Docs Show Green Billionaire Privately Lobbied Illinois AG To Join Anti-Exxon Crusade

Chris White | Energy Reporter
  • Emails show green billionaire lobbied Illinois AG to join anti-Exxon movement.
  • Illinois AG Lisa Madigan refuses to discuss activist-led move to get her to join anti-Exxon movement.
  • A new green billionaire joins an effort to harangue AGs into suing Exxon.

A wealthy Democratic donor with connections to various billionaire activists arranged a meeting between Illinois’ top law enforcer and a slew of lawyers to discuss joining a legal campaign against oil companies.

Billionaire activist Wendy Abrams attempted to lobby Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to join other states in suing ExxonMobil, according to emails obtained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Madigan never took up the offer, but Abrams’ pitch shows the effort to sue oil companies started sooner than originally suspected.

Abrams asked Madigan in February of 2016 if she could bring attorneys Matt Pawa, Steve Berman, and Sharon Eubanks with her to discuss how Exxon engaged in a “campaign of deception and denial” to hide knowledge about climate change. All three attorneys are heavily involved in the so-called ExxonKnew campaign.

“These lawyers are focused on assisting states in investigating whether Exxon has violated consumer fraud statutes and in particular on the possibility of obtaining injunctive relief similar to the federal RICO injunction, e.g., requiring Exxon to disclose all of its documents on this matter, prohibiting further deceptive statements and requiring the issuance of corrective statements,” Abrams wrote in a letter to Madigan, a Democrat who’s running for re-election this year.

Abrams has a given $721,690 almost entirely to Democratic candidates, according to Federal Election Commission records. She also served as a lobbyist for the Environmental Defense Fund and serves on the boards of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and co-founded Cool Globes, a nonprofit group that raises awareness about global warming. She doesn’t target all oil companies – reports show Cool Globes received donations from BP in 2007.

“I’m not suggesting everyone stop driving and stop flying,” Abrams said in an interview with Chicago Magazine in 2007. But Exxon should be targeted exclusively, she added. “If Exxon had come to me, I wouldn’t take their sponsorship. They’ve been spending money to say that global warming doesn’t exist.”

One of the attorneys who attended the meeting was an instrumental cog in a pair of lawsuits in California. Berman negotiated a massive $206 billion settlement with tobacco companies in the 1990s. He’s now taking up a similar legal campaign against energy companies.

Neither Abrams did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the nature of the meeting, and Madigan’s office said she doesn’t comment on litigation decisions.

CEI’s documents were published on Sept. 11 and detail the actions of a group of AGs and activists, led by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, that eventually led to former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg paying for “legal fellows” to work in state law enforcement.

Schneiderman led some states to investigate oil giant Exxon. His broader coalition, called AGs United for Clean Power, promised to work together to advance a climate agenda, which crumbled since its inception in 2016.

At least six state AG offices accepted Bloomberg-funded legal fellows, according to CEI’s documents, including Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. (RELATED: Caliphornia? ‘Greenest’ US State Is Increasingly Reliant On OPEC’s Oil)

Salaries and benefits for legal fellows are paid for by the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center (SEEIC) at the New York University School of Law, which was started with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2017.

Bloomberg is reportedly considering a presidential run and has a record of environmental activism. Through his nonprofit, Bloomberg launched campaigns to keep the U.S. in the Paris climate agreement and bankrolled climate campaigns to push green energy and close coal-fired power plants.

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