Statewide View: Minnesota wants solutions on Ellison’s Bloomberg-funded attorneys

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Doug Wardlow

And Ellison uses lawyers to do this that are funded by a private interest group, the Washington Examiner and others have reported.

With no credible evidence, Ellison tries to label the oil and gas company’s scientific inquiry and dialogue about climate change as a deceptive trading practice. In my view, he distorts the law to stifle language and debate.

But that’s not the only way Ellison is abusing his office. Public records from Climate Litigation Watch show that Ellison hired special assistant attorneys general, paid not by the state of Minnesota but by an advocacy group funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg. He did so for the obvious purpose of pushing a far left climate agenda.

This raises a variety of legal and ethical questions.

Back in 2018, the Wall Street Journal recorded a Bloomberg-funded program to fund assistant positions in attorney general’s offices. These “AGs for Rent”, as they were called by the editorial board of the journal, are now in use in 10 states and in the District of Columbia. Since 2017, this initiative has offered attorneys general direct legal assistance on climate change issues.

AGs for Rent funded by Bloomberg include Peter Surdo and Leigh Currie, attorneys now embedded in the Minnesota attorney general’s office, whose signatures in the lawsuit against the oil and gas companies are below Ellison’s. Ellison even selected these two attorneys as “directors of work on the lawsuit” during the press conference announcing the lawsuit.

The problems with this arrangement are obvious. State power should never be used to pursue private interests. Still, Ellison is putting the state’s police powers together to pursue a Bloomberg-funded private political agenda. Who are currie and surdo really responsible to?

It also raises the question of whether the agreement complies with Minnesota law that specifically prohibits executive employees from receiving compensation from sources other than the state for their work on behalf of the state.

The bad news for Ellison doesn’t stop there. He has been sued under Minnesota’s Public Records Act to force him to hand over documents showing that he was seeking activist lawyers and money to pursue his climate-related lawsuit. An insightful report from Climate Litigation Watch clearly shows that Ellison showed his interest in filing a lawsuit against ExxonMobil and others when he filed a petition with the Bloomberg Group for funding.

New information discovered by Climate Litigation Watch also reveals that embedded attorney Currie is listed on the Climate Generation group’s website as a past chair and current member of the advisory board. A Minnesota-based climate activist group, Fresh Energy, even boasts of persuading Ellison to rent Bloomberg’s guns shortly after he was sworn in.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Ellison’s lawsuit reads like “an ambitious politician trying to pick from decades of debates on a changing subject.”

That’s because it appears to be a lawsuit by far left activists embedded in Ellison’s office to advance a private agenda. Ellison should focus on enforcing the law and protecting the rights of the Minnesota people, rather than partnering with special private interests, to demonize Minnesota’s energy industry.

I think Ellison is using the Minnesota Attorney General as a pawn in a national political system. It is time for government agencies to determine whether Ellison’s use of privately funded activist attorneys was in line with the rules and laws of state ethics. The people of Minnesota deserve answers.

Doug Wardlow, of Prior Lake, Minnesota, attended Georgetown University law school in Washington, DC, has practiced law for 16 years, served as a Minnesota representative from 2011 to 2013, and was the Republican nominee for Minnesota attorney general in 2018 He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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