State joins defense of a witch hunt

  • (Editorial cartoon by David Fitzsimmons / The Arizona Star)

The home of the Salem witch trials has birthed another effort to hang the imagined heretics, and the State of Alaska is seeking to supply the judges with the rope.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, along with 19 other attorneys general from 17 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have mounted an inquest against ExxonMobil seeking as much as four decades worth of internal documents and communications with independent groups in an effort to prove the company “knew” its fossil-fuel based products were going to destroy the planet and hid the evidence.

Under the guise of consumer protection backed by the threat of law enforcement, the thin veil on this masquerade was pierced almost immediately in April through uncovered emails obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request that showed climate change activists not only colluding with the AG offices from New York and Vermont about their strategy to bury ExxonMobil under a flurry of subpoenas but to also conceal their participation in the effort.

Unbelievably, Alaska’s brand new Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth is siding with those undertaking this blatant abuse of government power.

Lindemuth joined 16 other attorneys general — nearly all from the so-called “Green 20” group who launched this effort March 29 alongside carbon footprint hypocrite and former Vice President and Al Gore — in an amicus brief filed Aug. 17 in opposition to ExxonMobil’s complaint against Healey filed in federal court that seeks to quash her crusade against the company.

ExxonMobil took its case to federal court in North Texas, where it is headquartered, alleging that the Massachusetts AG is leading an interstate effort against it rooted in no law but rather in a purely political shakedown aimed at putting the company out of business and silencing those who diverge from the Green 20’s dogmas.

 Because make no mistake about it. These AGs and their supporters who sought to conceal their involvement in this case want to put ExxonMobil into the same place it drills for oil and gas: the ground.

Also make no mistake about this: The same people who Lindemuth lined up with also want to put Alaska out of business.

Oh, Lindemuth has tried to defend her action as a “states’ rights” issue in a pathetic attempt to separate the amicus brief from the underlying action against ExxonMobil, but there is no differentiating the two.

While there is certainly a sound argument to be made that an entity subject to a state inquiry shouldn’t be able to go to federal court to halt the action, that is far from the case here.

The brief cites the undisputed authority of state attorneys general to investigate “fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive practices” within their jurisdictions, but there is no squaring that circle against the bogus charges being leveled against ExxonMobil.

Attorneys general do not have the authority to use the power of their offices to pursue political advocacy or to target people and organizations with differing perspectives.

Yet that is the practice that Lindemuth is attempting to secure through her joining this case as a friend of the Massachusetts AG’s defense.

The examples cited in the brief include 46 attorneys general who successfully litigated against the tobacco industry and the 50 who joined the investigation into fraudulent mortgage practices.

Were this such an obvious states’ rights issue, it is more than a little telling that the amicus brief was joined by so few attorneys general. The refusal of more to sign on is a glaring indication that the vast majority of states’ chief law enforcement officers see this effort for the transparent sham that it is.

Other cases cited included a Toyota recall, “four nationwide sham cancer charities,” and a telecommunications company based in New Jersey that was successfully sued by the State of Texas for fraudulent promises of service.

“These joint efforts have greatly enhanced the ability of state Attorneys General to uncover and halt widespread practices that harm individuals and businesses across the nation,” according to the amicus brief.

That’s all well and good, and rooted firmly in legal precedent.

It also has absolutely nothing to do with what the Green 20 are doing to ExxonMobil.

Considering that ExxonMobil is being targeted across multiple states with AGs and judges sympathetic to the Green 20 effort, it is laughable that Lindemuth would accuse the company of “forum shopping” in her letter to House Speaker Mike Chenault and House Judiciary Chair Gabrielle LeDoux.

If ExxonMobil is to be forced to defend itself in as many as 20 courthouses around the country it is only fair play for the company to seek any advantage it can, including taking these rogue attorneys into federal court.

Lindemuth told Chenault and LeDoux that “bad facts make bad law.”

Bad lawyers make bad law, too, and allowing these AGs to debase the law for their political aims will do far more damage than stopping this injustice in its tracks.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at andrew.jensen@alaskajournal.com.

 

Updated: 
10/12/2016 - 12:53pm

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