Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is in the hot seat over her use of two privately-funded attorneys in her state government office whose work is focused on clean energy, climate change, and prosecuting oil and gas companies. The attorneys are paid via a $6 million grant from billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and have connections to the #ExxonKnew campaign.
Unlike standard state government employees, these attorneys aren’t drawing a salary from taxpayers. Instead, their salaries and benefits, which in some offices are known to exceed $100,000, are paid by Bloomberg’s activist environmental group housed at New York University, calling into question what promises have been made to whom in exchange for their work and whether their loyalty lies with the state or the activist group that pays their salaries.
Healey now faces a lawsuit over this arrangement, filed by Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. (GAO) on behalf the nonprofit Energy Policy Advocates (EPA), which is seeking correspondence and documents related to the hiring and work of these attorneys.
Bloomberg Funding Lawyers in Attorney General Offices Around the Country to Pursue Climate Litigation
Massachusetts isn’t the only state where Michael Bloomberg is paying to have lawyers work in attorney general offices. An investigation by RealClearPolitics revealed there are at least eight other states including New York, Virginia, and Illinois that have lawyers working for attorneys general paid for by Bloomberg’s group.
“The 14 current fellows in the program report to the attorneys general, but they are paid by NYU’s Bloomberg-funded State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. State AG offices hire these trained lawyers – not students but seasoned professionals with years of experience – as special assistant attorneys general. Under terms of the arrangement, the fellows work solely to advance progressive environmental policy at a time when Democratic state attorneys general have investigated and sued ExxonMobil and other energy companies over alleged damages due to climate change.”
While RealClearPolitics notes it’s not unusual to have fellowships like this, it’s the special arrangement that draws controversy: “Although many government agencies have employees funded by outside sources, critics say using special interest money for targeted government action is inappropriate.”
Healey Refused to Release Public Records
The lawsuit filed by GAO and EPA is seeking information about how these attorneys were hired and the work they’re paid to do – information that Healey has so far refused to release.
Chris Horner, an attorney at GAO, is pressing Healey for answers on how she’s using her Bloomberg-funded attorneys to pursue goals aligned with Bloomberg’s organization. Horner told InsideSources, “When a major political donor like [Mike] Bloomberg asked the Massachusetts attorney general to lay out how she would use her public office to pursue issues of concern to a donor, and paid for the two mercenaries she has so far brought in to assist her climate campaigning—what did she tell him?”
Now Healey is getting cover from fellow government agencies according to Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham. Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s Supervisor of Records initially concurred that the documents should be released but then completely reversed the decision.
“In an interesting twist, Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office is also named in the lawsuit over its alleged role in the document cover-up.
“As Horner told me Monday, ‘Massachusetts has terrible politics, but great laws.’ And one of those laws lets Galvin’s Supervisor of Records review public records request denials. So when Healey refused to disclose the requested documents claiming it would endanger ongoing litigation, Horner went to the Rebecca Murray, the Supervisor of Records. Murray ruled on April 8 that there was no reason the AG’s office couldn’t at least release redacted copies of the emails.
“Then, just two days later — and after much back channel conversation between the AG and Secretary of State’s office — Murray suddenly overruled herself and, without any explanation, backed Healey’s play.”
Birds of a Feather Flock Together
But why is Healey so intent on keeping these records private? It might be because she has brought on these fellows paid by an outside activist group at the same she’s talking with Matt Pawa – a leading attorney in the #ExxonKnew campaign. Michael Graham spells it out:
“For months, Chris Horner of Energy Policy Advocates has been trying to get Healey to release documents about her office’s relationship with Bloomberg’s group. He also wants to know about emails Healey admits having — but won’t release — between her office and infamous plaintiff’s attorney Matt Pawa. Pawa has made no secret of his desire to extract billions from ExxonMobil and other energy companies the same way lawyers got rich off the $200 billion Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in 1998.”
EID Climate has reported before exactly how Matt Pawa has played a leading role creating and carrying out the #ExxonKnew campaign by recruiting friendly attorneys general, including Healey, to investigate and sue ExxonMobil.
Like Massachusetts, the New York Attorney General’s Office also has two Bloomberg-funded attorneys and is suing ExxonMobil. The office will be going to court later this month to keep its communications with Pawa private.
Other States Have Questioned Legality of Bloomberg Arrangement or Even Banned It
But Healey and her fellow state attorneys general may be running of out time to use their Bloomberg embeds. Oregon’s Legislative Counsel determined that the arrangement between the Oregon Attorney General and the Bloomberg program “does not comply” with Oregon’s laws. Virginia went even further, with the General Assembly blocking the arrangement by inserting an amendment in their 2019 budget to require all attorney general employees to be paid exclusively by public funds.
Additionally, GAO has filed suit against the Maryland Attorney General, Brian Frosh. They accuse Frosh of unlawfully hiring a Bloomberg fellow because the attorney general lacks the statutory authority to do so.