CEI Report Details Campaign to Privately Fund State Attorney General Offices to Advance Climate Change Legal Positions


The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) today released a report, “Law Enforcement for Rent,” detailing how activist donors are paying to place prosecutors in state attorney general offices to pursue an expressly partisan agenda.

According to the author, CEI Senior Fellow Chris Horner, private interests underwriting the law enforcement power of the state raises ethical, constitutional, and other legal questions.

“Public records obtained by CEI show a pattern of law enforcement offices turning to off-the-books payments for privately funded lawyers to push a political agenda that was roundly rejected at the ballot box by the American people,” said Horner. “The scheme raises serious questions about special interests setting states’ policy and law enforcement agendas, without accountability to the taxpayers and voters whom these law enforcement officials supposedly serve.”

These public emails and documents reveal the details of an unprecedented, coordinated effort between environmental groups, plaintiffs’ lawyers, and major liberal donors using nonprofit organizations to fund staff, research, public relations, and other services for state attorney general offices. One nonprofit uses a center, established by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to pay for Special Assistant Attorneys General (SAAGs) for the AG offices that agree to advance progressive legal positions. Offices that have taken on board a privately funded prosecutor are Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Senior attorneys from the activist AG offices have even flown in to secretly brief prospective funders of another nonprofit, Union of Concerned Scientists, which has recruited AGs and served as their back-room strategist and advisor on this since at least 2015.

Records show this campaign to use the legal system to achieve political goals began as an informal coalition in 2016. That coalition disbanded under pressure from open records requests and media scrutiny. Eventually, it morphed into this new scheme to privately fund and place prosecutors in offices that promise to use “additional attorney resources” to “pursue progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions.”

“Members of this coalition have already abused their law enforcement power by targeting opponents of their political agenda. They subpoenaed CEI in 2016 for a decade worth of private documents and donor information, trampling our First Amendment rights,” said Horner. “Fortunately, CEI took them to court and they backed down. Now, records show, others such as New York’s AG sought private funding specifically to pursue climate investigations. This mercenary use of state law enforcement power should be the subject of prompt legislative oversight.”

Note: The public records cited in this report were obtained over two and a half years from open records requests, and in some cases, by court order after some attorney general offices stone-walled the requests. CEI is releasing most of these documents here for the first time.

>> View the CEI report — “Law Enforcement for Rent: How Special Interests Fund Climate Policy through State Attorneys General