Leaked ‘Secrecy Pact’ document shows #ExxonKnew Attorneys General colluded to obstruct FOIA requests

From E&E Legal:

State AG ‘Secrecy Pact’ Aimed at Thwarting Transparency Laws Released;

E&E Legal Obtains Document From DC Following Litigation

Washington D.C. -The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) has obtained a copy of the purported “Common Interest Agreement” led by New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and signed back in late April/early May by 17 state and territorial attorneys general. The agreement, however, runs counter to what a traditional Common Interest Agreement may cover. It was clearly drafted to obstruct open-records requests, while these AGs carried out a political campaign against their critics. Worse, the AGs have been working hard to keep the agreement itself a secret.

“It’s baffling that these AGs feel they can trample on their own states’ public records laws,” said David W. Schnare, E&E Legal General Counsel. “If they truly believe that they are engaged in anything other than a purely political campaign, they should have no problem explaining to the public what they are doing and subjecting their activities to the scrutiny their legislatures demanded.”

E&E Legal obtained the purported Common Interest Agreement after months of making Freedom of Information Act requests. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which was targeted by the AGs’ campaign, also made direct requests. Finally, during E&E Legal’s litigation with the District of Columbia, the document was handed over. The time and effort it took to obtain the document; the arguments made to defeat efforts to obtain it; and the AGs’ reluctance even to acknowledge the existence of such an agreement, all raise more questions about what these AGs are hiding.

Signers of the Common Interest Agreement include: California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Washington State, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, US Virgin Islands, and Vermont.

Key Information about the Common Interest Agreement.

A Common Interest Agreement requires that there be 1) litigation, or the reasonable anticipation of litigation, 2) that the parties share a similar interest, and that 3) there be a clearly defined scope to the agreement. Here the AGs from many different states, apparently working with outside interest groups, came together to claim privilege for documents without the required shared reasonable anticipation of litigation, but in anticipation of open records requests.

While an AG may undertake an investigation, there is no evidence that most of these AGs have done so. In fact, the majority of the signatory AGs have disclaimed any investigation. Moreover, outside groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists and green-group lawyers with whom E&E Legal revealed are consulting with the AGs have no official role in a state-led investigation and therefore don’t share what would be considered a similar interest with the states. In other words, these are activists groups with a single focus and no interest in the collateral damage they do. The states are supposed to care very much about that. Yet it seems the AGs are seeking to keep their communications with such parties hidden from the public through the purported Common Interest Agreement.

Noted E&E Senior Legal Fellow Chris Horner,

“This is far less a proper common interest agreement than a sweeping cloak of secrecy, one this ‘informal coalition’ is trying to cast over all discussions of their use of law enforcement to impose the ‘climate’ agenda. Including with outside activists and even donors.”

He added, “It was drafted not in anticipation of any particular litigation but in obvious anticipation of open records requests. We have already revealed they’ve colluded on this use of their law enforcement powers to wage a political campaign with political activist groups and activist lawyers. This is wrong and in the end will be fully exposed. Perhaps that is why so many of the AGs have already walked away from this abusive campaign. It’s certainly why they are trying to keep it all secret.”

Common Interest Agreement is Overly Broad.

Common interest agreements must be tailored to specific legal actions, which the AGs’ agreement doesn’t do. It is overly broad and covers discussions related to numerous topics, including defending federal programs to “limit greenhouse gases,” or actions to prevent any delays to the implementation of renewable energy technologies, among other sweeping subject areas. This goes against common interest doctrine, as well as open records laws, which state legislators passed to keep AGs accountable.

The AGs’ agreement appears to be more of an effort to obtain a “Get Out of FOIA Free card,” rather than a suit or any discrete or formal project.

AGs Claim Privilege for Sharing Investigation Information with Select Outside Parties.

The agreement allows the AGs to share information with any outside party if agreed upon in advance by all signers. Given the extent that environmental activist organizations have helped orchestrate this campaign, E&E Legal has filed numerous public records requests seeking all records from the AGs’ offices suggesting, consenting, or objecting to the inclusion of any outside party in this cabal of abusive law enforcement offices. It is also seeking any information relating to the investigations that was shared with outside groups.

From the Beginning, AGs Were Concerned About Schneiderman Rhetoric; Months Later, the AGs No Longer Appear Interested.

Even from the beginning, particularly during the press conference in March with Al Gore, many AG offices raised concerns about investigations, as revealed in several open records productions obtained by E&E Legal. Now, months later, most of the AGs appear to have backed away from any interest in using racketeering laws against political opponents of their climate agenda. As a result, E&E Legal is seeking all withdrawals from the pact as provided for in the agreement. If an AG’s office has not withdrawn, it should explain why.

AGs’ Reasons for Keeping the Common Interest Agreement Away From The Public.

Prior to obtaining this document through litigation with the District of Columbia’s Attorney General, E&E Legal encountered a series of seemingly panicked and even unlawful excuses from the AGs’ offices to keep the public from seeing a purported deal.

For example, the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General claimed that attachments aren’t part of an email chain and therefore they didn’t have to disclose the agreement.

Perhaps the most absurd excuse came from Iowa’s Attorney General, who claimed that despite declining to become a party to the agreement, it was still covered by the common interest privilege. They also claimed that despite neither writing nor editing the agreement, that it was their attorney work product, so they didn’t have to hand it over.

“Attorneys general are supposed to be the ultimate guardians of the law in their states,” said Craig Richardson, E&E Legal Executive Director.  “Instead, these particular AG’s have abandoned this critical role and are actually secretly colluding to prosecute those who dare disagree with a political ‘climate change’ agenda pushed by their benefactors, making this action particularly egregious.”


The Energy & Environment Legal Institute(E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.

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100 thoughts on “Leaked ‘Secrecy Pact’ document shows #ExxonKnew Attorneys General colluded to obstruct FOIA requests

  1. As such, and given that do own minor XOM, I suspect I have standing to bring a suit against these folks under RICO. They have conspired illegally and caused harm to a company of which I am a partial owner. I doubt I can get a venue, but I hope somebody can. These aholes deserve to be thrown out of office and face a tort over this. Sadly, if the tort prevails, the taxpayers will probably pay the damages.

    • Article 1 section 10
      “No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.”
      Apparently, “no agreement” in our modern world means “some agreement”.

      • This technically is not an agreement between states, but an agreement between state officers.
        Admittedly not much of a difference, but big enough for a compliant judiciary.

      • without the consent of Congress, … keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace

        I always thought Texas was a special case because it had its own army and navy when it entered the union. I can’t find any evidence of that. Was I dreaming?

    • ShrNfr, don’t know how much information has been gathered about your company situation. But I hope you have plenty.
      My question is, is Greenpeace now running the U.S.?

      • It’s running the Democrat party.
        And Democrats run the bureaucracy, which means they run the government regardless of who is in the White House and Congress.

    • I’m waiting for an AG in a sane (conservative) state to file a RICO complaint against the stopExxon group for using illegal tactics designed to increase energy prices in their respective state. The energy companies (and you, as a shareholder) are not the only ones subject to damages caused by this attempt to hobble the oil industry; every person in the country would be adversely affected.

      • Individuals were also part of this Exxon “investigation” which could be a very serious issue/problem. People can be “brought to their knees” as well as corporations.

      • Bill McKibben and Gus Speth have known connections to Greenpeace.
        Gus Speth and Al Gore have a known association that goes back awhile.
        Al Gore at the press conference with AGs to launch the Exxon “investigation”
        All just coincidence?

    • Well there goes the entire American West Coast. Governor Moonbeam’s California was to be expected, but there are enough ex-patriots moved to Oregon and Washington States to escape the California they themselves created, that those green States are no refuge from the crazies.
      Of course both Oregon and Washington have long had their own ecoloons, so they never were a safe place for freedom.
      G

      • Californian born ecoloons long ago took over Oregon, they started back in the 70’s if not even earlier. They came in saying “We ruined our state, we wont allow you to ruin your state”.

      • Yes, measuring the thickness of the Teflon coating. It’s at least as thick as Hillary IRS. Dollar to donuts, it’s at least as thick as the administration’s ideological whims, which gets these attorneys general off the hook.

      • Alan, us old guys need to change our comparisons. When donuts were a nickel, dollars to donuts meant a sure bet. Now that donuts cost a dollar….. 🙂

    • Why? Hillary has not really suffered any consequences beyond some finger wagging from the FBI director for being “careless.”

  2. The “Culture of Corruption and Dishonesty” …. is deeply imbedded in both the US Federal and most every State government.
    Two thousand (2,000) years ago, Flavius Josephus got it correct when he wrote the following, to wit:

    Now I cannot but think, that the greatness of a kingdom, and its changes into prosperity, often becomes the occasion of mischief and of transgression to men, for so it usually happens, that the manners of subjects are corrupted at the same time with those of their governors, which subjects then lay aside their own sober way of living, as a reproof of their governor’s intemperate courses, and follow their wickedness, as if it were virtue, for it is not possible to show that men approve of the actions of their kings, unless they do the same actions with them. (Flavius Josephus – 37- 100 AD)

    • The “Culture of Corruption and Dishonesty” …. is deeply imbedded in both the US Federal and most every State government.
      Yes, this is true. It stems from the Warren Court’s illegal decision of “one man, one vote” where the Supreme Court interfered with the inner workings of State government, an area that was not part of their jurisdiction. In any state or nation, the centers of corruption are always the cities, and the Warren Court turned State Government over to these cesspools of corruption. Until then, the Agricultural counties, in general, controlled the Senates of every state while the House represented the interests of the cities. Compromise and negotiation ruled the day, and corruption was held to a minimum. Since all things became controlled by the centers of corruption, so too did the political parties, and thus we live in this wonderfully corrupt and unresponsive nation that we now do. When you can buy a vote for a quart of beer, you pretty much can do whatever you want in the cities.

      • Tom, you are looking with rose colored glasses on a passed golden age that never existed. Besides, refusing to redraw electoral lines after population changes was effectively creating a landed elite. Remember “no taxation without representation”? How is giving a wealthy man with hundreds of acres equal or more power to a hundred people in a city who might hold an eighth of an acre each?

        • You misunderstand what congress is composed of. The House of REPRESENTATIVES was and is one man one vote. But since the US stands for United STATES (note the plural), until the 17th Amendment, it was the States voice (not the peoples). The US was a concept similar to the EU. The 17th Changed that. However, the 10th Amendment clearly gave the States the majority of power. Until the SCOTUS over turned it.
          So with the exception of Nebraska, each state followed the original lead of the US. That is, the areas of the state were given a body in the legislature, and the people the other body. But the greater power was with the House (the representative part).

    • And apparently we still don’t understand the process any better than Flavius Josephus did. So that every time, we’re caught by surprise when the results come in. This is getting rather tedious.

  3. I’m sorry but that smug holy expression on Al Gore’s face gets my Irish pioneer Daughter of the American Revolution blood broiling hot! If you ever encounter such an expression on a politician, run like hell to the voting booth and get him/her “fired”. It is the epitome of malevolent benevolence, the worst kind of governance there is. It is the “I know better what is good for you” kind of leadership that either leads to revolution, or to such a weakened nation that it is easily taken over by an invading entity.
    Politicians should be about this: We are here to protect your freedom to do what you think is best for yourself and your family. And that’s it! We don’t need no stinkin smug Al-Gornanny form of government!
    Damn. Don’t get an Irish lass mad!

  4. In the new America, these guys are above the law.
    That’s one of Obama’s ‘transform America’ things.
    A wild success.

  5. I was going to joke about us eventually finding out that Anthony has already been put on “double-secret probation” but I’m no longer so certain that’s a joke.

  6. I am simply disgusted that FOIA law, theory and practice is not an issue in the current US political campaign. “Richard Windsor” and private email servers in the bathroom closet and officials with two or more email accounts and just refusals-in-general … if the law is too broad, argue to change it. Otherwise, argue to comply. To ignore the law-breaking is corrosive in the extreme

    • Is Richard Windsor related in any way to Richard Stands ? He’s the chap that the pledge of allegiance says the whole Republic is for.
      Dunno what it was that he did to get so privileged.
      g

      • Richard Windsor is the alternate e-mail address that a previous EPA director had set up for her so that she could conduct business that would not be found by a FOIA search.

      • Yeah, that was Lisa Jackson who was forced to resign from the office, but sent off with Obama singing her praises, as if she were a hero rather than a criminal in contempt of congress. Go figure.
        Of course, Gina McCarthy is worse.

    • As I recall it was the name of her dog, and she also got away with corrupt practices including turning the state of NJ into a once very wealthy state with significant income into a green state that struggles to pay it’s bills with all the burdens of green concepts and meanwhile staring a movement where the rich and business leave the state.
      She resigned to avoid potential prosecution as I recall

  7. So some AG’s are so confident that what they are doing is “right” that violating the actual written law is unimportant??? All of these AG’s need to be fired and disbarred for life. Their judgement cannot be trusted!

    • Unethical behavior has now become business as usual even within the Department of Justice. This court order reveals the unethical culture – a great read:
      STATE OF TEXAS, et al., versus UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et. al. – Court order
      “Therefore, this Court, in an effort to ensure that all Justice Department attorneys who appear in the courts of the Plaintiff States that have been harmed by this misconduct are aware of and comply with their ethical duties, hereby orders that any attorney employed at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. who appears, or seeks to appear, in a court (state or federal) in any of the 26 Plaintiff States annually attend a legal ethics course.”

      • In several recent, high profile cases, the so called Dept of Justice has been caught withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense team.
        Of course the case is thrown out by the judge, but not before political careers are ruined, which was of course the whole purpose behind the prosecutions.

  8. It is a felony for 2 or more people are parties to conspire to infringe upon the free-speech rights of Americans (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1985). There should be a federal class action lawsuit filed in court to stop this insanity. Law professor Glen Harlan Reynolds wrote much about this.

    • @JP – the left has never recognized Citizens United, so they do not see it as a Free Speech issue (although even if they did, they would not hesitate to collude against it).

  9. Progressives ignore the law? They conspire to suppress the truth? They commit idolatry and create a culture of death while trying to establish a utopia? They are corrupt to the core?
    Shocked, I am! Shocked!
    /sarc

  10. As a side note, the U.S. federal debt, now at nearly $20 trillion, represents the largest consumer fraud ever perpetrated on a people in the history of planet. All these progressive AGs are full-speed-ahead for gov’t at all levels borrowing (stealing) ever more money they never intend to pay back. Yet, the progs think we humans can control the climate, whereas a financial crisis is an unfathomable, natural event like a tornado or flood that can’t be foreseen…and certainly nobody would go to jail over it. Who knows, some may even get $100’s of millions of dollars in bailout money for a crisis they caused. Now that’s some good flood “insurance”.

  11. Meanwhile, Mr. Scott Johnson, in an effort to obscure and obfuscate the AG
    conspiracy drama draws his readers’ attention to the FoIA battles in Arizona
    and Virginia. This comes out the same morning as the E & E Legal post:
    http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/08/two-recent-court-decisions-make-climate-scientists-e-mails-public/
    You right to information and data, paid for by your tax dollars to public
    institutions an laboriously created by public employees is ignored.
    Pass the popcorn, please, and hold the butter.

  12. Here is one solution: come November just one of these states needs to get a new governor that will dump the current AG regime in their state and force the new AG to provide any and all emails pertinent to this agreement and then help someone prosecute them for illegal activities.

    • One of the bigger problems is the coalition of governors on the west coast states – CA,OR, WA – basically conspiring to block almost any type of energy – green or otherwise, but particularly oil and coal – from being generated in their states or passing through their ports.
      This is, I believe, why popular Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber was sacrificed – his (much younger) girlfriend, a grifter named Cylvia Hayes (who has a trainload of dirt behind her – paid mock marriages for illegal immigrants, spending the money on illegal pot grows, conning some old man out of his money – that sort of thing) ham-handedly inserted herself into the collusion, via influence peddling (and my personal opinion is that she was trying to get personal access to Tom Steyer’s money – we may never know because Oregon judges keep blocking the release of Kitzhaber’s e-mails – and where have we heard THAT before) and in helping to ramrod her green agenda through. She was famously quoted by one of the governor’s staffers (who didn’t seem to understand why this non-official bimbette was ordering them around), ‘I don’t work for the state. I work for the Earth’.
      I happen to think that Kitzhaber didn’t receive the immediate and total protection normally assigned to Democrat politicians by the press, because they didn’t want anyone looking too closely at the machinations behind the scenes – most pointedly with Governor’s Brown, Insley, and now Kate Brown Oregon – which basically amounts to a conspiracy to shut down private industry and one of the nation’s primary power sources.

      • And in the back ground Soros and copmpany ( Obama included) is buying up stock of failing coal mines and Buffet is buying railroads. Does that tell you anything?

  13. Just say “No” to thugs — even if they do have a law degree.
    In my book, anyone who knowingly breaks the law is a criminal. Nobody should get a ‘free pass’ just because they wear a badge or are given a prestigious title such as Attorney General. Indeed, those given such responsibilities should be held to higher standards than the common citizen.

    • And no one should be above any law, not even the ones that wrote them. Congress should never be allowed to pass any laws that they themselves are above.

      • yeah? so we should still be subjects of the crown, is it?
        and paying that tea tax, too?
        if you put laws above principles, you are not a real man.

  14. Just a curiosity,
    Why is the Plural form of “Attorney General” “Attorneys General” and not “Attorney-Generals” when even the abbreviated form is “AGs”???

    • The “general” in “attorney general” is an adjective that modifies the noun “attorney”. The plural attaches to the noun, not the adjective.
      You may find something else.

    • Because General is a noun modifier in this case– like an adjective. The noun being modified is Attorney. Nouns have plurals. In English, modifiers don’t.

      • Sometimes, but not always. The famous German beer purity mandate law from 1516 is das Bierreinheitsgebotgesetz. Works because of das Bier and das Gesetz. Aka der Reinheitsgebot, works because of der Reinheit and der Gebot. But note one is neutral, the other masculine gender. Compounding can muck up der die das gender if not matched up beginning ending, which has spillover effects on adjective and adverb gender forms and other stuff like ‘the’: ein, eine, eins. I think English is a lot easier. Fewer rules, few genders (ships are shes), less noun compounding. No umlauts.
        Ich spreche doch Deutsch. Sogar Bayerische Deutsch. von Bismarck sagte, “Bayern, was liegt zwichen Oesterreich und Civilization.” Er sagte auch, “Schwitzer Deutsch ist eine Halztkrankeit.”
        [The mods note that, the longer that message became, the more German it became. .mod]

        • I did not say it did not mess with the gender – only removed the need to worry about adjective versus noun in plurals. But then I guess you just proved that Germans were ahead of the curve on “transgender”. 😉

    • Yes, ‘general’ is used as an adjective. It’s one of the few logical phrases in the English language. Unlike some others, in the English language adjectives typically precede the noun. This, I believe, is contrary to logic. Consider describing something to someone (especially orally). If you were to say, “the huge, grey, angry,” at this point, what’s in your mind? The phrase could end up with anything from mouse to elephant. Otoh, if you said, ‘the mouse, huge, grey and angry,” the reader/listener could build a mental image, modified as each word is spoken.
      So the attorneys general is like saying the elephants huge.

      • The penny just dropped (same for both Englishes) that the trailing adjective tends to apply to legalese. Trailing from the coats of a previous Latin/French/Norman ascendancy. A holdover, albeit interesting.

  15. Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) are bankrolling every organization involved in the broader climate RICO campaign

  16. No surprise this. Hiding from FOIA sunshine usually means there is something to hide.
    Here, we already knew what that was, going back to the 2012 Scripps conference headed by Naomi Oreskes and sponsored by UCS, proceedings available on line as further evidence. Merchanys of Doubt analogy to big tobacco, which fails immediately to any thinking person. Tobacco kills. Oil and gas give us transportatiin, heating, and electricity. There has been no provable harm. Models wrong (missing hot spot, discrepancy to observed temps, discrepancy to observed sensitivity), no delta extremes, no SLR acceleration, Arctic ice still there, no ocean acidification because of buffering and biology, coral bleaching a natural symbiont exchange process, renewables failing with penetration owing to intermittency…
    The blowback to this stunt has already been enormous, and could get much bigger as this is just more evidence of AGs criminal comspiracy under 18USC241 and civil liability under 42USC1983 and/or 1985. Exxon referenced both its Texas federal court motions to quash the Massachusetts and Virgin Islands subpoenas. Because of the peculiarities of New Yorks Martin Act, they blizzarded Schneiderman with information, probably all carefully vetted and packaged by an army of Exxon lawyers. At a minimum,,they will be able to show the UCS on line background materials relied on by the AGs are taken out of context or just plain false. Schneiderman takes them to court, he will get embarassed and the CAGW delusion exposed for what it is.

    • RE: Tobacco analogy – Thanks to all those AsG, look at all the lives saved by making cigarettes illegal and all the money set aside for the free medical care of former smokers. What? Cigarettes are still on the market and government is cashing in with very high taxes? They spent the money on other stuff? OK, never mind.

      • Rick C PE
        August 4, 2016 at 9:16 pm
        RE: Tobacco analogy – Thanks to all those AsG, look at all the lives saved by making cigarettes illegal and all the money set aside for the free medical care of former smokers. What? Cigarettes are still on the market and government is cashing in with very high taxes? They spent the money on other stuff? OK, never mind.

        The REAL tobacco analogy – “You can carry on with whatever dangerous/dodgy/immoral racket as long as we get our cut (taxes). Typical mob behavior”. This is real RICO territory.
        SteveT

  17. “United for Clean Energy” says it all. It is fully beyond the workplace description of any Attorney General.
    They may, after hours, form a group of concerned citizens under such a topic. Doing this during their taxpayer-paid office hours, this is ridiculous and abuse of power.

  18. If these attorneys general were really interested in finding wrong doing, they would have gone right to an investigation instead of a press conference by a bunch of mediawhores.

  19. Signers of the Common Interest Agreement include: California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Washington State, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, US Virgin Islands, and Vermont.
    No, the signers were PEOPLE, with names…. Name that appear on ballots.
    Why the reluctance to not publicize their names at every opportunity?

  20. I love it! These AG’s have stirred up a hornet’s nest.
    If Trump gets elected, some of these people might *really* be in trouble.
    If Hillary is elected, these AG’s will initiate more investigations and intimidations of skeptics, with a green light from the White House and the DOJ.

  21. Could I bring charges or a civil suit as a resident of one of these states whose AG conspired to break the law of my state while having the highest responsibility to uphold that law? (Asking for an imaginary friend with enough resources to do it. Where the bleep is the ACLU when civil liberties actually need defending, anyway?)

  22. Seeing the names of the states involved, they seemed oddly familiar. I have just read the book by Art Laffer called An Inquiry into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States. Of the 50 States these 17 States consistently turn up in the lists of either highest levels of Personal Income Tax, highest burden as a share of Personal Income, States experiencing the highest levels of de-population, highest levels of unemployment and, finally highest levels of welfare. It seems to me that in those states there are bigger problems than climate change although it is no doubt a welcome distraction.

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