For Immediate Release:
July 27, 2016

Craig Richardson
[email protected]

E&E Legal Forced to Sue Rhode Island Office of Attorney General for Improperly Withholding AGs’ ‘Secrecy Pact’, to Hide RICO Campaign to Punish and Silence Climate Change ‘Deniers’

Washington, DC – Today the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (FME Law) filed suit against the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General (OAG), seeking specific records detailing that office’s collaboration with other activist AGs promoting the “climate” political agenda through investigating those who dissent against it.

On April 13, 2016, E&E Legal and FME Law submitted a request to the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General (OAG) seeking copies of all 2016 correspondence to or from OAG Special Assistant Attorney General Gregory Schultz using certain key words or phrases relating to the RICO scheme, a scheme that has since been reported by the Wall Street Journal and further exposed in detail by public records obtained by E&E Legal.

E&E Legal also sought copies of all correspondence between Greg Schultz of the Department of the Attorney General, and any employees of the New York Attorney General’s Office, over an eight-week period which included when the RICO scheme was organized (dated from February 15, 2016 through April 13, 2016).

Schultz was RI OAG’s representative in preparations for a March 29 “publicity stunt” press conference with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and other AGs — prior to which, as E&E Legal open records requests have shown, they were briefed by outside environmentalist activists who called for using law enforcement powers against political opponents.  At that event the AGs announced they were teaming up to target opponents of the global warming agenda.

Since then, E&E Legal released emails obtained from the Vermont AG, on the heels of a Journal report about a January meeting in which many of these same groups funded by the anti-fossil fuel Rockefeller Foundation met to urge just this sort of government investigation and litigation against their political opponents.

RI OAG imposed extensive delays and considerable amounts of fees before handing over some records while refusing to release others. For example, these show Rhode Island’s AG agreed to a purported “common interest agreement” (CIA) which, other records obtained strongly suggest, is actually a sweeping effort by the AGs to exempt themselves from their respective open records laws for purposes of any discussions, including with outside activists, regarding numerous energy and “climate” topics — not a specific investigation or piece of litigation as such an agreement is properly used for.

Further, RI OAG withheld this agreement without even acknowledging its existence in their itemized list of withholdings. That is, only because the CIA was revealed as having been an attachment to an email, which itself was only released as part of another email and not produced in its original, is it now public knowledge that RI OAG possessed this document.

Specifically, one email the OAG did release showed Mr. Schultz emailing his agreement to sign an April 12, 2016 CIA referenced elsewhere in the “thread”, though by that time no OAG had yet acknowledged the existence of such a pact.  Indeed, the New York, Vermont and California OAGs denied public records requests by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) for any such agreement.  Only when the Illinois OAG denied access to public records, on June 17, 2016, citing to the existence of this purported CIA was its existence finally confirmed.

These states’ position is that they can not only write a contract making public records invisible to the citizenry, but prevent citizens from even learning of the agreement itself.  Exposing the overreach this represents — a threat not just to watchdogs but media outlets, which use freedom of information laws as widely as any class of party — this effort is to hide the activities of what the AGs themselves describe in a March 7, 2016 letter as nothing more than a new “informal coalition of Attorneys General…to ensure the adoption of stronger federal climate and energy policies”, that is, to promote the political “climate change” agenda.

On July 5, 2016, Rhode Island offered further, absurd reasons for not providing the agreement itself, pretending that a request for email correspondence somehow didn’t cover attachments, simply because activist AGs promised each other, and some green-group activists and major donors, that they would strive — and coordinate — to keep records related to this scheme from the public.

These crusading AGs have yet to explain why they are so afraid of the public learning about their investigations?  Why are they invoking absurd claims to try and withhold documents — and writing themselves a blank check to exempt themselves from the public records laws their citizens’ elected representatives thought they should be subject to?  Why are they forcing people to sue to obtain these public records?

The obvious answer to all of this is that they are afraid of the embarrassment they will suffer once people see what they hastily agreed to, an agreement to keep everything secret that they can about a campaign to smother dissent that may also subject these offices to potential civil rights lawsuits and other countersuits by those they’ve targeted.

“E&E Legal expects to do whatever is necessary to get these public records before the public, to educate on this unprecedented abuse of power”, said E&E Legal’s Executive Director Craig Richardson. “All that we have found indicates that these AGs and their outside activist partners will make litigation necessary at every turn.”

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.