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CEI Sues Virginia Attorney General Seeking Information on Privately-Funded Prosecutor

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Virginia citizen Christopher Horner and the free-market public policy group Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) today sued Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond, aims to:

  • Reconcile contradictory positions of the Office of Attorney General (OAG) regarding its claim to an activist donor that OAG has the legal authority to bring on board a Special Assistant Attorney General (SAAG) who is actually employed by that donor.
  • Obtain records underlying that claim, and any relating to OAG’s review and determination of ethical matters inherent in entering the unprecedented, highly-conflicted arrangement which OAG sought in writing on September 15, 2017. OAG claims it has none.

Attorney General Herring requested an attorney whose salary and benefits would be paid by a non-profit recently created by billionaire climate activist Michael Bloomberg to pursue, out of OAG, specific issues that are the focus of Mr. Bloomberg’s activism.

The Bloomberg “Center for State Impact,” established at New York University (NYU), subsequently approved the OAG request for a privately-funded special prosecutor for climate and renewable energy. The newly-minted position was set to be paid $81,500 per year, as an employee of Mr. Bloomberg’s Center, working on Center priorities out of Virginia’s AG Office.

As a condition, OAGs committed to the non-profit that special assistants would focus on “advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions” favored by Mr. Bloomberg. 

The CEI petition notes that as part of OAG's application for a donor-funded prosecutor, OAG certified it has the legal authority to bring on board non-employee attorneys funded by Bloomberg’s activist Center to advance a climate change agenda pushed by the Center. OAG also certified there are no gift or professional responsibility impediments. In response to CEI’s Freedom of Information requests, OAG claimed it has no records showing that it ever produced any such analysis, opinion, or conclusion supporting its legal assertions.

“Given the apparent prohibitions in the Virginia code against this arrangement, not to mention due process concerns, it is inconceivable the Commonwealth’s top legal office claimed authority to do this without considering whether it’s legal,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner, who submitted the requests for CEI. “We seek confirmation if this is the case and to find out how the OAG could claim to have ‘no records’ responsive to these requests.”

In a recent report, Horner and CEI detailed Virginia’s effort to join an extensive campaign using AG offices, in coordination with major contributors and activist pressure groups, to enforce a policy agenda that the American people already rejected through the democratic process. View the report, “Law Enforcement for Rent” and extensive appendix of source documents posted on CEI.org and ClimateLitigationWatch.org

“This donor-funded scheme of law enforcement for hire, using public office to expend resources not appropriated or approved by the AGs’ legislatures, raises conflict, statutory and significant constitutional issues as well as ethics concerns. These serious concerns should be the subject of prompt and serious legislative oversight,” said Horner.

Read the petition here.

Review Exhibit 1 here
Review Exhibit 2 here
Review Exhibit 3 here