Environmental and advocacy groups on Thursday responded to recent reports that Republican attorneys general colluded with fossil fuel lobbyists to shield ExxonMobil from fraud investigations, saying the revelations were a clear case of industry corruption.
"Republican attorneys general are working for Exxon," said R.L. Miller, co-founder of Climate Hawks Vote. "Silly me, I thought they were supposed to be working for the people."
"RAGA is facilitating secret meetings between the profit-motivated fossil fuel industry and attorneys general...and then raising money from oil and gas companies to keep those same Republican attorneys general in office."
Center for Media and Democracy
The corporate accountability group PR Watch, part of the Center for Media and Democracy, on Tuesday published undisclosed notes from secret meetings held in July between the 13 Republican AGs and representatives from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), discussing the ongoing investigation into ExxonMobil's decades-long campaign to suppress climate science. The meetings took place at the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) annual summit in Colorado.
"The recently-exposed collusion between Republican attorneys general and fossil fuel lobbyists exemplifies exactly why we need to kick big polluters out of climate policymaking," said Katherine Sawyer, senior international organizer at Corporate Accountability International. "These attorneys general have a duty to serve the people, not the interests of fossil fuel corporations. It is unconscionable that financial contributions and closed-door meetings may have persuaded these attorneys general to turn a blind eye to Exxon's decades of climate deception."
In an audio recording of one of the meetings, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange introduces leading climate skeptic—and head of Donald Trump's energy team—Myron Ebell, who tells the audience, "So right now the climate inquisition is in retreat," naming a number of the Democratic attorneys general investigating the oil and gas giant with updates on their progress.
"It is unconscionable that financial contributions and closed-door meetings may have persuaded these attorneys general to turn a blind eye to Exxon's decades of climate deception."
Corporate Accountability International
"Claude Walker, the Virgin Islands AG has been pushed back. Maura Healey has been somewhat pushed back. Kamala Harris is running for governor and she has gone quiet at least for the moment. But Eric Schneiderman in New York has the Martin Act, which is much more powerful," Ebell says, referring to the New York law that gives a wide berth of power and discretion to AGs investigating financial fraud.
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Claiming Schneiderman had been "rattled" by a letter sent in June from Republican AGs stating that the Exxon investigation infringed on the corporation's First Amendment rights, Ebell added, "So we need to keep pushing that. We need to keep saying this is a matter of constitutional rights."
As the green groups noted in their response on Thursday, RAGA has also received more than $2.25 million in donations from the fossil fuel industry and assorted allies since 2015, including $100,000 from Exxon alone.
"The great irony here is that we have heard false cries from the Republican attorneys general about a conspiracy between environmental groups and the Democratic attorneys generals," said Nick Surgey, research director of the Center for Media and Democracy. "But these documents reveal a serious conflict of interest: RAGA is facilitating secret meetings between the profit-motivated fossil fuel industry and attorneys general to engineer pushback on investigations of ExxonMobil—and then raising money from oil and gas companies to keep those same Republican attorneys general in office."
Later in the recording, Strange closes out the meeting by telling the audience of lobbyists, "we appreciate your presence here and your participation in this debate. We are winning now. I think [that] our fellow AGs that are on the other side here have pulled back to say this is going to be a long, standing effort that we need to be engaged in and be diligent about it."
Jamie Henn, spokesperson for 350.org Action, said the recordings and other reports are "a smoking gun when it comes to fossil fuel industry corruption. These recordings are more evidence that Big Oil is bankrolling Republican attorneys general's attacks on climate legislation and the Exxon Knew investigation. It's just like Big Tobacco, but this time the entire planet is at stake."