How The Operation Worked?
While at the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, Elizabeth Klein facilitated the provision of “pro bono fellows” to work on clean energy, climate change, and environmental litigation in state AG offices. The special assistant Attorney Generals (SAAGs) were comprehensively supported by the Bloomberg-funded Center - including salaries, bonuses and even an external communications team to tell state AGs how to properly promote their activities.
Coordination, Collusion, or Public Trust for Hire?
The Center provided this full-service support in over a dozen states across the country – influencing the decisions of nearly one-quarter of the country’s top law enforcement officers. The Center even claimed credit for the state AG efforts in regular reports, newsletters and press releases. Check out the document below to get an idea of just how extensively the Center used state AG’s to challenge the previous Administration’s policies. Should Elizabeth Klein be allowed to participate in any of these particular matters as a high-ranking government official?
Who's the Boss?
Who did the fellows work for? When experienced litigators were brought on to be SAAGs, where did they turn for guidance on duties and expectations? That’s right – to David Hayes and Elizabeth Klein, not the state AG’s office to whom they were supposedly reporting.
Further, as part of their contract, SAAGs were required to provide regular reports of their activities to Hayes and Klein. Emails even show these reports were shared with top aides of Michael Bloomberg as a matter of course.
These reports are official state records, but they have been denied to the public when requested. Even after requesters sued, state AG offices claimed they should be exempted from disclosure. If Klein or the Center were engaged with the Attorneys General in representing these states in litigation, her participation in any decision, deliberation, or action relating to those particular matters is precluded by the ethics regulations and President Biden's Ethics Pledge. Any informed ethics guidance must take into account the actual conduct and nature of Klein and the Center's actions.
An Ethical Operation?
The legality and ethics of the arrangement the Center sought with state AGs was met with significant scrutiny in some states. Legal questions about the authority to consider donor-paid attorneys “pro bono special counsel” or state employees proved a tall order while other states like Illinois appear to have dodged the ethics analysis altogether.
Is this the type of ethical rigor that Elizabeth Klein will bring to the Department of the Interior? Should we expect a return to the days of the Obama Administration when ethics took a backseat to advancing the special interests of the climate lobby?