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Report: Activists funded attorneys working in state AG offices to advance climate litigation

A new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., claims outside sources funded attorneys in numerous attorney general offices across the country in an effort to advance politically inspired climate and environmental litigation. (DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)

Outside sources funded attorneys in numerous attorney general offices across the country in an effort to advance politically inspired climate and environmental litigation, a new report claims.

What is this report?

The report, titled, “Law Enforcement for Rent,” comes from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

In the report, researcher and author Chris Horner alleges that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg started the initiative with a specialized law unit within the New York University School of Law. Under the program, attorneys were reportedly groomed to be dispatched nationally to work on climate issues for state attorneys general.

The website for the NYU School of Law State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, says the program is intended as nonpartisan support for "state attorneys general in defending and promoting clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies."

Its mission is described as:  “Providing direct legal assistance to interested attorneys general on specific administrative, judicial or legislative matters involving clean energy, climate change and environmental interests of regional and national significance.”

Why is this a concern?

Horner claims a network of donors used the law school and other various pass-through entities, including 501(c)(3) organizations, to pay the attorneys’ salaries. The report does not include a list of the donors.

Horner says using outside sources to fund the attorneys is a concern because they are working for states while not being paid by them.

“The use of this approach by AGs carries legal, ethical, and constitutional implications, as well as for the integrity of law enforcement and the constitutional policy process,” Horner wrote. “The public-private partnership of law enforcement for hire revealed in this report, in which the partnership uses public office to expend resources not appropriated or approved by their legislatures, raises significant constitutional and other legal issues — as well as ethics concerns — and should be the subject of prompt and serious legislative oversight.”

According to Horner, the practice may be illegal in some states, including New York and Oregon, and raises serious ethical questions elsewhere.

"This approach represents an elaborate, deliberate plan to politicize state law enforcement offices in the service of an ideological, left-wing climate policy agenda that has been frustrated by the democratic process," the report says. "Under this scheme and deviating from standard government contracting procedures, private parties with an express policy advocacy agenda can pay to place activist investigators and lawyers in state AG offices to pursue that agenda."

What else?

The 56-page report supports its claims through emails and documents reportedly obtained through dozens of open records requests that were made over a two-and-a-half year period.

In one of the emails sent to state OAG leaders, the university explained its program as way to “enhance resources” and “champion your citizens’ interests in clean energy, climate change and environmental matters.”

The email appears on page 3 of the 218-page collection of supporting documents. Litigation was required to obtain many of the records, according to the report.

One last thing…
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