EXCLUSIVE: Crusading AG Denies Talking With California On Anti-Exxon Campaign

Chris White | Energy Reporter

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has apparently not officially communicated with California about an ongoing probe targeting ExxonMobil, according to an email his office sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

California’s AG office has toyed with the media for nearly a year about the possibility of joining the years-long investigation into Exxon’s climate record. The admission also comes despite months of media coverage heavily implying Schneiderman is working to recruit California to join his probe.

“Please be advised that the Office of the Attorney General has conducted a diligent search and has located no records that respond to your request,” New York Assistant AG Michael Jerry wrote in a Dec. 29 email responding to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request TheDCNF made last year. Schneiderman’s office of public records has not responded to requests for further explanation.

TheDCNF filed the FOIL in July 2017 “requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of email communications” or documents between Schneiderman and California AG Xavier Becerra pertaining to the “Exxon Mobil climate probe.” The request asked for any communication between March 2013 and June 27, 2017.

The New York AG’s admission is unusual considering Schneiderman has consistently used a FOIL “law enforcement” exemption in the past to justify blocking public records requests pertaining to inquiries into his pursuit of Exxon.

He refused to hand over emails last year between his office and wealthy donors such as Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, and billionaire activist Tom Steyer. He claimed at the time that whatever communication he has with donors is part of the investigation.

California’s AG office, for its part, has continually played a type of rope-a-dope with the media when asked about the investigation. Becerra, a Democrat who became the state’s lead AG in 2016, for instance, took a page out of the playbook of his predecessor, now-Sen. Kamala Harris: he refuses to say if California is seriously considering leaping headlong into an Exxon probe.

“Understand that the last thing we want is to let people know what we’re doing,” Becerra told an audience at a town hall meeting July 2017. It was the first time that Becerra, who has never responded to TheDCNF’s request for comments about the probe, commented about the investigation.

Harris’ conservative critics claim that she used the ploy to drum up support among California’s environmental ilk. She wanted to maintain a safe distance from the probe for fear it might box her into a partisan corner.

Some of the attorneys general who considered opening probes have done the same. In one batch of emails obtained in 2016 by conservative group E&E Legal, Scot Kline from the Vermont AG’s office asks Schneiderman’s office in March 2016 to make a series of corrections regarding their March 29 press conference with Al Gore:

“On the ‘Exxon/Fossil Fuel Company Investigations’ can we drop the word ‘investigations’ from that so it would just be ‘Exxon/Fossil Fuel Companies’ working group. Not all of the states have yet opened a formal investigation and there is some sensitivity here (and I suspect in some other states) to saying or indicating that we have.”

Schneiderman’s pursuit, which was initially based on claims that the oil company downplayed for decades the severity of global warming to the public and investors, has morphed and evolved during its lifetime.

Much of Schneiderman’s probe was based on reports from liberal-leaning media outlets InsideClimate News and Columbia University, both of which claim that Exxon has known the risks of global warming for decades but kept such knowledge under wraps.

Recent stumbles and missteps have caused the crusading Democrat to shift the focus of his probe.

His most recent change, which focused on documents he believes show that the company used internal numbers to dupe the public, prompted the Washington Post to report June 5 that “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has gotten very far away from where he started in his office’s investigation into ExxonMobil.”

Exxon, for its part, has described Schneiderman’s investigation as a type of conspiracy theory drummed up for the purposes of gaining media exposure for future political gains. The probe is now merely speculation into Exxon’s financial dealings.

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