What if I told you that radical environmental foundations, run by billionaire extremists, deliberately insert and pay policymakers in governor’s offices and state attorneys general offices? What if I also told you that those staffers answer not to the governor or the voters or the legislature, but only to those extreme foundations? Doesn’t that seem a little fishy?
The latest scheme comes from a state that you might think would know better: Oregon. The Oregon Department of Justice hired attorney, Democratic operative, and former Portland city councilor Steve Novick as a “special assistant attorney general.” His job, according to OregonLive:
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has appointed the former Portland commissioner as a special assistant attorney general, her office announced Friday. Novick will work on cases dealing with clean energy, climate change and the environment. His position is funded by New York University.
New York University’s State Impact Center is funding environmentally-oriented assistant attorneys general in temporary two-year posts in several states.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that this new educational center at NYU School of Law gets its funding from Michael Bloomberg.
Oregon’s Senate minority leader, Jackie Winters (R-Salem), asked the office of legislative counsel to review the legality of the arrangement. Their response? It violates state law. Of course, the office of Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D-Portland) disagrees. The key statute says that the AG can hire special assistants, but “each assistant shall receive the salary fixed by the Attorney General, payable as other state salaries are paid.”
Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has investigated such schemes at the state level for years and has repeatedly sounded the alarm. These political appointments raise obvious conflict of interest and accountability concerns.
Amazingly, Oregon has been here before and doesn’t appear to have learned its lesson. You may recall how Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber resigned in disgrace in 2014. The resignation resulted from an influence-peddling scheme arranged by his live-in girlfriend, Cylvia Hayes, and her buddies at radical environmental foundations funded by Tom Steyer. That scandal included a political appointment in the governor’s office that was fully paid by Steyer’s Energy Foundation, and accountable only to Steyer. Their goal was to push extreme climate change legislation with little legislative oversight.
The arrangement in Oregon paled in comparison to similar schemes in California, Washington, New York, and others. The common denominator? Progressive Democratic governors pushing a radical global warming agenda.
The new arrangement, with attorneys general offices, also spans several states. In his report at CEI, “Law Enforcement for Rent,” Horner reports:
This paper details an extensive and elaborate campaign using elective law enforcement offices, in coordination with major donors and activist pressure groups, to attain a policy agenda that failed through the democratic process. The plan is revealed in emails and other public records obtained during two and a half years of requests under state open records laws. Most are being released now for the first time. Many were obtained only by court order in the face of a determined and coordinated resistance that one deputy attorney general foresaw, expressing early concerns over “an affirmative obligation to always litigate” requests looking into the effort. The paper details how donor-financed governance has expanded into dangerous and likely unconstitutional territory: state attorney general (AG) offices.
The plan traces back to 2012 when activists agreed to seek “a single sympathetic attorney general” to assist their cause. AGs began subpoenaing private parties’ records in service of a campaign of litigation against opponents of their climate policy agenda. The public records date to a July 2015 email in which Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists confided the group’s involvement with AGs.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, you may remember, doesn’t exactly have an unbiased agenda. According to the website Left Exposed:
The Union of Concerned Scientists is a left-wing advocacy organization that spreads unscientific alarmism about environment and energy topics. It is currently bragging about being a major architect and proponent of using the federal RICO Act against executives at fossil fuel companies and nonprofit think tanks, such as The Heartland Institute.
Despite the impression given by its name and the image the way in which the media portrays it, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is not a professional scientific organization; in fact, for a $25.00 donation, you can also become a “concerned scientist.” Though founded in 1969 by faculty, including some scientists, and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, UCS’ mission from the beginning has never been the pursuit of knowledge through scientific discovery. It has instead pursued left-wing advocacy on technology, environmental, and energy issues—regardless of what the scientific data have shown.
It supported a New York Attorney General investigation against ExxonMobil using the state’s outdated 1921 Martin Act, which has been called unconstitutional.
The “State Impact Center” is a project of billionaire Michael Bloomberg to, as the name makes clear, have an impact at the state level on his pet issue of promoting renewable energy and investigating those who oppose the ‘climate’ political agenda.The below documents, all obtained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) under open records requests, include OR OAG’s application for the privately donated lawyer (who is an employee of NYU, funded by Mr. Bloomberg). As the Oregon Department of Justice acknowledged in making this announcement, the Bloomberg project had approved OAG for the privately funded special prosecutor back in December.These documents show that, at NYU’s request, OR OAG had to first insist that if it only had more resources and lawyers than the legislature has given it, it would pursue more of those matters Mr. Bloomberg and his NYU project would like to see pursued.
Activist lawfare under the cover of state government. Coming to a state near you.
Jeff Reynolds is the author of the forthcoming book, Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy, due out early 2019. An entire chapter of the book is dedicated to such not-so-legal-or-ethical-for-that-matter schemes. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @ChargerJeff.