‘We applaud this vote while wondering, what’s wrong with the rest of these legislatures?’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) In its recently passed biennial state budget, the Virginia legislature cut off billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s ability to privately fund climate-change lawyers who have been working inside the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly inserted an amendment during final budget negotiations last week, requiring all personnel working for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, to be either state or federal employees and be solely paid with public funds.
It’s the first time a state has successfully pushed back on the progressive ex-mayor of New York City’s climate-change prosecution project. As many as 14 “special assistant attorneys general” are currently working in AG offices across 10 states and the District of Columbia.
“Sunday’s vote is a statement from Virginia’s elected representatives that Bloomberg’s money can’t buy a donor’s way into Virginia law enforcement. We applaud this vote while wondering, what’s wrong with the rest of these legislatures?” said Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
CEI previously exposed how Bloomberg and progressive special interests were executing climate change policy through state attorneys general offices in an August 2018 exposé called, “Law Enforcement for Rent.”
The report, authored by Horner, explained that the project began in 2012, and is “an extensive and elaborate campaign using elective law-enforcement offices, in coordination with major donors and activist pressure groups, to attain a policy agenda that failed through the democratic process.”
It also highlighted how white-collar activists use nonprofits as pass-through entities for donors, like Bloomberg, to support elected officials who, in turn, use their offices to advance donor-driven political agendas.
The scheme involves partnering state attorneys general with climate-change attorneys from New York University’s Bloomberg-funded State Energy & Environmental Impact Center.
The NYU Center was launched with a reported grant of nearly $6 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, a charity controlled by the progressive billionaire.
The center claims it is a nonpartisan project helping “state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks” relating to climate change, although it has only placed program fellows within Democratic state AG offices.
According to Real Clear Investigations, some of the climate fellowships from the NYU program went to attorneys from left-wing advocacy groups, such as the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council. Others served under Bloomberg’s New York City mayoral administration.
Under Virginia’s Freedom of Information law, CEI requested copies of internal deliberations supporting the Virginia Office of Attorney General’s claim that Virginia law permits the unseemly arrangement. To-date, no records have been produced and CEI is suing for their disclosure.
“That this vote by the General Assembly was even necessary is itself incredible, given that not one, but four provisions of the Virginia Code already prohibit this unprecedented arrangement—as we are arguing in ongoing litigation against Herring’s office,” Horner said.
Attorney General Herring is now insisting that he never actually participated in the Bloomberg-financed scheme, although he publicly claimed, “I’m glad Virginia is participating in its fellowship program.”
The NYU attorney general fellowships have played a role in the filing of at least 130 regulatory, legal and other challenges since 2017, according to a review of their legal actions.
Bloomberg donated millions of dollars to Democratic attorneys general campaigns in the 2018 midterm election cycle, in addition to his pledge to spend $80 million helping Democrats all over the country last year.
Once positioned as a potential contender for the governor’s mansion, Herring’s latest slap from the state legislature is not likely to endear the embattled AG with any conservative voters in the divided state.
Both Herring and Gov. Ralph Northam triggered a nationwide scandal and possible succession crisis, with many calling for their resignations, when they copped to wearing blackface in the 1980s. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is also being investigated over two separate rape allegations.
Herring, who began his second term in 2018, rode into office on a wave of controversy in 2014, having used notorious election-stealing lawyer Marc Elias to reverse the election-night victory of his GOP opponent, Mark Obenshain. Although Obenshain ended election night with a 1,200 vote lead, votes in left-leaning parts of the state continued to mysteriously surface, and Herring ultimately was certified with a margin of 165 votes.