Second lawsuit filed against MN AG Ellison over secret dealings, refusal to release records

Keith Ellison’s latest lawsuit against American energy produces seems to have run aground due to concerns that the Attorney General’s office is using two attorneys, privately financed by a group established by Michael Bloomberg, to do their dirty work.

As I wrote shortly after the lawsuit was announced, the most likely outcome is a giant waste of taxpayer resources, but I’d encourage you to read the press release below to learn more about the lawsuit.

ST. PAUL, MN – For the second time in recent months, the public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. (GAO) filed suit against Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison under that state’s public records law on behalf of the nonprofit group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA). Today’s suit seeks to compel the AG to reveal details about the use of law enforcement to advance private interests, its own coordination with other outside parties, and an organized effort by certain attorneys general to keep records about all of this from the public.

At issue are records detailing how AG Ellison brought two privately hired lawyers into his office to advance the donor’s priorities, including a lawsuit the office just filed against energy companies. The complaint cites records showing Ellison offering to get more active on matters of importance to this donor – a group established by billionaire climate activist Michael Bloomberg to place its own lawyers in AG offices – if only he had more resources than the legislature found appropriate to provide.

Other records sought to include certain materials reflecting these attorneys’ work coordinating with outside activists to impose an extreme agenda in the name of climate change via the courts. The complaint notes that:

The Executive Director of a local pressure group called “Fresh Energy,” Michael Noble, who has acknowledged that his group “helped put this idea in front of Attorney General Keith Ellison shortly after he was sworn in” after “a national organization who [sic] leads on this kind of climate liability, climate litigation…brought this concept to Fresh Energy the Fall of 2018,” has publicly boasted that [Bloomberg-financed attorneys] “Leigh Currie on the Attorney General’s staff and Pete Surdo have basically been working on this full time over the last few months.”

Today’s complaint also reveals that Ellison has entered into contracts, alternately styled as “confidentiality” and “common interest” agreements, requiring his Office to provide notice to, and obtain the consent of, outside parties prior to releasing certain public information. These contracts cover records relating to its lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Flint Hills Resources and the American Petroleum Institute recently filed by the two “Special Assistant Attorneys General” (SAAGs) hired and placed in Ellison’s Office by billionaire climate activist Michael Bloomberg.

About these pacts, GAO attorney Chris Horner comments that “They likely are void as against public policy including that underlining open records laws, and probably violate obligations of state attorney generals to the people of their states by purporting to contract away the public’s right to access to public information such as is embodied in the MGDPA.”

Remarkably, as the complaint also reveals, these contracts also claim a “common interest” in “public nuisance” climate litigation filed in other jurisdictions by private tort firms against the same or similar parties. Brazenly, Ellison’s Office is not only relying on these agreements to avoid release of records at issue in this matter but refusing to release the pacts themselves.

GAO filed suit with local counsel Douglas Seaton of the Upper Midwest Law Center.