The Rockefellers directly lobbied New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other state officials to launch a climate investigation into ExxonMobil, raising more questions about the role that the funders of the #ExxonKnew stories played in creating the campaign. In a column published by the New York Review of Books, David Kaiser and Lee Wasserman of the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) wrote:
“It is up to government officials, not public interest advocates, to determine whether ExxonMobil’s conduct has violated any state or federal laws within the relevant statutes of limitations. Recognizing this, the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) informed state attorneys general of our concern that ExxonMobil seemed to have failed to disclose to investors the business risks of climate change. We were particularly encouraged by Schneiderman’s interest in this matter, because New York’s Martin Act is arguably the most powerful tool in the nation for investigating possible schemes to defraud.” (emphasis added)
In a November 21 article, Kaiser told the New York Times that the Rockefellers had petitioned the government for this investigation, although he did not explicitly say at that point that it was Schneiderman who was approached.
“And we have exercised our right to petition the government for redress of grievances by informing elected officials about our concerns that in the course of its climate science campaign, Exxon may have violated the law. All of those rights are explicitly guaranteed to us by the First Amendment.” (emphasis added)
Additionally, Kaiser and Valerie Rockefeller Wayne of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) appeared on national TV last week to admit that they were the ones bankrolling the entire #ExxonKnew campaign, including the “news” outlets that have repeatedly disavowed any improper influence from the Rockefellers. As CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose reported, “The charities [the Rockefellers] run funded investigations that appeared in the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News.”
Is this why Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey have been aggressively fighting Freedom of Information Act requests and a federal judge’s discovery order, all of which may show that they have been operating under “bias or prejudgment” to conduct “bad faith” political investigations?
As the Washington Post reported when the discovery order was first issued, this “could open the door for an intrusive examination of Maura Healey’s internal phone records, other communications and depositions.” In other words, whatever communications the Rockefellers had with the AGs – including their direct lobbying to advance the #ExxonKnew political campaign – may soon be out in the open for everyone to see.
The recent admissions by the Rockefellers may be an attempt to blunt the impact of the scandal and reveal their collusion on their own terms, although that may not help Schneiderman or Healey, who suddenly find themselves in serious legal trouble.
Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, has recently come under scrutiny for working closely with wealthy donors. Emails show that Schneiderman may have used his investigation of ExxonMobil as a hook to secure campaign funding from billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer for his upcoming run for governor. Schneiderman actually called Steyer to discuss “support for his race for governor…regarding Exxon case,” according to one of the emails.
The timeline of #ExxonKnew events has also become more interesting. Schneiderman announced his investigation last year on November 4th and said that it had been going on for roughly a year. A FOIA’d email written by Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) – one of the activists who briefed the AGs ahead of their March 29th press conference with Al Gore – shows that contact had already been made with the AGs long before the InsideClimate News and Columbia School of Journalism hit pieces were published. As Frumhoff put it in a July 21, 2015 email, “we think there’ll likely be a strong basis for encouraging state (e.g. AG) action forward, and in that context, opportunities for climate scientists to weigh in.”
These new revelations show that it may not have been the activists, but the Rockefellers themselves, who got that ball rolling on #ExxonKnew last summer.
Schneiderman announced his investigation once the Rockefeller-funded hit pieces were out, providing him with the cover necessary to justify his witch hunt.