Weeding out the ‘plants’

Lawsuit seeks public records proving AG Keith Ellison’s office is using lawyers funded by billionaire Democrat donor to attack political opponents.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office is the latest defendant in a string of lawsuits filed across the nation attempting to shed light on Michael Bloomberg’s unethical and illegal scheme to plant lawyers in state AG offices to pursue his political agenda. The suit was filed by the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC)—a Minnesota nonprofit law firm—and the nonprofit public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C., on behalf of the State of Washington-based Energy Policy Advocates. Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office had denied two previous separate requests for data under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

The link to billionaire Democrat donor Michael Bloomberg is revealed in the summary section of a Minnesota Special Assistant Attorney General’s LinkedIn profile, which reads: “I am off on a new adventure as a Fellow with the NYU School of Law’s State Impact Center. I will be embedded with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as an Environmental Litigator and Special Assistant Attorney General.”

The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center was founded by Bloomberg in 2017 and is housed in New York University’s Law School. According to its LinkedIn page, the group exists to provide “direct legal assistance to interested attorneys general on specific administrative, judicial or legislative matters involving clean energy, climate change and environmental interests of regional and national significance.”

“Attorney General Keith Ellison knows Minnesotans would be appalled if they found out a billionaire with a political agenda was able to purchase the AG’s office by hiring and paying its lawyers,” Doug Seaton, president of the Upper Midwest Law Center, said. “The Attorney General’s office is a public institution. As the chief law enforcement officer of our state, Ellison is ‘the people’s attorney,’ but he has politicized the office. Minnesotans demand complete transparency about how the state’s top lawyers are being paid and to whom they report.”

Similar lawsuits are underway in Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia to compel those AGs to release public documents related to the State Climate Center. The group claims its attorneys have been planted in at least nine state AG offices: Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

After state lawmakers discovered Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring attempted to bring Bloomberg-funded lawyers on board, they enacted a law clarifying the illegality of the arrangement. The new law states, “All legal services of the Office of the Attorney General shall be performed exclusively by (i) an employee of the Office, (ii) an employee of another Virginia governmental entity as may be provided by law, or (iii) an employee of a federal government entity.”

Referring to the Virginia legislative action, Seaton added, “Minnesota’s laws are clear; this arrangement is illegal according to Minnesota Statutes Section 8.06, which provides that only the attorney general can represent the state and its agencies. The statute further clarifies that ‘no additional counsel shall be employed and the legal business of the state shall be performed exclusively by the attorney general and the attorney general’s assistants.’ The AG is clearly in the wrong here.”

UMLC is calling on Ellison to provide the public information requested by Energy Policy Advocates, disaffiliate his office from the Bloomberg-funded NYU School of Law State Impact Center and any lawyers employed by it, obtain legitimate state funding for all attorneys working in his office, and follow ethical hiring processes in the future.