EMBARGOED For Release
Until August 8, 2019 1 PM EDT
Contact: [email protected]
Citing to New Email Revelations, Illegality, & Bloomberg Center Admission of No Confidentiality, GAO Asks Court to Order Maryland Attorney General Frosh to Release “Application” Seeking Bloomberg-Funded “Special Assistant AGs”
Today the public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. (GAO) served a Motion for Summary Judgment (PDF here 2019-08-08 — Combined MSJ Filing ) in its Public Information Act lawsuit against Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. The suit seeks release of one document showing Frosh’s promises to a major, activist political donor to obtain supplemental, private funding for specific uses of the Office of Attorney General on issues of concern to the donor.
Frosh is the only Attorney General — among nearly a dozen whose work is being underwritten by Democratic party donor and climate activist Michael Bloomberg — who insists his “Application” for Bloomberg resources must be kept from public scrutiny.
Today’s Motion draws the Court’s attention to several important emails obtained from AG Frosh’s Gmail account — which Frosh had not turned over to his Office until GAO specifically requested them. The Motion also notes a recent admission by the Bloomberg Center’s director further dooming the already risible claim of attorney-client privilege to hide those promises.
At issue is OAG’s refusal to release an unredacted version of its “application for the purpose of hiring special assistant attorneys general (SAAGs)”, submitted to a “State Impact Center” created by Bloomberg to support AGs to pursue a political agenda — “advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions”.
Bloomberg’s group privately pays and places attorneys in OAGs as “Special Assistant Attorneys General” (SAAGs), and provides other private resources and attorneys for friendly offices pursuing matters of concern to the donor.
Documents obtained this week show Frosh has taken in not one but two Bloomberg-funded activists, making this application of even greater public interest and importance. It is further important given, as GAO points out in today’s Motion, how other records clearly document that the first Bloomberg-funded prosecutor was brought on illegally.
OAG insists that this “application”, a plea for private activist funding of and other resources to promote specific use of this public office, is shielded from public scrutiny as “attorney-client privileged” material. This is not plausible for several reasons, as GAO points out. However, as GAO’s complaint noted, the illegal nature of the arrangement – falsely declaring the Bloomberg Center attorney to be “pro bono” in order to appoint him, after setting his salary for the work at $125,000 plus benefits – makes the record of even greater public interest.
Applications to arrange these relationships 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 is in court seeking to obtain records pertaining to that breathtaking confession. Oregon’s legislative counsel has declared that the scheme violates that state’s laws. New York’s Attorney General recently informed a state court that it terminated its relationship with the Bloomberg group after facing problems due to these “SAAGs’” participation in cases.
As GAO pointed out in today’s Motion, not only has no other jurisdiction claimed this “Application” for an activist donor to underwrite their OAG is privileged; OAG now faces the further complication of Bloomberg Center’s director insisting there is no duty of loyalty or confidentiality. This amusing twist came in response to a recent Wall Street Journal, oped by GAO’s Chris Horner and Victoria Tensing of GAO’s local counsel, DiGenova & Toensing.
AG Frosh’s GMails cited in today’s Motion show Frosh was in fact Bloomberg’s initial recruiter of AGs to this scheme, and that the Bloomberg group reports back biweekly to Bloomberg Philanthropies, as first revealed thanks to GAO in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial.
In recent years the tort bar has recruited state and local governments as plaintiffs. As their litigation faltered, some plaintiffs’ lawyers sought “a single sympathetic attorney general” to subpoena private records and provide a much needed boost to their stalled efforts. After that, billionaire activist and major Democratic Party donor Michael Bloomberg created his group to recruit and privately staff AGs to support his “climate” activism. One of those AGs is Frosh.
GAO’s Horner, who initially detailed the evidence about both the plaintiffs’ and Bloomberg’s climate schemes in his August 2018 paper “Law Enforcement for Rent”, says that “The public deserves to see any promises or other claims made by AG Frosh’s Office to a major party-donor’s group, particularly one soliciting AGs to bring on privately funded prosecutors to advance that donor’s agenda. Frosh – who actively used his Gmail account for this obviously official pursuit, only turning them over when we specifically requested them after learning of this – is the only AG claiming his “application” for private underwriting is privileged.”
Horner adds, “Across the country, we have found attorneys general offices deeply concerned about the public learning more about the influence of plaintiffs’ lawyers and activists in using those law enforcement offices to advance a political or financial agenda. Far too often these activist AGs make the public sue to obtain public records.”
GAO filed suit in March in Baltimore with local counsel DiGenova & Toensing LLP.
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
Reference court filing: 2019-08-08 — Combined MSJ Filing (PDF)