A New York University School of Law program funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg is placing lawyers in the offices of Democratic state attorneys general and paying them to prosecute energy companies and challenge Trump administration policies on energy and the environment.
Nine states and Washington, D.C., including New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, are participating in the multimillion-dollar program funded by the media magnate and ex-New York City mayor, who re-registered as a Democrat this week amid expectations of a run for president in 2020.
The 14 current fellows in the program report to the attorneys general, but they are paid by NYU’s Bloomberg-funded State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. State AG offices hire these trained lawyers – not students but seasoned professionals with years of experience – as special assistant attorneys general. Under terms of the arrangement, the fellows work solely to advance progressive environmental policy at a time when Democratic state attorneys general have investigated and sued ExxonMobil and other energy companies over alleged damages due to climate change.
Although many government agencies have employees funded by outside sources, critics say using special interest money for targeted government action is inappropriate. Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who wrote a report on the NYU center, said the fellowships come with specific strings attached. “[AG] offices must agree to use prosecutors to ‘advance progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions,’” Horner said.
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