A conservative legal group is asking Vermont lawmakers to punish the state attorney general for his handling of a public records request regarding a high-profile investigation into Exxon Mobil.
Attorney General T.J. Donovan’s office decides whether to respond to public records requests for partisan reasons, according to the D.C.-based legal group, E&E Legal. The group said lawmakers currently reviewing the budget proposal for the Democrat AG’s office should punish the alleged political partisanship by reducing its budget.
E&E Legal told the Daily Caller News Foundation earlier this month the AG’s office admitted recently in court to googling the group’s name to determine its political bias. E&E Legal brought Donovan to court to try to force the AG into forking over information related to his investigation against Exxon Mobil. The court has not yet made a decision in the case.
“[The AG’s office] admitted in open court that it ‘googled’ E&E and concluded that the appearance among commentators of keywords such as ‘coal’ and ‘Exxon’ suggested E&E might have views different than its own and such a group possessing further public records would not be in the best interests of the State of Vermont,” E&E Legal said.
The AG’s Office told a judge in March it’s in the best interest of Vermont’s taxpayers to keep the requested records secret, and that it was appropriate to Google the names of those seeking the records to add “context.”
According to E&E Legal, however, Donovan’s claim runs contrary to a Vermont public records law that stipulates public requests should apply equally to all requesters. The state’s legislature should consider penalizing the AG until he follows that law, the group said.
“When it comes to public records requests, Vermont has a proud tradition of following the letter of the law as intended by the legislature,” Craig Richardson, the group’s president told TheDCNF. But “unfortunately” Donovan began using looking to for ways around the wall, he said, adding: “This is not the Vermont way.”
E&E Legal believes the AG was trying to find ways of scuttling its attempts at gathering communication involving Donovan’s ill-fated campaign against Exxon Mobil, an oil company some believe hid knowledge about global warming. New York AG Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey have engaged in a nearly year-long investigation into Exxon’s climate change research, which has led to civil suits against the New York and Massachusetts AG offices.
The Exxon probes ushered in a slew of inquiries from other AGs, the bulk of whom have since dropped their pursuits. Many of the lawmen, including Donovan, bailed on the campaign out of concern that Schneiderman, a Democrat, was pushing an agenda.
E&E released a large cache of internal emails between AGs in March, 2016, suggesting the anti-Exxon ranks were frayed, namely because of the New York lawman’s behavior.
Donovan’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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