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Report Exposes Private Interest Groups Paying Government Staffers
Michael Bloomberg’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center and U.S. Climate Alliance Pay Salaries of Embedded Staffers to Push Their Agendas MAY 29, 2019 (WASHINGTON) – Today, the American Tort […]
Michael Bloomberg’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center and U.S. Climate Alliance Pay Salaries of Embedded Staffers to Push Their Agendas
MAY 29, 2019 (WASHINGTON) – Today, the American Tort Reform Association released a report exposing Michael Bloomberg’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center and the U.S. Climate Alliance for embedding lawyers and staff members in state attorneys’ general and governor’s offices.
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law was established and initially funded in 2017 with a $6 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Its stated mission is to “support state attorneys general in defending and promoting clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies,” including through “direct legal assistance to interested attorneys general to identify and hire NYU Law Fellows who serve as special assistant attorneys general.”
While the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is focused on embedding lawyers in state AG offices, the U.S. Climate Alliance has its eye on placing its activists within gubernatorial offices.
“The practice of allowing private interests to pay their way into positions of authority in state government offices does not serve the public interest,” Tiger Joyce, President of the American Tort Reform Association said. “It raises significant ethical concerns to know that this is happening across the nation.”
In 2018, the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center had 14 fellows embedded in AG offices in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. They are now advertising “open fellowship positions” in Delaware, Maryland and Massachusetts. The Center proposes the idea of embedding its lawyers to a state attorney general or a top aide. If there is interest, the AG’s office makes a formal request to the Center and outlines its needs. The Center then farms out the lawyers to work specifically on climate issues.
The U.S. Climate Alliance contains 24 member states and conducts the program that embeds staff into executive branch offices of its member states. The Alliance will propose the idea of hosting a staff member to work solely on climate issues to a top aide of a member governor. If they are willing, the embedded staff member is paid directly by the government, and the state invoices one of the Alliance’s affiliated nonprofits for the cost of the person’s compensation. For all intents and purposes, though, the individual is treated as a government employee and may suggest regulations, legislation and policy like any other staff member.
“These arrangements put government employees in a position in which they are serving two masters – and one will always win out,” Joyce said. “States should reject this approach to staffing and work to pass legislation banning private interest groups from paying for government employee salaries.”
Virginia has done just that. In March 2019, the General Assembly amended the state budget to mandate that those working for the AG be state or federal government employees and that the state compensate them exclusively through public funds.
View the full report on the embedding of outside attorneys and activists at AGSunshine.com.
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