Behind the Green Revolving Door: Illinois AG Lawyer Makes it Official, Goes In-House - Climate Litigation Watch

Behind the Green Revolving Door: Illinois AG Lawyer Makes it Official, Goes In-House

In a recent report published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — “Law Enforcement for Rent: How Special Interests Fund Climate Policy through State Attorneys General” — Chris Horner revealed a curiously collaborative relationship between state attorneys general offices (OAGs) and the green pressure group Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

UCS is at the center of a climate litigation industry reflecting the work of plaintiffs lawyers, major donors, green groups and elected AGs.

  • The group co-hosted a 2012 session at which the plan to recruit “a single sympathetic state attorney general” to begin subpoenaing private records to help the climate industry turn energy into “the new tobacco”.
  • UCS later turned up in emails obtained in litigation, confessing to be quietly advising AGs on a litigation strategy to impose the climate agenda that has failed through the proper democratic process.
  • Recently, UCS hosted a “secret meeting” with AG attorneys to brief the group’s “prospective funders”.

Now it turns out that the lawyer who was instrumental in bringing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan into this climate litigation industry, Environmental and Energy Counsel James Gignac, has put an end to his own intriguing relationship with UCS while toiling inside Illinois’s top law enforcement office. UCS’s website reveals Mr. Gignac has formally gone to work for the group he had collaborated so closely on those matters, the very same Union of Concerned Scientists.

To recap the ties as laid out in “Law Enforcement for Rent”, this collaboration included a recent UCS board member and major donor to green groups and the Democratic Party named Wendy Abrams bringing plaintiffs lawyers in to OAG, expressly to recruit Ms. Madigan to the climate industry.  Emails show Mr. Gignac ran point for OAG on this briefing (See, e.g., “More on Exxon. I will go to this meeting and keep you posted.” March 10, 2016 email from Gignac to OAG colleagues Matthew Dunn, Elizabeth Wallace, Andrew Armstrong, Subject: FW: background information).

Soon after that briefing, Gignac flew, at UCS expense, to participate in a briefing by senior OAG attorneys and the same plaintiffs’ lawyers for the very same UCS. For example:

“Travel assistance would come through UCS; I am copying Nancy Cole, the Campaign Director of their Climate & Energy Program” (March 28, 2016, email from Harvard Law School’s Shaun Goho to Gignac and IL OAG colleague Matthew Dunn; Subject: SAVE THE DATE—HLS/UCS Meeting on April 25, 2016);

“Hi, Arlene, UCS is able to cover all travel costs including hotel and ground transpo” (April 6, 2016, email from Gignac to Arlene Maryanski, copying Dunn; Subject: SAVE THE DATE—HLS/UCS Meeting on April 25, 2016);

“All travel costs will be covered by the Union of Concerned Scientists” (April 6, 2016, email from Gignac to Maryanski; Subject: SAVE THE DATE— HLS/UCS Meeting on April 25, 2016)


As UCS’s Peter Frumhoff wrote to another presenter, the meeting was for “prospective funders” (March 14, 2016, email from Frumhoff to Prof. Phil Mote; Subject: [I]nvitation to Harvard Law School—UCS convening.).

This curious arrangement led to some internal puzzlement at IL OAG. For example:

“Hi James: Am I missing something? I see you want to stay overnight, ‘returning on April 26.’ I also see in the e-mail exchange that you asked for ‘airfare from Chicago.’ Who is going to pay for the hotel? How about taxi to and from? Please advise.” (April 6, 2016, email from Arlene Maryanski to Gignac, Subject: SAVE THE DATE—HLS/UCS Meeting on April 25, 2016).


In an April 4, 2016, email from Gignac to Dunn and Cara Hendrickson, Subject: SAVE THE DATE—HLS/UCS Meeting, we find:

“Matt [Dunn], I believe I can make this travel work. [I]f you approve, Arlene can get me started on the paperwork. [TWO LINES REDACTED] Cara, as background for you, we were invited to participate in this meeting in Boston with Harvard Environmental Law Clinic and Union of Concerned Scientists and some sate AG offices—related to Exxon and climate issues.”]

Soon after that interesting use of public office, Gignac proved instrumental in bringing IL OAG into the Michael Bloomberg orbit, cited as the man with the plan in the Office’s (successful) application to have a Bloomberg-hired “Special Assistant Attorney General” brought in under his supervision to pursue climate matters of importance to Bloomberg.

“James Gignac is the Office’ s Environmental and Energy Counsel and reports to the Environmental Enforcement Division Chief. James also coordinates with the Public Interest Division Chief and Public Utilities Bureau on energy -specific matters.” (September 15, 2017, IL OAG application to NYU “Center for State Impacts”).


And now, Gignac and UCS make the relationship official.


Read the entire report  here, and see the source documents in the report’s index, here.