Questions raised over links between donors, lawyers and state AG offices

By John Breslin | Sep 17, 2018

Free market thinkers and those who believe in some government intervention are involved in an increasingly sour battle over the issue of climate change.

And one political office now under focus are the attorneys general of the states, including Illinois.

The wrangle is over whether a state should become involved in suits against fossil fuel companies over accusations that they are financially responsible for some of the future costs of climate change.

But those that are adamantly against these moves counter with the question of how can direct liability, under any law and precedent, be pinned on any particular company. There is also the wider argument over the extent of human's culpability for climate change, and, among some, whether it is happening at all.

Into this charged debate comes Chris Horner, a senior fellow with the free market and liberterian think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Insitute.

Horner has been investigating the nexus between private donors, including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, lawyers, and attorney general offices in various states. And he does not like what he sees.

Donors are introducing plaintiff lawyers to attorneys general offices, which are then briefed on the benefits of launching "state causes of action against major carbon producers," according to a report authored by Horner and published earlier this month.

This is an "obviously mercenary use of law enforcement office," he told the Madison Record. There has been a campaign to release public records relating to the connections since a March, 2016, press conference attended by "nearly twenty state AGs, along with 'green investor' and policy activist Al Gore."

The conference was intended "to launch a campaign to use law enforcement offices to assist the climate litigation industry in going after opponents of their political agenda."

"That effort collapsed under the scrutiny of FOIAs and subsequent media attention, but was reconstituted and given a home late last year by Michael Bloomberg," Horner said.

"Since that announcement, I have been pressing OAGs for records detailing how such an obviously mercenary use of law enforcement office came about," he added.

"The report details this, and the adoption and extension of two funding models we discovered in the past year."

Donors, he said, "place privately funded staff in elected offices" and "fund a network of off-books staff, PR firms and report writers at the politicians' disposal, running it through a non-profit."

Kwame Raoul, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, has stated that protecting the environment is one of his priorities.

"The role of state attorney general has taken on heightened importance for the environment under a federal administration bent on rolling back emissions standards, enforcement actions against polluters, land and wildlife conservation, and our response to climate change," his campaign website states.

"Kwame will continue the current attorney general’s practice of working with other state attorneys general whenever appropriate to protect our environment and the rule of law."

His opponent, Republican Erika Harold, does not mention the environment on her campaign site. She promises to tackle public corruption, take a restorative approach to the criminal justice system and help ensure public bodies comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA);

She also wants to encourage workers' compensation reform, prevent harassment, and help combat the opioid epidemic.

She further states, "As Illinois’ chief legal officer, the Attorney General is required to follow the law and defend the constitutionality of Illinois laws when challenged in court. The Attorney General’s personal views regarding any particular law have no bearing on these fundamental obligations."

Raoul's other priorities include tackling sexual assault, domestic violent, and gun crime, defending a woman's right to choose, supporting health care, protecting voting rights, working on criminal justice reform, fighting public corruption, and backing workers.

The Democrat, who is predicted to win, though there are no recent publicly available polls on this race, has raised $3.7 million, $1.4 million of which has been contributed by unions and other labor organizations, according to votesmart.org, a non-partisan web site that tracks funding and candidate issues. A further $341,000 was contributed by lawyers and lobbyists.

Harold has raised $1.1 million, including $305,000 from Gov. Bruce Rauner's campaign committee and $233,000 from the Illinois Republican Party.

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Organizations in this Story

Citizens for Erika Harold Competitive Enterprise Institute Friends of Kwame Raoul Illinois Attorney General's OFFICE4352

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