Democratic attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts refused Wednesday to comply with a congressional subpoena demanding they disclose information related to their investigation into ExxonMobil’s climate research.
New York AG Eric Schneiderman and Maura Healey, of Massachusetts, have vowed to deny GOP Texas Rep. Lamar Smith’s communications related to their probes. The Texas Republican has worked for several months forcing the AGs to be more forthcoming about their investigations.
“Congressional subpoenas are not immune from court review, and we are considering all of our legal options should the committee continue to proceed with these unprecedented subpoenas that seek clearly privileged and law enforcement protected information and communications,” a source at the New York attorney general’s office told reporters.
They were joined by a coalition of 15 other state attorneys general. AGs from California, Maryland, and others, asked Smith to rescind the subpoenas, arguing his “unprecedented subpoenas exceed your Committee’s constitutional authority” and “impermissibly intrudes on the lawful authority of the attorneys general to conduct investigations.”
California AG Xavier Becerra was among those requesting the Texas representative to lay off Schneiderman and Healey.
Environmentalists have pushed the newly-elected attorney general into joining the hit-parade against Exxon, a company activists say has hid knowledge about global warming from investors.
Smith pushed back against the attorneys’ assertion.
“The Committee is still wondering what the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts have to hide,” he said in a press statement to the The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Rather than comply with lawfully-issued Congressional subpoenas, the attorneys general instead make baseless accusations about the Committee’s intent and attempt to sidetrack legitimate Congressional oversight,” he added.
Journalists have had a field day blasting Exxon after a series of campaigns conducted by InsideClimate News (ICN) found the company had allegedly played fast and loose with information concerning global warming.
Legal analysts have continually cast doubt on whether the oil company’s actions were illegal. They say the Martin Act, which allows attorneys general in New York to investigate and eventually prosecute companies for committing fraud using scant evidence, probably shouldn’t be used to prosecute Exxon.
Merritt Fox, an expert on financial law and securities, for instance, told a panel in May that the evidence ICN unburied was already mostly in the public eye. Exxon wasn’t hiding anything that wasn’t already open to investors with a computer.
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