NY Attorney General Says Exxon Using ‘Dark Money’ To Fight Climate Change Crusade

(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Exxon Mobil’s legal defense against investigation is being propped up by a “dark money machine” created by a vast network of conservative groups, the attorney general in charge of the probe said Wednesday.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accused groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute specifically of directing a campaign aimed at defending Exxon from a climate change investigation.

“It’s like they pulled a lever on the dark money machine,” the Democratic attorney general told reporters. After the initial probe against Exxon was announced, he added, there were “60 or 70 op-ed columns or editorials … attacking me all over America” within weeks.

“The challenge is, in most media markets in the country, all people have heard is the other side of the argument because [the conservative groups’] infrastructure is so remarkable,” Schneiderman said.

Texas Federal Judge Ed Kinkeade said Oct. 14 he suspected Schneiderman’s colleague, Democratic Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, of acting in “bad faith” when she issued her own subpoena targeting Exxon. She was hoping to acquire the same trove of documents the New York attorney general sought.

The judge also said the investigation has all the earmarks of a political inquisition.

Schneiderman received nearly $265,000 in campaign contributions from lawyers and politicians who stand to gain from a legal victor against Exxon.

Liberal billionaire George Soros gave Schneiderman $64,500, while members of the uber-wealthy Rockefeller family have shoveled over more than $10,000 to the New York attorney general since 2004.

The oil company meanwhile is hoping Kinkeade will draw a similar view of Schneiderman’s crusade, which began in November when the attorney general launched an investigation into Exxon’s knowledge about global warming. The New York Democrat was “demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents” from the oil producer dating all the way back to the 1970s.

The investigation is partially the result of a September investigation of Exxon conducted by InsideClimate News. The investigation found Exxon had allegedly played fast and loose with information concerning global warming.

InsideClimate News also alleges that Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, and others joined Exxon in misleading the public about the supposed effects global warming has on sea levels.

The besieged oil company is arguing the probes violate the company’s First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. It also refutes the idea it violated the law and claims it promotes carbon taxes as a way to fight man-made global warming.

Schneiderman, for his part, said the company couldn’t use the First Amendment as a shield to protect them from prosecuted for racketeering or fraud.

“The First Amendment is not designed to protect three-card monte dealers,” Schneiderman said. “You can’t commit fraud and argue, ‘Oh, I’m exercising my First Amendment rights.’”

“The scope of the reaction tells me we’re on to something,” he said, referring to the scope and depth of the pushback the crusading attorney general has received.

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