For Immediate Release:
August 1, 2016
E&E Legal and FME Law Forced to Sue New York AG, Ringleader of Unprecedented RICO Attack on ‘Climate Change’ Dissenters, For Failing to Release Public Records
Washington, D.C. – The Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (FME Law) and the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) have been once again forced to sue a state attorney general to obtain records related to an unprecedented assault on free speech. The suit, filed in New York City last week, seeks records relating to the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s correspondence with major political donors and special interests, on either an official or non-official email or text account, relating to Mr. Schneiderman’s efforts to use his powers as the state’s chief legal officer to investigate and even prosecute those who dissent from the “climate” political agenda.
E&E Legal and FME Law blazed the trail in recent months of exposing this effort by Democratic Attorneys General across the country. After an initial public records production by the Vermont Office of Attorney General drew considerable media attention, multiple parties in what one letter self-describes as a new “informal coalition of Attorneys General…to ensure the adoption of stronger federal climate and energy policies” began stonewalling, slow-walking, and denying the groups’ requests for records. Now these elected officials are even keeping related emails secret claiming privilege grounded in a promise among themselves to not release what plainly are otherwise public records relating to this abusive campaign.
When E&E sought correspondence relating to this purported “racketeering” investigation in New York State, which was between the Attorney General’s Office and seven individuals with no role in New York government, six of them private activists and/or major donors, New York AG Schneiderman denied the request, citing the Attorney-Client Privilege and Attorney Work Product doctrines. However, neither doctrine shields correspondence shared outside of the attorney-client relationship, and neither applies when government officials work with political stakeholders and donors, as we understand is the case in this current abuse of investigative and law enforcement powers. The implication was that these activists and donors were somehow the AG’s clients, or he sought to shield otherwise public records as involving “outside advisors”.
E&E Legal appealed the Attorney General’s decision, but the New York OAG failed to justify its withholdings for any of its correspondence with seven individuals outside of the Attorney General’s Office, most notably the activist who is also the biggest single donor to Mr. Schneiderman’s political party, Tom Steyer and his lawyer, who are at the same time promoting the agenda and have been recruiting elected Democratic office holders to pursue an “accountability” campaign. E&E Legal has proved this with explicit recruiting memos circulated by the Democratic Governors Association.
While the New York Attorney General’s Office did not respond with any explanation how it could withhold correspondence shared outside the office, E&E Legal believes the Office may be hiding behind a purported common interest agreement, which the office drafted in an attempt to evade state transparency laws, hiding what are otherwise public records. The document claims to create privilege for records related not to litigation, but to broad subject matters around with this self-admitted “informal coalition” was organized as part of their joint advocacy for the “climate” agenda.
The document E&E Legal just obtained also claims that these AGs can maintain privilege even if they selectively correspond and/or share records with an approved list of others; it appears that this could mean activists and major donors. This seems to be the basis for NY OAG’s strange implication in denying E&E Legal’s request at issue in the lawsuit just filed: correspondence with activists, lobbyists and major donors are privileged and can be kept from the public as attorney work product.
E&E Legal recently obtained this document, an effort by the RICO AGs to write themselves out of their state FOIA laws, despite that other states — New York, Vermont and California included — insist it must remain secret. Even Iowa, which declined to sign the pact, is dragging its feet as it tries to find some claim to keep the document secret.
Common interest agreements, often used by parties to civil litigation, allow attorneys to share information with those they share interests with in particular litigation — they must be drafted in anticipation of litigation, yet the purported Common Interest Agreement New York signed does not deal with litigation, but with broad topics of public discourse, again among an “informal coalition of Attorneys General…to ensure the adoption of stronger federal climate and energy policies”.
This document was plainly drafted in anticipation of open records requests, and as such is an attempt to abuse what the law allows. Elected officials cannot write themselves out from the coverage freedom of information laws their legislatures wrote them into, which would effectively allow them to create a cloak of invisibility for all of their work they simply don’t want the public to see, and shield their political activities possibly including efforts using public office on behalf of major donors.
E&E Legal has pledged to fight to inform the public of the involvement of activists and donors this this gross abuse of public office and law enforcement powers. E&E Legal and FME Law believe that transparency is the key to good government, and that those who seek to prosecute political opponents should have their political motivations exposed to the public eye. A hearing has been set for September 1, 2016 in New York City in the case of E&E Legal and FME Law v. The Attorney General of New York.
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.