Virginia Attorney General Ditches NY AG Schneiderman’s ‘Climate’ Witch Hunt Campaign

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) has agreed to drop its lawsuit against Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (VA OAG) seeking records pertaining to that office’s participation in the New York AG Eric Schneiderman-led campaign against political opponents of the “climate” agenda. This follows the Virginia AG’s release of unredacted documents it had been withholding in various parts, and assertion that all other blacked-out portions were because that is the form in which these public records were given to VA OAG.

The group had been forced to file suit recently under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA), along with its Executive Director Craig Richardson, after Herring’s office insisted on keeping hidden parts of its correspondence about the campaign, on to which it formally signed on May 9.

By this release, Virginia’s taxpayers can conclude that AG Herring has rethought his involvement, and would prefer to completely distance himself from the outrageous, now collapsing scheme which has led to two state AGs being ordered by a federal judge to sit for depositions in large part on the basis of other public records E&E Legal has obtained.

The weekend release of records confirms that Virginia has joined a growing list of states and the District of Columbia who understand that claims of “privilege” to keep the documentation of the scheme from public view are invalid — leaving New York, Vermont and Rhode Island as the sole holdouts in the secrecy scheme.

Rather than answer E&E Legal’s lawsuit and fight what was sure to be a losing battle drawing even more public interest — including about the Virginia AG’s involvement with politically motivated investigations and subpoenas — the Attorney General has instead chosen to voluntarily provide the documents with no effort to withhold any information on any groundless claim of privilege.

As E&E senior legal fellow Chris Horner learned months ago in CEI and Horner v. George Mason University, a Virginia group calling itself RaisingKaine.com (as in Sen. Tim Kaine) had initiated recruitment of Attorney General Herring in late 2015 to use RICO “against coal companies, Dominion Power, or others in Virginia” according to its own email. Herring’s office quietly agreed this Spring to explore such investigations and prosecutions, signing onto an agreement among ideologically aligned activist AGs, led by Vermont and New York.

Records now obtained by E&E Legal show the office had reservations about Team Schneiderman; regrettably, although these concerns were shared by other states, unlike, e.g., Iowa Virginia’s concerns failed to stop Herring from involving his office in this ill-conceived abuse. Facing the prospect of airing this in open court, at last it appears General Herring is heeding those concerns.

Specifically, in response to E&E Legal’s latest suit the Virginia Attorney General’s office chose to waive its claims that four records were exempt from production under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. The documents, now produced in full in the same format that such records are held in Virginia’s Attorney General’s Office, have already been provided to E&E Legal counsel.

This offers the latest stark and instructive contrast with the New York and Vermont AGs, the co-ringleaders between which E&E is currently prosecuting five related public records cases.

“Mark Herring has finally done the right thing,” said Craig Richardson, Executive Director of E&E Legal. “He agreed to produce all documents he possesses which were responsive to our request, and to waive all fees for producing those documents, a belated example that other AGs such as New York’s should take to heart.”

“Clearly”, Richardson continued, “VA OAG has abandoned any notion that it has some privilege in this pursuit with Schneiderman and other offices, and now it is time that someone ask, and the AG’s office answer for how the public’s office was used in this affront to apolitical law enforcement: what did it do in pursuit of the ‘climate-RICO’ scheme in the intervening months? Did it in fact take any affirmative steps toward initiating investigations of the groups targeted by the activist group and activist AGs?”

Added Matthew Hardin, counsel for E&E Legal: “In dropping any pretext of privilege keeping relevant government records from the public and Virginia taxpayers the Attorney General and Solicitor General of Virginia have agreed to right one wrong, that being the first instinct of trying to hide correspondence relating to its involvement in this scheme. This indicates it has reversed the original sin, of involving itself in the Schneiderman-led pursuit which threatens to bring its participants’ terms to an unceremonious end.”

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.