Tuesday - Nov 20, 2018

Secret deal among AGs to prosecute climate change ‘deniers’ challenged in court


ClimateChange_HL

by Kevin Mooney

By signing a “secrecy pact” with fellow Democrat attorneys general preparing to prosecute climate change skeptics, Rhode Island’s top law enforcement officer jeopardized free speech rights and government transparency laws, according to two legal organizations that have taken him to court.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s tactics in supporting President Barack Obama’s climate change policy violate state law guaranteeing access to public records, the two groups, Energy and Environment Legal Institute and Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, claim in their lawsuit.

If Kilmartin and the other attorneys general prevail in the deal to keep select details secret, the ordinary citizen will be the loser, Chris Horner, a leading critic of climate change orthodoxy, said.

By signing a “secrecy pact” with fellow Democrat attorneys general preparing to prosecute climate change skeptics, Rhode Island’s top law enforcement officer jeopardized free speech rights and government transparency laws, according to two legal organizations that have taken him to court.

“They sought to write themselves out from open records laws their legislatures saw fit to write them into,” @ceidotorg’s Chris Horner says.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s tactics in supporting President Barack Obama’s climate change policy violate state law guaranteeing access to public records, the two groups, Energy and Environment Legal Institute and Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, claim in their lawsuit.

If Kilmartin and the other attorneys general prevail in the deal to keep select details secret, the ordinary citizen will be the loser, Chris Horner, a leading critic of climate change orthodoxy, said.

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“It will mean that they can create privilege for what are otherwise public records, even when shared with ideological activists and donors, so long as everyone who wants to keep their scheming secret agrees in advance,” Horner told The Daily Signal.

The lawsuit, filed July 27 in Rhode Island Superior Court, calls for Kilmartin, a Democrat, to release records that were not previously disclosed in response to the legal organizations’ request in April.

At issue is a “Climate Change Conference Common Interest Agreement” that, email records show, Kilmartin’s representative signed along with representatives of 16 other state attorneys general.

In the past few months, leading political figures and academics who support Obama’s policy on climate change have called for prosecuting those who disagree under the federal law known as RICO—the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Congress passed RICO in 1978 for the purpose of prosecuting mob crimes, but now climate change activists want to use it against organizations, corporations, and individual scientists who are convinced that human activity is responsible for catastrophic climate change.

On March 29, like-minded state attorneys general calling themselves AGs United for Clean Power, held a press conference in New York with former Vice President Al Gore to announce formation of “an unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement” to “defend climate change progress made under President Obama.”

Kilmartin did not attend the press conference but released a supportive statement. On April 13, Energy and Environment Legal Institute and Free Market Environmental Law Clinic requested copies of correspondence in recent months “to or from” Gregory Schultz, a special assistant in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office who signed the common interest agreement with other state officials.

Schultz is a point of interest in the two groups’ suit because he was Kilmartin’s representative in preparations leading up to the press conference with Gore, according to the legal institute, which described the event as a “publicity stunt.”

‘They Didn’t Have to Turn It Over’

The groups hope to determine when the Obama administration’s allies first organized the “RICO scheme” against opponents of the president’s climate change agenda.

AGs United for Clean Power is led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and includes 25 states, cities, and counties. All but one of the 17 state attorneys general in the coalition are Democrats. Claude E. Walker, of the Virgin Islands, is an independent.

One of the email records released by Kilmartin’s office shows that Schultz agreed to sign off on a draft version of the “common interest agreement” in April. In it, the state attorneys general say they “share common legal interests” with regard to their climate change investigations and agree not to disclose certain information—prompting critics to call it a “secrecy pact.”

In their request for documents, the legal groups used the key phrases “RICO,” “climate denial,” “climate denier,” “climate risk,” and “Gore.”

The nonprofit organizations also asked for copies of correspondence between Schultz “and any employee(s) of the New York Attorney General’s Office,” dated from Feb. 15 through April 13.

“The [Rhode Island] Attorney General’s Office turned over some records, but in other cases claimed exemptions they shouldn’t have taken,” Chaim Mandelbaum, a Virginia lawyer representing the legal groups, told The Daily Signal. “What was particularly egregious is that they decided not to turn over an attachment to an email, and this email showed that [Rhode Island] and other states had decided to sign this common interest agreement.”

Mandelbaum continued:
This is the kind of agreement that’s signed among different parties when they are all part of the same litigation.
But there is no litigation. None of the states the attorneys general represent are actually suing anyone here, but they still have this agreement. What’s interesting in Rhode Island is that they didn’t say this [email] attachment was exempt pursuant to the law. They just said we didn’t ask for it properly and therefore they didn’t have to turn it over.

But Rhode Island’s Access to Public Records Act is written “so clearly” that the two legal groups had no choice but to take action against the attorney general’s “egregious stonewalling,” Mandelbaum said.

Otherwise, the lawyer said, Kilmartin’s office would be “permitted to undercut the very nature of opens records laws.”

‘Get Out of FOIA Free Card’

Horner, a lawyer and senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, told The Daily Signal that he sees Rhode Island fitting into a larger effort.

Horner, who is familiar with the suit against Kilmartin’s office, said “ideologically aligned” attorneys general and “certain outside activists” are trying to exempt themselves from laws, such as the federal Freedom of Information Act, that foster openness and transparency in government.

“They have sought to write themselves out from open records laws their legislatures saw fit to write them into, giving themselves a ‘Get Out of FOIA Free’ card for discussions of certain subject matters–not a suit or any discrete or even formal project, but instead broad, sweeping topics, so this [common interest agreement] is likely not worth the paper it is written on,” Horner said in an email to The Daily Signal. (Due to lack of space we were not able to run the complete story. To read the whole article, please visit: http://dailysignal.com/2016/08/08/secret-deal-among-ags-to-prosecute-climate-change-deniers-challenged-in-court/).