CEI Sues the District of Columbia for Failing to Produce Records Under Freedom of Information Act

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The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) today sued the District of Columbia (DC) and the DC Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in DC Superior Court for ignoring seven CEI requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  These requests, dating back to October 2016, seek information relating to that OAG’s participation in a 2016 scheme to investigate opponents of the “climate” policy agenda, and its 2018 acceptance of a privately funded “Special Assistant Attorney General” for climate change, underwritten by billionaire climate activist Michael Bloomberg.

DC’s OAG acknowledged, then ignored each and every of the seven requests despite numerous reminders from CEI — each of which OAG also acknowledged, only to then disregard in blatant violation of DC’s FOIA law. That law requires responses within 15 business days. In extraordinary circumstances, OAG can take an extension of ten days. OAG decided the better part of valor was to delay for up to two years, and even then force CEI to sue to bring these records into the light of day for public inspection.

OAG participated in the 2016 scheme, announced with former Vice President Al Gore at a Manhattan press conference that March. That effort collapsed under public scrutiny and blowback triggered by FOIA revelations from other offices, beginning with Vermont’s OAG. Last year, Bloomberg donated millions of dollars to get the band back together, coordinated by a “Center for State Impacts” he financed at New York University. CEI detailed the scheme in “Law Enforcement for Rent: How Special Interests Fund Climate Policy through State Attorneys General,” which DC OAG eagerly joined and has refused to let the public see documentation of how its office came to be used this way.

“Public records obtained by CEI and other groups detail how the Bloomberg-funded scheme allows activist donors to pay to place prosecutors in attorneys general offices to ‘advanc[e] progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions’ after failing to gain approval through the proper, democratic process,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner. “Records that have been pried out of other OAGs to date show this and the aborted 2016 campaign, which led to CEI being subpoenaed, are both unprecedented, coordinated efforts between environmental groups, plaintiffs’ lawyers, and major liberal donors using nonprofit organizations to fund staff, research, legal work and public relations to advance a partisan climate agenda.”

CEI’s suit asks the court to order the DC government to comply with the law immediately and produce the records at issue in each of these seven requests. As CEI’s report made clear, this donor-funded scheme of law enforcement for rent raises both constitutional issues and ethical concerns and should be the subject of swift and serious legislative oversight.

You can view CEI’s petition here.