(Washington, DC) — The public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. (GAO), had a victory on Monday in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond (VA) in its effort to obtain what legal analysis could possibly lead Attorney General Mark Herring’s Office to declare to a group funded by billionaire climate activist Michael Bloomberg that the AG has legal authority to accept a Bloomberg-funded “Special Assistant Attorney General — in the words of Herring’s Office — “to advance the agenda represented by” Bloomberg’s group.
The Virginia Office of Attorney General (OAG) insists it has “no records” preparing or reflecting any such analysis, despite the remarkable claim that flies in the face of the Virginia State Code, and even the Office’s own Special Counsel Policy. GAO filed suit on behalf of Virginia citizen and taxpayer Chris Horner, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), under the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Climate Litigation Watch is a project of GAO.
On Monday, the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond ruled in favor GAO and against OAG’s effort to have the suit dismissed. The Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission is examining alleged abuses of the AG’s use of Special Counsels even as that Office claims to have no documentation supporting a breathtaking claim made in pursuit of donor financing for a Special Counsel — and public relations capacities, as well as other attorneys to be provided to OAG — to pursue matters of concern to the donor.
The Virginia Code and OAG’s Special Counsel Policy make clear that records should exist. The OAG’s own, written words to Bloomberg’s group suggest that records do exist. The Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct suggest that records certainly ought to exist.
“The Office of Attorney General claims there are “no records” supporting its novel legal claim, in defiance of the Office’s statutory authority as set forth by the legislature, that Virginia’s top law enforcement officer can privately finance the use of his Office “to advance the agenda” of a donor,” said Horner, GAO’s Executive Director and lead plaintiff in Horner et al. v. Mark Herring. “This is implausible. Who doubts that, if the NRA or National Right to Life sought to chair a Special Counsel “to advance the agenda represented by” those groups, an OAG analysis condemning the idea would exist, and be presented on its website for the world to see?”
GAO is also currently running ads informing Virginians of the OAG’s efforts to pursue issues on behalf of major political donor as part of a nationwide scheme placing privately funded special prosecutors in state attorneys general offices.
Government Accountability and Oversight, a 501(c)3.