Secretary of State Named as Co-Defendant; Complaint Reveals Ex Parte Communications
Today, with local counsel Tim Cornell of Cornell Dolan, P.C., the public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. (GAO) filed suit against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey under that state’s public records law on behalf of the nonprofit group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA). The suit seeks to compel the AG to release documents shedding light on the use of law enforcement to advance private interests.
The two matters at issue are AG Healey investigating private parties at the urging of the plaintiffs’ tort bar and environmental activists, and her work with billionaire activist and major Democratic Party donor Michael Bloomberg in his attempt to capture AG offices to pursue his ideological agenda. Since August 2018 Ms. Healey has led the recruiting of AGs for a “State Impact Center” Bloomberg created to hire and place “Special Assistant Attorneys General” (SAAGs), and provide other private resources and counsel, for friendly offices to pursue matters of concern to the donor.
Healey has brought two Bloomberg SAAGs into the Commonwealth’s top legal office, but to date her Office has refused to release records reflecting what it promised Bloomberg’s group in return, such as its “application”. These applications can be revealing — already Virginia’s legislature has acted to ban its AG, Mark Herring, from following through on his written promise to use his office “to advance the agenda represented by” Bloomberg’s group. GAO has filed suit against that Office seeking to obtain records relating to the breathtaking confession. Oregon’s legislative counsel has declared that the scheme violates state law. Maryland’s AG plainly violated state law in appointing its Bloomberg “SAAG”. The public deserves to see AG Healey’s statements made to a major party donor to obtain privately funded prosecutors.
Healey’s office also refuses to produce six pages of emails it acknowledges exist from the critical January – April 2016 period when plaintiffs’ lawyer Matt Pawa was recruiting for “a single sympathetic attorney general” to subpoena private parties’ records, and give the activists’ desired tort litigation campaign a lift. Mr. Pawa clearly found his two AGs in Ms. Healey and then-AG Eric Schneiderman of New York. Recently, the NY OAG similarly refused to let the public see five emails with Pawa from the same period by implausibly claiming Pawa is a “whistleblower”.
For its part, Healey’s office claims that releasing any details of these six pages of emails, even just the To, From and Date fields, would “impact” its climate investigations and current or planned litigation to the point of derailing it. This claim seems to prove far too much.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Supervisor of Records is statutorily charged with reviewing administrative appeals of public records denials. As the complaint details, the Supervisor owed EPA a fair and transparent appellate process. It has refused to rule on EPA’s appeal for the emails with the tort bar about instigating AG Healey’s “climate” investigations. Emails and other records demonstrate that OAG successfully and repeatedly sought Ms. Murray ought to discuss those emails and OAG’s desire that they not be released for public inspection.
The complaint attaches documents EPA has obtained proving extensive ex parte communications between OAG and the Supervisor on the subject. The Secretary’s refusal to even rule on EPA’s appeal follows its bizarre self-reversal on the same emails, in a similar appeal, in the face of persistent behind the scenes pressure from OAG. OAG in turn relied on that reversal as its basis for denying EPA’s request. EPA details this in its complaint that therefore names both offices as defendants in this action.
The second ruling adverse to OAG occurred while OAG’s records officer, AAG Lorraine Tarrow, was out of town. Upon Ms. Tarrow returning to her Office to find this, the Supervisor of Records suddenly reversed its own thoughtful order which had detailed the appropriate law and precedent requiring release. This seemingly came out of the blue. Emails show that it did not.
Reflecting this culmination of OAG efforts to influence the Supervisor, AAG Tarrow, in an April 11, 2019 email to colleagues forwarding the reversal to colleagues, cryptically wrote of this remarkable turn of events, simply, “Any questions re: the route this determination took and/or the email below, let me know”.
GAO’s Chris Horner, who detailed the available evidence about both the plaintiffs’ and Bloomberg’s climate schemes in his August 2018 paper “Law Enforcement for Rent”, states, “Clearly, both Massachusetts’s and New York’s attorneys general are deeply concerned about the public learning more about how plaintiffs’ lawyers and activists influenced their pursuit of those who oppose a political agenda. It is just as clear that that is what these emails document.”
“I’m proud of the work EPA has already done bringing transparency to Attorneys General Offices across the nation,” said Matthew Hardin, Energy Policy Advocates’ Executive Director. “Now that we’ve been stonewalled in Massachusetts, even to the point of off-books discussions between the OAG and Records Supervisor, I’m glad we were able to team up with the experienced team at Government Accountability & Oversight P.C. to bring suit and shine the disinfectant of sunlight on these matters.”
The legal complaint:
Government Accountability & Oversight is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to transparency in public officials’ dealings on matters of energy, environment and law enforcement