The billionaire philanthropist who kickstarted a $10 million campaign to impeach President Donald Trump is linked to class action lawsuits against oil companies, according to a Monday report.
Two officials inside Democratic moneyman Tom Steyer’s nonprofit group NextGen were briefed in 2015 on the strategy behind a legal crusade against various oil producers, the Daily Mail report notes. Steyer, a well-heeled environmentalist, has repeatedly denied any involvement in campaigns to sue companies like Exxon.
The report shows that NextGen Chief Operation Officer Dan Lashof and the group’s attorney David Weiskopf received a memo marked “privileged and confidential” from Matt Pawa, an activist attorney who is spearheading a state-based investigation against various oil companies. The memo raises questions about how deeply Steyer’s group is involved in the probes.
Oakland, San Francisco and New York began pursuing lawsuits against major oil companies in early 2016 to flesh out the degree to which they were contributing to greenhouse gas levels. San Francisco announced it would sue companies like BP, Chevron, Exxon and others, shortly after Steyer provided city’s mayor with a $30,000 campaign donation.
The San Francisco lawsuit, which was fashioned on a model used to pillory tobacco companies, would require energy providers to create an abatement fund designed to finance infrastructural programs to staunch increases in the city’s water levels. Activists believe greenhouse gasses from Exxon and Chevron are causing seal levels to rise.
Pawa claimed in the memo that the litigants don’t have to win the lawsuit to come out the victor. “[S]imply proceeding to the discovery phase of a global warming case … would be significant’ for activists,” the memo claims, because it would give activists and their legal teams access to many of Chevron and Exxon’s internal documents.
“Industry has withheld for years documents regarding their involvement in a campaign of deception and denial,” the memo notes, adding that activists who pursued the tobacco industry during the 1980s used discovery to weed out documents unrelated to the initial probe.
“Just obtaining such documents gave the Tobacco litigation an unstoppable momentum, here to obtaining industry documents would be a remarkable achievement that would advance the case and the cause,” the memo stated.
InsideClimate, a media outlet known for promoting the anti-Exxon campaign, published a series of reports in 2015 meant to draw parallels between fossil fuel companies and the tobacco industry. The federal government filed suit against tobacco companies in 1999, which eventually led to a conviction and millions of dollars being paid out.
NextGen did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for the publication.
Steyer, who made his billions as a wealth fund manager at Farallon Capital, has faced criticisms in the past over allegations that he is involved with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s two-year long investigation into Exxon’s record on climate change. The Democratic AG’s probe was based on findings from a report from InsideClimate.
Some conservatives believe Schneiderman is using a legal trickery to hide emails and communications with wealthy donors and various environmental groups. The New York Post obtained an email in September 2016 that indicated he was trying to set up a phone call with Steyer to discuss political contributions to a “governor” race in the context of the state’s oil industry lawsuit.
“Eric Schneiderman would like to have a call with Tom regarding support for his race for governor … regarding Exxon case,” the NY AG’s office wrote in the email, which was eventually transferred to Steyer’s scheduler.
Steyer, a supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, has also been active in politics. He spent nearly $86 million, for instance, in a losing bid to get Democrats elected in 2016. Steyer’s contributions that year dwarfed those of fellow billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a conservative who pledged $47 million in donations to Republican candidates.
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