors.) The UMLC’s Complaint is here. That Complaint was filed today, and my friend Doug Seaton of the UMLC gave a press conference this morning, which you can watch here.
I believe a number of news stories about the lawsuit will be forthcoming. The first that I am aware of is in the Star Tribune. The Strib’s story, mediocre at best, is most notable because it flushes out Keith Ellison’s admission that Minnesota is indeed participating in the Bloomberg scam. Ellison didn’t have much choice: there is a Linked In page by a lawyer who wrote:
I am off on a new adventure as a Fellow with the NYU School of Law’s State Impact Center. I will be embedded with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as an Environmental Litigator and Special Assistant Attorney General.
So much for any claim that there are no documents linking the Minnesota Attorney General to Bloomberg’s corrupt scheme, unless this was all arranged via smoke signals.
In some states, privately funded and agenda-driven “special assistant attorneys general” might only be unethical. Here in Minnesota, they are quite clearly illegal under Minn. Stat. Sec. 8.06, which says:
Except as herein stated, no additional counsel shall be employed and the legal business of the state shall be performed exclusively by the attorney general and the attorney general’s assistants.
Ellison claims his Bloomberg connection is legal based on a theory that we learned of for the first time when he was asked for comment by the Star Tribune. His assertion–that a general statute relating to employee exchanges between government agencies and private industry covers the case–is ridiculous. He has been caught red-handed. Or, as Clear Energy Alliance’s Mark Mathis would say, green-handed.
It is time to shine the light of day on secret, corrupt and in some cases illegal relationships among billionaire Democratic Party donors and elected officials like Keith Ellison.