A liberal watchdog group erroneously claimed a cabal of Republican attorneys general held an undisclosed, secret meeting in Colorado with oil lobbyists on how to beat back crusades directed at global warming skeptics.
Left-wing nonprofit group Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) released audio recordings Sept. 23 supposedly showing the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) engaging in undisclosed meetings with fossil fuel lobbyists at a summer summit in July. The meetings, according to CMD, were meant to brainstorm ways to defeat the probes targeting Exxon Mobil.
The truth behind CMD’s claim is more complicated. The energy analysts involved with the supposed subterfuge actually disclosed the meetings a month prior at a separate public discussion, which was attended by some of Washington, D.C.’s most influential media outlets.
CMD is also funded by one of the main groups pushing investigations into Exxon, the mega-wealthy Rockefeller Family Foundation (RFF). CMD did not mention its ties to RFF in its actual report, though it does disclose RFF funding on its website.
Ironically, RFF had its own secret meeting with environmentalists in January, The Wall Street Journal reported in April. RFF’s effort was part of a multi-year campaign to bring racketeering charges against Exxon for allegedly withholding knowledge about global warming from shareholders and the general public.
The anti-Exxon probes are the result of a series of investigations in 2015 against Exxon conducted by Columbia University and InsideClimate News. Both of these groups are funded by RFF.
The billion dollar trust fund donated $25,000 to InsideClimate News, under the explicit understanding that it would be used to target Exxon’s record on climate issues.
Those on the receiving end of RFF’s ire were present at the July meetings.
CMD claimed RAGA members colluded with fossil fuel interests at a July meeting in Colorado during a titled “Climate Change Debate: How Speech is Being Stifled.”
Myron Bell of the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Chet Thompson, president of the oil lobby group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), participated on the panel, according to CMD. Both CEI and AFPM have been frequent targets of activists pushing for probes targeting global warming skeptics.
The RAGA, however, was made public during an on-the-record breakfast panel discussion in June that was attended by highly-touted journalism outfits such as Bloomberg, Politico, Morning Consult, and The New York Times. The Daily Caller News Foundation also attended the discussion.
The June 15 breakfast featured Thompson, who talked about the particularities associated with fossil fuel divestment, and voiced concerns that the RFF-funded probes violated the free speech rights of those in the energy industry. He participated in the July panel as well, apparently giving presentations to various Republican attorneys general reflecting the position he etched out in June.
Thompson told reporters at the breakfast that he would be on the July panel, undercutting claims of secrecy leveled by CMD.
“AFPM is not a partisan organization and we make no secret that we routinely meet with groups from all points of the political spectrum,” Rebecca Adler, a communication director with AFPM, told TheDCNF.
“And in fact, Chet mentioned he would be attending the Republican AGs meeting at a reporters’ briefing prior to the event,” Adler said about the breakfast discussion, which took place at a well-known Washington, D.C. restaurant.
CMD stood by its report despite AFPM’s contention the meetings were disclosed to the media.
CDM’s Research Director Nick Surgey, who wrote the report, told TheDCNF that “no details on the RAGA ‘Climate Change Debate’ are available online,” he said, adding: “We stand by what we wrote, that ‘Republican attorneys general held private, undisclosed meetings with fossil fuel industry lobbyists.”
The group’s report does not include comments from Thompson or anyone from RAGA for that matter.
CMD’s so-called investigation comes on the heels of recent reports showing the New York attorney general’s office invited two prominent environmental activists to give presentations to a group of state prosecutors about “climate change litigation” and the “imperative of taking action now on climate change.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and 17 attorneys general, mostly Democrats, from states like California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Mexico signed a secret common interest agreement to aid in the effort to take down Exxon.
The New York Democrat, for one, began his Exxon investigation in November, which, according to a New York Times report at the time, was “demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents” from the oil producer dating all the way back to the 1970s.
Wealthy environmentalist groups associated with the crusade against Exxon rewarded the attorney general handsomely for all his hard work, giving Schneiderman nearly $264,000 in campaign donations.
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