Climate Litigation and Politics 2020: A Tale of Two Media Blackouts - Climate Litigation Watch

Climate Litigation and Politics 2020: A Tale of Two Media Blackouts

Media mogul, climate activist and financier of the climate litigation industry Michael Bloomberg recently announced his candidacy for President of the United States. At the same time, a memo leaked about Bloomberg News’s plans to cover the Presidential election (or, in part, to not cover it). As laid out in a WaPo headline: Bloomberg News will avoid investigating Mike Bloomberg during his presidential campaign.

It’s slightly less self-serving than WaPo suggests, if more nakedly partisan. As CNBC put it, “Bloomberg News will not investigate Mike Bloomberg or his Democratic rivals during primary“.

CLW is disappointed not only because of the glaring conflict of interest (if mildly heartened by the atypical acknowledgement of political partisanship by a major media outlet).

More parochially, this eliminates one outlet among those that might, at least in theory, at long last take an interest in the remarkable arrangement chronicled here on CLW: Bloomberg uses his wealth to staff activist attorneys general to promote his agenda (just ask Virginia’s OAG if that’s the reasonable take-away) — which AGs report back to Bloomberg’s pass-through, which in turn reports back bi-weekly and in detail on the investment to Bloomberg’s foundation.

Substitute Trump (or Koch) for Bloomberg and Trump Foundation (or Koch Foundation) for Bloomberg Philanthropies to pressure test in your own mind whether this is something the media might typically find curious. It’s an easy call. Heck, even Bloomberg News might look into that one (we kid).

This means that only one presidential candidate will be subject to Bloomberg News “investigative journalism”.

Let that sink in.

Mr. Bloomberg owns a media empire, The Bloomberg Media Group

This includes television, print, radio, and digital media.

Arguably this does not turn Bloomberg News into, well, “Bloomberg News”. But it does advertise that the operation is, for so long as the 2020 campaign continues, in whole or in part a campaign enterprise.

Whatever implications arise from various long-standing Communication Commission (FCC) rules, such as the Equal Time Rule, we leave to the Trump campaign.

What’s more interesting is that Mr. Bloomberg is yet again at the center of an ethical conundrum for what he views as salvationist endeavors — Mr. Bloomberg has concluded that Pres. Trump, like climate change, is an “existential threat” that he has been called to stop.

That this non-candidate was using his influence and resources to stack state departments of justice and attorneys general offices with activists “to advance the agenda represented by” Bloomberg’s groups was already unprecedented.

Yet this breathtaking move received the same free pass from media scrutiny that Mr. Bloomberg’s news operation has now instructed its operation give his candidacy. Not just from Bloomberg News. The entire media establishment yawned (dare we say fawned).

Now we have a billionaire presidential candidate not just stacking law enforcement with activists to advance his agenda, but one with a media empire and an agenda, underwriting (and profiting from) investigating his most important opponent.

The combination of this scheme, and its originator running for president, is something of a test: is he immune from scrutiny that would be afforded his opponent, “because climate”, “because Trump”?

Consider this question in coming months, with the next state attorney general’s litigation for which Bloomberg-financed attorneys were provided Massachusetts’s, led by Mr. Bloomberg’s AG recruiter, Maura Healey. Or the “climate nuisance” litigation supported by Bloomberg-financed “Special Assistant Attorneys General”. Ask, is this how the media would treat this as it would if, say, it was Trump doing it? If not, how is the media’s blind eye toward Mr. Bloomberg underwriting ideological law enforcement any different than what Bloomberg News is doing for the 2020 campaign?


  1.  Miller, Philip (Feb 11, 2013). Media Law for Producers. CRC Press. p. 340. ISBN 9781136046025. Retrieved March 24, 2016.