Newly Released AG Emails Reveal Anxiety Over Schneiderman-led Climate Investigations
Emails reveal early warnings that “Wild Card” NY Attorney General Schneiderman’s Climate-RICO crusade would get jilted by other AGs
Newly released records show even ideologically aligned state attorneys general offices privately voiced concerns from the beginning of the abusive campaign to use anti-racketeering laws and other investigations to silence political opposition to the President’s climate agenda, a campaign spearheaded by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The unease was found even among AGs personally recruited to the crusade by Schneiderman’s office.
Emails just released by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) capture these concerns. One AG’s office, which bailed on Schneiderman, characterized him internally as a “wild card” after the March 28, 2016 organizational meeting in New York City. Other records just released show AG offices requesting that Schneiderman’s team back off of its rhetorical overreach about their efforts to date. Still more seek restraint in touting the prospects that others would join in “investigations” Schneiderman called for using the AGs’ law enforcement powers to target dozens of conservative organizations and think tanks.
One email from Schneiderman’s office to another AG office acknowledges it received several requests to tone down its claims. Yet, at the time of the March 29, 2016 Schneiderman-led press conference with former Vice President Al Gore, Schneiderman’s press office released a press release announcing “an unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement officials committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combatting climate change.” An InsideClimate News headline blared, “Climate Fraud Investigation of Exxon Draws Attention of 17 Attorneys General.” TheHouston Chronicle reported “Multiple state probes into whether Exxon Mobil misled its investors and the public on climate change could expand to other fossil fuel companies.” A New York Times article stated, “Exxon Mobil Climate Change Inquiry in New York Gains Allies”
These stories resulted from continued Schneiderman hype of his support among peers which was difficult to swallow even at the time of the press conference. Politico, for one, reported on some of the concerns by AG offices. “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,” the Politico article began.
These newly released emails reveal how numerous of Schneiderman’s recruits had concerns with joining his investigation. Now, nearly five months later, the Schneiderman campaign has gone from the “Green 20”, or seventeen AGs depending on the report, down to apparently just Eric Schneiderman. As #ExxonKnew ringleader Bill McKibben stated in June, “Exxon is not really facing a blitzkrieg. Only two states have really had the courage to take on [Exxon].” Even this glosses over the inconvenient fact that the Virgin Islands AG was forced to withdraw his subpoena after targeting nearly 100 conservative groups and think tanks. “They were in over their head. They were going to get pounded and it’s good they are off the field,” Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at the Vermont Law School, said of the Virgin Islands AG’s investigation. Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, the only other AG to officially announce an investigation, has put hers on hold.
“These emails help explain why Schneiderman found himself going from seventeen Doppelgängers one day, to being almost completely alone within mere weeks of his bombastic ‘publicity stunt‘ press conference with former Vice President Gore,” said Chris Horner, Senior Legal Fellow for E&E Legal. “His untethered political crusade was just too much for even like-minded activist AGs he personally selected. We now know they saw the warning signs early.”