by Chris Horner, Senior Legal Fellow

This week marks the one-year anniversary of nearly two dozen state attorneys general, alongside “green” investor and former vice president Al Gore, announcing a coalition to investigate, as fraud, opposition to the climate change political agenda.

Since that blustery event, however, all signs are that ringleader New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s wingmen have fled his side. Documents obtained under state open records laws suggest that public scrutiny of the outrageous campaign drove this exodus from the erstwhile coalition. Schneiderman stands alone or nearly so, still fishing while changing his rationales and offering one distraction after another from the embarrassment.

His latest move was to leak to the press that former ExxonMobil president and CEO, and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had used an alternate, company-issued email address under the name ‘Wayne Tracker.’ These emails were apparently signed by Tillerson, meaning they aren’t even comparable to former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson’s Windsor.Richard@epa.gov account, which presented a false identity and every email sent under which was a violation of federal law. That’s it, from millions of documents?

Meanwhile, the Daily Caller just reported the use of a Gmail account to send work-related documents by Schneiderman’s Environmental Protection Bureau Chief, Lem Srolovic. Like Schneiderman’s Intergovernmental Affairs Director Michael Mead, Srolovic had a FirstLast@Gmail.com account he used for work-related correspondence, among numerous private accounts used for work throughout New York State government, according to FOIL productions.

More sauce for the gander was on display in a New York City courtroom this week — on the scheme’s anniversary, no less — in a case filed by the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute (E&E Legal). There, Schneiderman’s Solicitor General attempted to defend that Office’s refusal to produce its emails, which are in fact public records. More remarkable is what court filings to date show these emails hold.

A “privilege log” of emails Schneiderman claims must be kept from their owners, the public, include those between his office and the Democratic Party’s biggest donor, and with the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), all discussing his plans to pursue the “climate” opposition. The RFF’s Lee Wasserman has taken credit for creating the #ExxonKnew campaign.

These correspondences were happening long before his investigation was ever launched. We know by the fact they turned up in response to a particular request that they are discussing activists the Rockefeller groups are supporting to promote the same agenda. Their contents are surely fascinating.

No wonder Schneiderman is fighting so hard to keep these public records secret.  He even claims, apparently for lack of any other claim to try, that these represent privileged “law enforcement” records. That is, Tom Steyer and the Rockefeller groups have been deputized by the New York Attorney General.

But of course in no reasonable world do activists and major #ExxonKnew donors like George Soros, Tom Steyer, and the Rockefellers have anything (proper) to do with law enforcement, and there is no reason their emails should be exempted.

Until the court rules, notice that Schneiderman’s office was definitely communicating with Lee Wasserman of the RFF and Tom Steyer’s office (Erin Suhr), respectively, well before and contemporaneous with him launching is “climate RICO” investigation. This suggests a disturbing timeline of events.

In the fall of 2014, the Rockefellers paid for Columbia to investigate Exxon, hoping to discover documents relating to Exxon’s climate research, even though they were already publicly available. That’s also when David Sassoon of InsideClimate News (also funded by the Rockefellers) decided to investigate the fossil fuel industry’s climate research. Sassoon is a former consultant to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Then, in early 2015, around the time Columbia would have begun writing the pieces, RFF’s Lee Wasserman reached out to Schneiderman’s office to discuss the “activities of specific companies regarding climate change.” Wasserman eventually admitted two years later that they had specifically lobbied Schneiderman to launch this investigation.

As Wasserman put it, “the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) informed state attorneys general of our concern that ExxonMobil seemed to have failed to disclose to investors the business risks of climate change. We were particularly encouraged by Schneiderman’s interest in this matter…”

Indeed. Schneiderman’s own claim is that, before these articles were written, his office and the Rockefellers worked together on “company specific climate change information”. Then, after InsideClimate and Columbia had published their articles, he announced his subpoena, noting that the reporting had conveniently made the “year-long” investigation “more ripe.”

Wasserman’s daughter — who, coincidentally, works for one of Steyer’s climate activist groups — immediately tweeted out pride of her father “for helping make this happen”. The same week, Schneiderman contacted billionaire Steyer’s scheduler, “Following up on conversation re: company specific climate change information.” Schneiderman later arranged a call with Steyer “regarding support for his race for governor…regarding Exxon case.”

Investigation is indeed warranted, but into what role wealthy donors played in launching investigation of political opponents. Let’s hope the courts do their part and assist E&E Legal’s effort to help make that happen.