The Michael Bloomberg-Funded Special Assistant Attorney General

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Several Democratic state attorneys general offices are being funded by one New York billionaire: Michael Bloomberg. The former New York City mayor has been bankrolling a project at New York University that ultimately feeds progressive environmentalists to state attorney general offices to litigate energy companies and promote clean energy. NYU School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center was launched in August 2017. Bloomberg Philanthropies provided the initial funding. States participating in the program include Illinois, Maryland, New York, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Virginia.

This is a uniquely unprecedented agreement between a billionaire-backed organization and state governments. An outside group is funding attorneys general offices, which can have significant power through litigation.

A question for newly-elected Democratic Attorneys General: Are you going to fulfill your promise and be a lawyer for the people of your state, or be a personal lawyer to Michael Bloomberg?

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board goes deeper:

Consider a remarkable arrangement brokered by the NYU Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center to fund legal services for state AGs. The group was launched in August 2017 to advance a liberal climate and energy agenda, courtesy of a $6 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which also financed the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

In August 2017 the NYU outfit emailed then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, offering to cover the salary and benefits of “special assistant attorneys general,” pending an application from the office that demonstrated how the new attorneys would be used. These privately funded staffers would work out of an AG’s office for two years and deliver quarterly progress reports to the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.

The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center made clear that state AG offices would only qualify for special assistant AGs if they “demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions,” according to the August 2017 email to numerous AGs. Mr. Schneiderman’s office suggested in its application for the fellows that it “needs additional attorney resources to assist” in extracting compensation from fossil-fuel emitters.

That’s exactly what’s happening. The New York AG currently has two NYU fellows on staff, according to the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. One of the fellows, Gavin McCabe, signed off as “special assistant attorney general” on an amicus brief in June in support of New York City’s suit for damages against BP, Chevron , ConocoPhillips , Exxon Mobil , and Royal Dutch Shell for alleged climate sins. That case was thrown out in July by federal Judge John Kennan on grounds that problems arising from climate change “are not for the judiciary to ameliorate.”

At least six state AG offices have already brought on board a special assistant attorney general, according to an August report by Mr. Horner. Besides New York, the jurisdictions include Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. In September, Mr. Horner learned that Illinois and New Mexico have brought on special assistant AGs as well, which was confirmed by the NYU outfit.

The ethical problems here should be obvious. Private interests are leveraging the police powers of the state to pursue their political agenda, while a government official is letting private interests appear to influence enforcement decisions. None of this is reassuring about the fair administration of justice.

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