For Immediate Release:
October 25, 2016
Today, the Free Market Environment Law Clinic (FME Law) was forced to file suit (with exhibits), along with and on behalf of several New York citizens’ groups, against Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office for wrongfully withholding records responsive to a Freedom of Information Law request. FME Law represents the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) on its own various open records lawsuits also relating to the Schneiderman-led, now collapsed state attorneys general coalition to persecute political opponents of the “climate” agenda.
These groups filing suit today allege that the Attorney General has wrongfully denied them nearly all responsive records relating to the involvement in Schneiderman’s “Climate-RICO” scheme by a billionaire political donor, corporate interests, and environmental activists.
As background, New York AG Schneiderman organized a now largely aborted political coalition to abuse law enforcement offices to silence opposition to the “climate” agenda. In early May, FME Law and several New York citizens’ groups asked Schneiderman’s Office for records reflecting meetings it had beginning last Fall with corporate interests including Fahr LLC, billionaire donor Tom Steyer and his lawyer Ted White, and two radical Greenpeace activists turned consultants.
It took four months for NYOAG to respond to the records request, at which time it withheld almost the entire body of responsive records, producing 23 pages of press clippings while withholding all relevant correspondence as “privileged” from scrutiny by the public paying for, and in some cases targeted by, Schneiderman’s abusive inquest.
“We believe that the citizenry has a right to know whether political activist billionaires like Tom Steyer are setting the agenda of the New York Attorney General’s Office,” said David Schnare, E&E Legal General Counsel. “The public also has a right to know if indeed political donors arranged for AGs to work with activists they support to promote their agenda.”
Schnare also noted that the New York Attorney General’s Office only began issuing subpoenas against fossil fuel companies after meetings with wind energy executives and investors. An initial hearing is set in the matter of FME Law, et al. v. Attorney General of New York on December 6, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.
As part of the campaign Schneiderman organized in March 2016 with Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, the politicians agreed to share strategy, information and green-group advisors to advance what other public records show was an expressly political coalition, seeking political ends but going around the proper democratic process. New York, and other states, are hiding the documents from public scrutiny behind a secrecy pactthat purports to be a “common interest agreement”, but in violation of their respective state open records laws.
This attempted Get Out of FOIA Free card these activist AGs claim to have given themselves promises to huddle up and consult over every open records request that might ‘out’ the scheme, actually polling political allies before deciding whether to comply with state transparency laws
As recently reported, while Schneiderman originally cast nearly twenty other AGs in support of his investigation, emails revealed that some of his recruits expressed worry and ultimately walked away from joining in the effort. FME Law, with E&E Legal, first revealed the controversial suggestion by the New York Office of Attorney General that one of the activists mislead a reporter about whether the activist had in fact briefed several attorneys general and other activists on March 29, 2016 about investigating opponents of the climate agenda (as records show he did) [FN2].
Recently, a federal judge in Texas cited this thread as the basis for “concern” that these AGs proceeded in their scheme in “bad faith”; what the court did not know, but E&E Legal with FME Law have subsequently confirmed, is that the activist expressed his opinion that that made good sense, and that the Vermont Office of Attorney General — co-organizer with New York of the above-described campaign, as other records obtained elsewhere show — expressed its gratitude for the activist’s agreement.
After widespread press coverage of their March 29 press conference, the climate AGs suddenly faced a barrage of criticism by their colleagues, legal experts, and editorials boards across the country as the details of the AGs’ collaboration with environmental activists continued to trickle out.
As Schneiderman’s crusade to silence dissent against his political agenda collapses around him, with Congress, the media, and public opinion turning against the abuse, E&E Legal has been forced to sue other AG offices as well for information related to this campaign. It will continue pursuing records wrongly withheld by this stonewalling band of activists misusing law enforcement offices to advance their otherwise unobtainable political agenda.
About EE Legal
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.
FN1. Paragraph six of the Common Interest Agreement says that the parties to the agreement agree to immediately notify all other parties in writing of any public requests for information covered by the Common Interest Agreement and “refuse to disclose any Shared Information unless required by law.” Vermont initially objected to this make-‘em-sue stance, but has come around to the stonewall.
FN2. Other records show that the reporter referenced in the exchange, Amy Harder of the Wall Street Journal, was calling about a different if related meeting that the activist attended, among only private parties. See Amy Harder, “Exxon Fires Back at Climate-Change Probe”, Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2016.