Newly Released AG Emails Reveal Anxiety Over Schneiderman-led #ExxonKnew Climate Investigations

Emails reveal early warnings that “Wild Card” NY Attorney General Schneiderman’s Climate-RICO crusade would get jilted by other AGs

From E&E Legal:

Newly released records show even ideologically aligned state attorneys general offices privately voiced concerns from the beginning of the abusive campaign to use anti-racketeering laws and other investigations to silence political opposition to the President’s climate agenda, a campaign spearheaded by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The unease was found even among AGs personally recruited to the crusade by Schneiderman’s office.

Emails just released by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) capture these concerns. One AG’s office, which bailed on Schneiderman, characterized him internally as a “wild card” after the March 28, 2016 organizational meeting in New York City. Other records just released show AG offices requesting that Schneiderman’s team back off of its rhetorical overreach about their efforts to date.  Still more seek restraint in touting the prospects that others would join in “investigations” Schneiderman called for using the AGs’ law enforcement powers to target dozens of conservative organizations and think tanks.

One email from Schneiderman’s office to another AG office acknowledges it received several requests to tone down its claims.  Yet, at the time of the March 29, 2016 Schneiderman-led press conference with former Vice President Al Gore, Schneiderman’s press office released a press release announcing “an unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement officials committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combatting climate change.” An InsideClimate News headline blared, “Climate Fraud Investigation of Exxon Draws Attention of 17 Attorneys General.” The Houston Chronicle reported “Multiple state probes into whether Exxon Mobil misled its investors and the public on climate change could expand to other fossil fuel companies.” A New York Times article stated, “Exxon Mobil Climate Change Inquiry in New York Gains Allies”

These stories resulted from continued Schneiderman hype of his support among peers which was difficult to swallow even at the time of the press conference. Politico, for one, reported on some of the concerns by AG offices. “A coalition of Democratic attorneys general on Tuesday promised new scrutiny of the fossil fuel industry, but most fell short of committing to investigations into whether companies like ExxonMobil deceived the public about the threat of climate change,” the Politico article began.

These newly released emails reveal how numerous of Schneiderman’s recruits had concerns with joining his investigation. Now, nearly five months later, the Schneiderman campaign has gone from the “Green 20”, or seventeen AGs depending on the report, down to apparently just Eric Schneiderman. As #ExxonKnew ringleader Bill McKibben stated in June, “Exxon is not really facing a blitzkrieg. Only two states have really had the courage to take on [Exxon].” Even this glosses over the inconvenient fact that the Virgin Islands AG was forced to withdraw his subpoena after targeting nearly 100 conservative groups and think tanks. “They were in over their head. They were going to get pounded and it’s good they are off the field,” Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at the Vermont Law School, said of the Virgin Islands AG’s investigation. Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, the only other AG to officially announce an investigation, has put hers on hold.

“These emails help explain why Schneiderman found himself going from seventeen Doppelgängers one day, to being almost completely alone within mere weeks of his bombastic ‘publicity stunt‘ press conference with former Vice President Gore,” said Chris Horner, Senior Legal Fellow for E&E Legal. “His untethered political crusade was just too much for even like-minded activist AGs he personally selected. We now know they saw the warning signs early.”

In Their Own Words: AGs Retreat From Schneiderman

Since the announcement of the AG coalition in March, the Schneiderman-led campaign has suffered multiple setbacks, with the likes of the US Virgin Islands walking back their own investigation and Healey’s investigation put on ice. What these emails show, however, is that the AG offices were themselves expressing skepticism and concerns about the investigation, and its leader – so much so that the press conference had to evolve from talking up investigations to talking about shared political, “climate” goals.

Iowa and Delaware

The Iowa and Delaware attorneys general offices originally participated in the scheming, but told Politico in July that they declined to sign on to Schneiderman’s campaign after being briefed by environmental activists ahead of the press conference. It was Iowa’s Deputy Attorney General Tam Ormiston who sent an illuminating note back to his colleague in Des Moines immediately following the March 28 “happy hour” hosted by Schneiderman’s office to discuss their plans.

In a Monday March 28, 2016 email sent at 8:40 pm to the Iowa Attorney General’s Communications Director Geoff Greenwood, Ormiston wrote, “I just returned from the evening’s activities. I will update you tomorrow but clearly Eric is himself the wild card for all.”

This came three days after the first Iowa OAG email showing unease with Schneiderman’s scheme, sent the evening of Friday March 25 to Ormiston from another colleague, Subject: AG Climate Change Release for 3/29. In it, Ormiston’s co-worker wrote “Tam — Just talked with Tom [Miller, Iowa AG]. He thinks we may be locked in on this and have to ride it through.”

Ride it through Iowa’s AG did, until immediately after the get-together to announce this inherently political campaign cloaked in the abuse of public law-enforcement office.  The scheme was too much for Iowa’s Miller, and the March 30 email from Schneiderman’s office laying out the accepted division of labor shows Iowa had volunteered for neither work group (Exxon/Fossil Fuel Company Investigations, or Roadblocks to Renewables, as shown in a previous release from an earlier E&E Legal open records production).

Virginia and Vermont

Other emails from the Virginia and Vermont OAGs express concern, respectively, with Schneiderman’s overstatement both of reality and of likely participation in his scheme.  Vermont objected to the Schneiderman effort to get other AGs to agree to “return documents of which we have taken possession under our state law [without being] ordered by a court to do so”, and also the suggestion that it “[tak on an affirmative obligation to always litigate” requests for public records relating to the scheme.

Before the March press conference, the office of the Virginia AG expressed anxiety that a draft press release suggested the AGs would be working together on investigations. “At this point, we don’t know what we’re going to agree to, or really what Virginia’s laws and our authorities could allow us to do, so it makes me nervous to say we’ve ‘agreed to work together on key investigations,'” wrote Michael Kelly, the Director of Communications for the Virginia AG. “Is there any room to dial that back one notch?” he asked.

Schneiderman’s office acknowledged it had been hearing concerns about that bombast from other offices as well.  Now, months later, most or maybe even all of the originally participating AGs appear to have backed away from any interest in using racketeering laws against political opponents of their climate agenda. Indeed, even at the onset the Vermont OAG suggested the entire event should be scaled back to avoid publicity and instead focus on allowing the state AGs to learn more about the legal basis for Schneiderman’s investigation. Obviously that idea was scrapped when it was made clear that the entire investigation is part of a public witch-hunt to intimidate Schneiderman’s ideological opponents.

Bottom Line

The Vermont AG’s office isn’t alone in questioning the legal basis for or propriety of Schneiderman’s campaign. Just this week, Columbia Law Professor Merritt Fox wrote in the National Law Review to express doubt that Schneiderman’s investigation would find any evidence of fraud. “It is really about the attorney general acting as a champion in the fight against global warming,” Fox wrote.

These newly released emails show the other state AGs were getting cold feet even before the March 29 press conference announcing their coalition. It began with email exchanges showing concern for Schneiderman’s penchant for PR bombast, which they had to “ride out”, to noting Schneiderman himself was the “wild card” for anyone going along with his scheme.

Schneiderman’s handpicked AG partners sensed early on that they were props to bolster the ranks within his crusade, and they began to distance themselves, after first urging his office to focus more on the facts and less on the optics. The coalition has struggled to hold itself together from the moment it was announced, with allied AGs refusing to sign on to the division of labor, then the purported, if obviously improper “Common Interest Agreement”, then drifting away from the crumbling coalition.

Instead of his political targets deceiving the public, it is Eric Schneiderman who has misled his supporters into thinking his investigation was widely supported — that is, viewed as credible, and as he sold it — by his peers in his own coalition. “Today we’re sending a message that at least some of us, actually a lot of us in state government are prepared to step into this battle,” Schneiderman said in March.  In fact, most of his allies were wary of publicly aligning themselves with Schneiderman at all, let alone hitching their wagons to his star.  The investigations began with Schneiderman and in just five short months he has watched his support collapse, such that he once again stands alone in his crusade to harass his political opponents under the guise of upholding the law.


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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64 thoughts on “Newly Released AG Emails Reveal Anxiety Over Schneiderman-led #ExxonKnew Climate Investigations

  1. As a non-American I have to ask: wouldn’t doing that in an election year potentially backfire horribly against Democrats?

    • No because it is not reported by the liberal bias press. In addition, as with many who know little science but believe in CAGW, too many voters in this Country understand that the government is their only hope of receiving other peoples money and property. It is now hopeless and a once great Country is being trashed into a socialist mess to the detriment to everyone except the elite.

      • One paragraph still reads funny to me
        “Potential investigations into whether fossil fuel companies mislead investors and the public on the impact of climate change on their businesses.” It still seems to me that it should read “The Impact of their businesses on Climate Change”

      • It is now hopeless and a once great Country is being trashed into a socialist mess to the detriment to everyone except the elite.

        Both parties have conspired to ship good paying jobs offshore with NAFTA and TPP. Now Hillary wants to put the remaining coal miners out of work. This is hardly a workers’ paradise.
        Each party is working for its own version of the elite and doesn’t give a hoot about the rest of us … of course they say different.
        The Democrat party likes experts a lot. They are heading for central planning for everything a la USSR. I refuse to call it socialism because it doesn’t work for the benefit of the workers, it puts them out of work. Ultimately it won’t work for anybody.

      • Bob,
        “I refuse to call it socialism because it doesn’t work for the benefit of the workers, it puts them out of work.”
        I feel for ya about this in a sense, as I am often frustrated by folks here (and elsewhere) using the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘progressives’ to speak of what to me are illiberal regressives , , but with any “controlled” society, there is of course that ever present danger that the controllers will flip that switch, so to speak.
        Unfortunately, there may not be any way to actually implement what you are thinking of as socialism, in the long run, because it involves much Governmental control.

      • “I refuse to call it socialism because it doesn’t work for the benefit of the workers, it puts them out of work.”
        That’s what socialists claim to want, however the end result is always the same. Poverty for everyone except those who run the asylum.

      • It isn’t socialism or communism. In reality it’s a Technocracy they’re building. A place where those “in the know” dictate to those who aren’t. Their failure is in the science they profess, which is non-existent. The goal is power, pure and simple. They can’t “save the planet” for anyone other than themselves and they have no intention to. They will continue to fly their Gulfstream IV’s all over the world and say nothing of it. They will continue to build mansions on the beach. Note the acceleration in the price of beach property has gone down. No mystery there.
        Socialism is pure fantasy and unicorn poop. They have no love for the “working” class or any other class for that matter. They’re in it for them. No mystery.

    • Democrats, True Believers, like our Warmistas, are not put off by small details, like lying and fraud…

      • …Ummm, well ,Just look at who their presidential nominee is, the biggest liar and fraudster that has “EVA” existed ! Liberals have no morals, IMHO…..

    • You give the average voter too much credit. Much more serious scandals and corruption are routinely ignored. Our political system has become a sports event where “your team” can do no wrong, and “their team” can do no right.

      • MarkW
        August 17, 2016 at 10:31 am
        And winning means you get free stuff paid for by anyone who has more than you do.

        The real burden of paying for all this affects mostly the poorer sections of society in my mind. Certainly from a percentage of disposable income point of view.
        It is similar to the solar panel scam where the people who can afford to install panels benefit from the contribution of those who cannot afford it.
        SteveT

      • MarkW
        August 17, 2016 at 10:31 am
        And winning means you get free stuff paid for by anyone who has more than you do.
        From a percentage of disposable income point of view, I think that the poorer people pay more for the “free” stuff.
        SteveT

      • SteveT: The bottom 50% of income workers only pay about 1% of all income taxes paid. The top 10% pay over 50% of all income taxes paid.

    • If it was given more coverage, definitely. However, the spin was generally positive, “stop the deniers”. However, support quickly died out.
      The reason is that it undercut their support among lawyers, who could see through this prosecution quickly, and it even shook up the media. The media holds freedom of speech in very high regard (for obvious reasons), and any hint of attack on it. This prosecution did also swing several people who were on the edge into believing the conspiracy is real. After all, we don’t even prosecute the anti-vaccine lobby, and they actively kill people. The tortured logic necessary to consider this fraud made people question why this was being done.

  2. AG Schneiderman may have unwittingly opened the door for conspiracy charges that could be (should be?) leveled against the participating AG’s themselves!

  3. As long as some politicians see a political gain in touting global warming, they will tout it. Surprisingly the opinion of the majority of the people is rarely of political concern. The U.S. is too evenly divided. The politicians cater to the fringes whose small number of votes can swing an election. So, unfortunately, we will be hearing about global warming long after the vast majority of Americans no longer care (which is right about now).
    Eugene WR Gallun

    • Eugene WR Gallun
      August 17, 2016 at 10:41 am
      …. So, unfortunately, we will be hearing about global warming long after the vast majority of Americans no longer care (which is right about now).
      Eugene WR Gallun

      Shouldn’t we be getting the message across to the “vast majority” of everyone that they SHOULD CARE, as it is THEM who are paying the enormous price for the global warming shenanigans.
      The enormous cost of global warming will “necessarily skyrocket” depending on the result of the coming election.
      SteveT

  4. Slight correction…
    ” “[tak on an affirmative obligation to always litigate” requests for public records relating to the scheme.”
    As per the letter, it should be ” “tak(ING) on an affirmative obligation to always litigate requests for public records relating to the scheme.”…No need to print this….

    • ..Dang, I forgot the parenthesis on the last part…D’oh !! No wonder no one ever listens to me…….

      • Marcus,
        It isn’t parentheses that are the problem, its the content – mostly snarky one-liners. Try posting something thoughtful and substantive and you may find people pay attention.

      • ..OMG..Anthony, where do you see “SNARKY” in that comment ? When I inform you, or whoever the post is from, about corrections, it is because I do not want others to use it against you or you Guest Poster….and you know who I mean by “Others”…I love your website and I promote it at EVERY website I go to but honestly, your dislike for me is getting unbelievable..Maybe your taking my self degradation in my comments as a personal attack on you or your website or your guest posters, but I really don’t see how ! I am very confused by YOUR snide remarks in return…If you do do not want me to return, just say so…I will follow Janice’s and Vic’s path…Because I am on “Moderation” , I accept that some of my comments may take twelve hours to go through, making them useless..(on weekends, so it is understandable with all your other problems) BUT…I …AM …NOT…THE…ENEMY… ! Your fear of “Looking Bad” to Alarmists like Moocher and BenBen and Simon etc is what I try to help you avoid…..They are the one’s that will grab any misstatement OR misspelling you or your Guest Posters make and run with it !! Sorry for the rant, but it is really confusing !

        • Sigh….you aren’t looking at the larger picture of your behavior.
          Your comments are mostly one-liner and snarky. That’s the point. You want respect? You want people to pay attention to you? Then take my advice and try making comments that have substance.
          Otherwise it’s just noise that requires you to be on moderation to weed out some of your worst ones. I really don’t care what you [or] anybody else think – it isn’t about who is the “enemy” or who isn’t. I’m trying to maintain some sense of decorum, and quite frankly the majority of your comments don’t help. You seem clueless about how your own comments look.

  5. Notice the one letter where they spelled through as “thorough”? I have noted that most lawyers are terrible spellers and that is why the pay legal secretaries so much.

    • .” and that is why the pay legal secretaries so much.”
      .”They” ?…lol…sorry, I couldn’t resist !! Must be a defective (corrective ?) gene hiding in my body somewhere…It always locks on to typing errors no matter what…except my own of course..D’oh !

      • philjourdan, you think that’s bad, try correcting someone for a spelling error and then making a spelling error in your correction !!..Been ther, done that !! LOL ( I hope that wasn’t too “SNARKY” )

  6. Schneiderman’s latest episode of lawfare should draw a countersuit to deter anyone else from trying to copy him. The Ku Klux Klan Act would be appropriate, either under the civil or criminal sections.

  7. The NY AG should be counter sued for malicious prosecution. This is serious stuff. A Congressional investigation may get his attention as well. When you have ideological warriors coming after you with the law fighting back is the only acceptable response.
    Any update on Shukla etc al….

    • Last I knew Lamar Smith had the attention of the Inspector General for the NSF, and had discussed an audit of the use of any funds obtained indirectly from the Federal Government. These things generally take time. An audit, if it is in progress, is seldom discussed publicly. It makes more sense legally and politically to let the results of the audit do the talking.

  8. The deed is done! The AGs involved in this affair are known. Excuses for their actions should not be accepted.

    • True Barbara, but take note they (the 17 AGs) listened to what the N.Y. AG had to say. He used them in a publicity stunt. Most of these State AGs seem to have backed away after re-thinking the issues. This is right and proper. I do not have any problem with the fact that they agreed to listened and I am please with the fact that they found problems with the N.Y. AG’s scheme. In this instance I commend them, even if the they believe differently the I on the subject of AGW.
      Cherish reason in the mind of your enemy, you will not always have that luxury
      michael

  9. I am pleased to see that a large number of AGs still believe in the Rule of Law – so much so that they refuse to follow Schneiderman closely lest he fall under the bus.

  10. [Vermont objected to the Schneiderman effort to get other AGs to agree to “return documents of which we have taken possession under our state law [without being] ordered by a court to do so”, and also the suggestion that it “[tak on an affirmative obligation to always litigate” requests for public records relating to the scheme.]
    I thought I was seeing things at first, but then asked my lawyer daughter if this did not constitute a case of world class sleaze. She agreed.
    What we’re really witnessing is the creature Schneiderman not only expecting the other attorneys general to help him cover his own fleeing fanny by breaking their own state laws (i.e. returning his own grotesque documents to him absent a proper court order), but also even presuming to instruct them in stone-walling any future, bona fide information requests into his scheme’s sordid details by refusing to honor such requests short of litigation (!) Truly disgusting. Downright Mannish…

  11. So how good is the relationship between Hillary and Schneiderman? What might his influence be if she wins?

  12. The fundamental rule for prosecutors is to see that justice is done. Mr. Schneiderman, your path ahead should be clear to you.
    ===========

  13. I believe that Attorney General Schneiderman has committed a conspiracy to deny civil rights as per 42 U.S.C. § 1983

  14. I love New York. We just got convictions and federal prison sentences for our erstwhile Assembly Leader and Senate Leader. Mayor DiBlasio in NYC is under federal investigation for corruption, as are many people around the governor. So AG Schneiderman doesn’t want to miss out on the fun. So why not abuse his power to scheme up some political witch hunt? I think New York is called the Empire State because we the people get lorded over like colonial subjects by our imperial masters

  15. Article: “Now, nearly five months later, the Schneiderman campaign has gone from the “Green 20”, or seventeen AGs depending on the report, down to apparently just Eric Schneiderman.”
    LOL!
    Article: “These emails help explain why Schneiderman found himself going from seventeen Doppelgängers one day, to being almost completely alone within mere weeks of his bombastic ‘publicity stunt‘ press conference with former Vice President Gore,” said Chris Horner, Senior Legal Fellow for E&E Legal. “His untethered political crusade was just too much for even like-minded activist AGs he personally selected. We now know they saw the warning signs early.”
    Even a non-Lawyer could see this was an assault on U.S. citizens First Amendment Free Speech Rights. The surprise should be that so many AG’s signed on to this in the first place.

  16. “Roadblocks to Renewables” might as well be any utilities commission in any state that stands in the way to protect rate payers.

  17. ” focus more on the facts and less on the optics.”
    Whoever came up with this idiotic misuse of the word “optics” should be taken out and shot, twice.

  18. When Hilliary becomes President, these tactics will become the new normal and will proceed unhindered. She will get her revenge on all who dare to resist her agenda. Woe… GK

  19. AG’s acting as lobbyist’s should be illegal .
    Who funded this NY AG ? How and when did Al Gore get involved ?
    Why was the NY AG acting as a lobbyist while on the payroll of NY State ?
    Who printed up the “AG’s For Clean Power ” lobby sign ? Whose budget did that sign
    and the travel costs of attending AG’s come out off ? They should be investigated for theft if any tax payer money was used to fund their lobby and they should be disciplined if they are doing lobbying while on the payroll of their respective States .
    Is this the first time these people have acted as lobbyist’s ?

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