The head of a group created by billionaire climate activist Michael Bloomberg to hire and place activist, privately funded “Special Assistant Attorneys General” in AG offices took issue with (and kindly drew more attention to) Chris Horner and Victoria Toensing’s op-ed in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, “How Bloomberg Pays to Prosecute the Trump EPA”.
In a Letter to the Editors titled “Outside Assistance to AGs Is Legal and Right”, David Hayes avoids the oped’s concerns about due process, bribery etc., to generally insist all is well and proper. Tellingly, valuable space to offer an argument was used instead to confess there apparently are no arguments. Per Hayes “The center invited all state AGs to apply for limited-term law fellows”. These ‘fellows’, per an earlier Hayes, are — you must not forget, best beloved — to “advanc[e] progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions”. Why, yes, all are welcome to do what I want.
Implicit is that the National Rifle Association, National Mining Association, and National Right to Life also can chair “Special Assistant Attorneys General” to — in the memorable words of Virginia AG Mark Herring’s application to Hayes’ organization — “advance the agenda represented by” each group. Sweet.
Still, with so much that is right and good and totally legal and ethical all in one law enforcement scheme, what’s the deal with no AGs joining up since the onset of scrutiny? As Horner and Toensing raised in their op-ed and CLW noted last week, in detail, one of two things is clearly true:
Either Bloomberg’s group and the activist AGs who might love it decided it’s not worth the legal, ethical and/or political risk to enter this facially improper arrangement.
Or, Bloomberg’s group and any new, activist AGs decided it is not worth the legal, ethical and/or political risk to publicly admit to entering this unprecedented arrangement.
Which is it?
If this totally legal and ethical scheme is as great and beneficial to the citizens of states lucky enough to have willing AGs as Mr. Hayes says, Bloomberg’s group should explain why no one else agreed to play once it became clear that doing so meant not just glowing puff pieces in the Washington Post, but also public scrutiny. Or, AGs who have since agreed to take these gifts — and any attendant, e.g., gift, campaign or ‘honest services fraud’ implications — should come out of hiding and own up to it.
The latter would be an act of policy and legal hygiene.
The former would be a terrible embarrassment to Bloomberg’s group (and its remaining ‘incumbent’ OAGs).
Because we know that NY OAG recently told a court it prematurely terminated its SAAG relationships, which were entered into without the requisite ethics and other reviews and approvals.
We know that Pennsylvania’s AG applied for, and was granted, one or more SAAGs, but now insists it didn’t actually consummate.
We know that Virginia’s AG repeatedly insists to a Richmond court that, despite promising to use that Office “to advance the agenda represented by” Bloomberg’s climate litigation Center, it too backed out in the face of requests for this and other relevant public records. After so many things in writing — including that breathtaking vow of service — VA OAG now says, in an affidavit, that it decided to express its regrets by telephone.
So NYOAG got out of the deal as the problems with its participation were raised in court. Two of the last three AGs that NYU touted — AGs that NYU eventuated boasting of their participation in a December 13, 2017 press release — actually turned tail as scrutiny picked up. Neither NYU nor any AG has bragged of the tie-up since, despite that they continue offering money for hires.
Either no new AGs joined, or no new AGs are willing to publicly admit it. A good LTE would have done more than draw further attention to the concerns raised in the Horner/Toensing piece without dispelling them. A useful LTE, or long overdue journalism, would let the public know which of these is the case.