Republican attorneys general of Texas and Alabama have intervened in a lawsuit filed by ExxonMobil against a subpoena from Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker. The subpoena calls for several decades worth of documents to see if the oil giant was allegedly misleading the public about global warming.
“This case is about abusing the power of the subpoena to force Exxon to turn over many decades’ worth of records, so an attorney general with an agenda can pore over them in hopes of finding something incriminating,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.
Paxton, along with Alabama AG Luther Strange, filed a brief in Texas court in support of Exxon’s suit to squash Walker’s subpoena, which asks for decades’ worth of documents from dozens of conservative think tanks, more climate scientists and policy experts, which environmentalists labeled as global warming skeptics.
“It’s a fishing expedition of the worst kind, and represents an effort to punish Exxon for daring to hold an opinion on climate change that differs from that of radical environmentalists,” he said.
Walker subpoenaed Exxon and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, in March as part of a broader effort by largely Democratic attorneys general to investigate Exxon’s global warming tance.
Walker recently took part in a conference held by New York AG Eric Schneiderman in New York City where state prosecutors pledged to defend federal climate rules and go after Exxon and other companies for allegedly misleading the public on global warming. Schneiderman was the first state AG to launch an investigation into Exxon based on reporting by InsideClimate News and Columbia University.
Paxton and Strange’s brief argues “Walker’s Investigation appears to be driven by ideology, and not law, as demonstrated not only by his collusion with Cohen Milstein, but also by his request for almost four decades worth of material from a company with no business operations, employees, or assets in the Virgin Islands.”
“And it is disconcerting that the apparent pilot of the discovery expedition is a private law firm that could take home a percentage of penalties (if assessed) available only to government prosecutors,” they wrote.
The AGs reference to Cohen Milstein refers to the class action law firm Walker hired to handle the Virgin Islands’ Exxon probe. Cohen Milstein attorney Linda Singer, the former AG of the District of Columbia, has made a lucrative career for herself getting mostly Democratic attorneys general to work with her firm on big dollar class action suits. Cohen Milstein handles cases for AGs in return for a cut of the settlement. The firm could potentially make millions if Exxon is fored to settle with Walker.
“We agree with ExxonMobil that serious jurisdictional concerns exist, but to protect the fundamental right of impartiality in criminal and quasi-criminal investigations, we intervene,” the AGs wrote. “Thus, the use of contingency fees is highly suspect in criminal cases and, more generally, when fundamental rights are at stake.”
Paxton and Strange are the first AGs to intervene on the side of Exxon, though several others have come out against Walker and Democratic AGs for targeting Exxon because it’s not as alarmist as they are about global warming.
“I think what’s happening here is that after the states were stung by the loss in the Supreme Court that they are looking at additional measures to advance their policy ideas but that’s not what being Attorney General is about,” West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey said in an interview with InsideShale in May. “You cannot use the power of the office of the Attorney General to silence your critics.”
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