Thought Piece

“Legal Group Wants ‘Partisan’ AG Punished Over Handling Of High-Profile Public Records Request.” Another New York Attorney General without boundaries?

[Below, you will find two pieces about New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman. In many ways, his AG office’s activities have been  reminiscent of Elliot Spitzer’s attack on Wall Street: Highly political, very ambitious and utterly shameless.

On the one hand, he has spear-headed an attack on a single target, Exxon Mobil, by using the power of the media and the anti-big oil sentiment, while ignoring the rest of the energy industry; and, on the other hand, he refuses to disclose all of the internal communications (which are public documents) between his office and the other 18 State Attorney General offices as he organized and led an assault on Exxon Mobil and its internal communications from as far back as 30 years.

In fact, Vermont and New York have continued to ignored public record requests about their internal communications to organize an effort against Exxon Mobil. For the record, in March 2016, AG Schneiderman announced an “unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement officials committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combating climate change.” Since then, most State AG’s have back away from their involvement for fear of participating in a highly visible partisan political agenda. As one AG put it, “… clearly Eric is himself the wild card for all.”

It is worth mentioning that AG Schneiderman ginned up another charge about Exxon Mobil’s over-valuing their undeveloped assets still in the ground, but of course only after Exxon fought back against his efforts to go on a fishing expedition into Exxon’s records for the last 30 years.

Undeniably, any proper review of the whole matter of evaluating the methodology of valuing undeveloped energy assets by publicly traded companies belonged in the hands of the Security and Exchange Commission. This single accounting method to apply to all of the oil industry.

Which brings me to my major complaint against Attorney General Schneiderman, he has been using bullying tactics, not unlike a previous NY AG, that are extra-legal at best, and illegal at worst.  Steve]

“Legal Group Wants ‘Partisan’ AG Punished Over Handling Of High-Profile Public Records Request”

By Chris White 1:52 PM 04/11/2017

A conservative legal group is asking Vermont lawmakers to punish the state attorney general for his handling of a public records request regarding a high-profile investigation into Exxon Mobil.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan’s office decides whether to respond to public records requests for partisan reasons, according to the D.C.-based legal group, E&E Legal. The group said lawmakers currently reviewing the budget proposal for the Democrat AG’s office should punish the alleged political partisanship by reducing its budget.

E&E Legal told the Daily Caller News Foundation earlier this month the AG’s office admitted recently in court to googling the group’s name to determine its political bias. E&E Legal brought Donovan to court to try to force the AG into forking over information related to his investigation against Exxon Mobil. The court has not yet made a decision in the case.

“[The AG’s office] admitted in open court that it ‘googled’ E&E and concluded that the appearance among commentators of keywords such as ‘coal’ and ‘Exxon’ suggested E&E might have views different than its own and such a group possessing further public records would not be in the best interests of the State of Vermont,” E&E Legal said.

The AG’s Office told a judge in March it’s in the best interest of Vermont’s taxpayers to keep the requested records secret, and that it was appropriate to Google the names of those seeking the records to add “context.”

According to E&E Legal, however, Donovan’s claim runs contrary to a Vermont public records law that stipulates public requests should apply equally to all requesters. The state’s legislature should consider penalizing the AG until he follows that law, the group said.

“When it comes to public records requests, Vermont has a proud tradition of following the letter of the law as intended by the legislature,” Craig Richardson, the group’s president told TheDCNF. But “unfortunately” Donovan began using looking to for ways around the wall, he said, adding: “This is not the Vermont way.”

E&E Legal believes the AG was trying to find ways of scuttling its attempts at gathering communication involving Donovan’s ill-fated campaign against Exxon Mobil, an oil company some believe hid knowledge about global warming. New York AG Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey have engaged in a nearly year-long investigation into Exxon’s climate change research, which has led to civil suits against the New York and Massachusetts AG offices.

The Exxon probes ushered in a slew of inquiries from other AGs, the bulk of whom have since dropped their pursuits. Many of the lawmen, including Donovan, bailed on the campaign out of concern that Schneiderman, a Democrat, was pushing an agenda.

E&E released a large cache of internal emails between AGs in March, 2016, suggesting the anti-Exxon ranks were frayed, namely because of the New York lawman’s behavior.

Donovan’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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Read more:

Emails Show Dem AGs Are Wary Of Launching RICO Case Against Exxon

By Chris White

Read more:

Internal emails reveal attorneys general are worried investigations of ExxonMobil for its global warming stance is an exercise in “rhetorical overreach.”

Emails released by conservative legal group Energy & Environmental Legal Institute (E&E Legal) show state attorneys general are not in lockstep with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into Exxon that’s ensnared groups labeled as skeptical of man-made global warming by environmental activists.

Internal concerns began to flare up after Schneiderman’s press office released a statement in March 2016 that announced “[a]n unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement officials committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combating climate change.”

One email indicates some attorneys general offices asked Schneiderman to back off going after Exxon. They were also critical of Schneiderman’s effort to bring Exxon and the others up on racketeering charges.

“I just returned from the evening’s activities. I will update you tomorrow but clearly Eric is himself the wild card for all,” Iowa’s Deputy Attorney General Tam Ormiston wrote in an email to his communications director after attending a meeting with Schneiderman.

E&E Legal, for its part, described the emails as an example of why Schneiderman’s probes were ill conceived.

“These emails help explain why Schnederman found himself going from seventeen doppelgangers one day, to being most completely alone within mere weeks of his bombastic ‘publicity stunt’ press conference with former Vice President Gore,” Chris Horner, Senior Legal Fellow for E&E Legal, said in a press statement Wednesday.

Schneiderman began his Exxon investigation in November, which, according to a New York Times report at the time, was “demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents” from the oil producer dating all the way back to the 1970s. The New York attorney general also demanded information on global warming skeptic groups Exxon had once helped fund.

The attorneys’ general criticisms come as a result of a September investigation of ExxonMobil conducted by InsideClimate News and others. The investigation found that Exxon had allegedly played fast and loose with information concerning global warming. Schneiderman and his cohorts have continued to hype the effort against Exxon over the past several months.

The announcement made it appear as though there was widespread support for the investigations among U.S. attorneys general, yet the emails appear to show attorneys general blanching at the investigations. Media reports have mirrored much of the email’s content.

Politico reported on some of the concerns in July.

“A coalition of Democratic attorneys general on Tuesday promised new scrutiny of the fossil fuel industry, but most fell short of committing to investigations into whether companies like ExxonMobil deceived the public about the threat of climate change,” Politico reported at the time.

Some legal analysts are arguing that the investigation is an abuse of the attorney general’s extraordinary powers.

The Exxon subpoena into the company’s knowledge about internal climate change reports is an abuse of extraordinary powers. It allowed attorneys general (AGs) to subpoena private documents without either obtaining a court order or filing a complaint, Merritt Fox, a professor of law at Columbia Law School, wrote Monday at National Law Journal.