When Eric Schneiderman and 16 other Democratic state attorneys general announced in March that they were targeting Exxon Mobil for its alleged heresy on climate change, they called themselves “AGs United for Clean Power.” A better name would have been AGs United for More Power. To great media fanfare, they unleashed a series of broad subpoenas designed to intimidate dissenters from the Obama orthodoxy on climate change.
One such dissenter was the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank that was hit in April with a subpoena from Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker. Mr. Walker sought a decade’s worth of emails and donor names regarding the think tank’s climate and energy work. But CEI fought back in the press and in court, and Mr. Walker withdrew his subpoena after he was countersued.
That’s not the end of the story. CEI still doesn’t know how this campaign came to be—and where it might still be headed. So on Wednesday the group headed back in court, filing a suit under New York’s freedom of information law to ask the ringleader of the AG coalition—Empire State AG Schneiderman—to produce “any common interest agreements” he entered into as part of this effort.
Specifically, CEI wants to know about any deal the AGs made with groups such as the Eco-Accountability Project, the Center for International Environmental Law and others. In other words, CEI wants to know which “private activists” Mr. Schneiderman was working with and what the terms of the deal were when he launched this crusade. This relates directly to the political and economic motives behind this government power play.
So far Mr. Schneiderman’s office has refused to cooperate with the CEI request. CEI’s lawyer says this is nothing more than an attempt to hide what the AGs were up to behind “a shroud of secrecy.”
Let’s hope a judge agrees. Mr. Schneiderman, his fellow AGs and their activist pals have been trying to use the law to punish people, businesses and institutions over a difference of opinion. This is the kind of abuse that public transparency laws were designed to expose.
Originally posted to The Wall Street Journal.