By: Mark Glennon*

Billionaire presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is funding a program that, if it sets a precedent, would take the American legal system in a terrifying direction.

It would be a system in which the rich and special interests can pay for the right to plant their chosen lawyers in state attorney general and law enforcement offices to promote their agenda.

It would be a system in which, for example, the National Rifle Association could pay to have its lawyers, in a state’s name, help litigate to protect its favored legislation. Or in which George Soros could pay for attorneys in law enforcement offices to implement his views on criminal justice. Or in which Donald Trump’s businesses could finance lawyers, deputized by states, to fight off challenges to his immigration policies.

Michael Bloomberg

All that, and anything similar you can think of, is perfectly sensible if you think what billionaire presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is doing is acceptable.

Yesterday we summarized reports on how Bloomberg is paying salaries of lawyers who promote his agenda in attorney general offices in liberal leaning states, including Illinois.

Those reports, however, are not getting the attention they deserve.

Bloomberg’s money funds the salaries of Special Assistant Attorneys General (SAAGs) in 10 Democratic AG offices, according to Fox News and other sources. Funding runs through the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at New York University School of Law. That center, according to Fox, was started in 2017 with $5.6 million from Bloomberg’s nonprofit. It hires mid-career lawyers as “research fellows” before providing them to state AGs — where they assist in pursuing “progressive” environmental policy goals through the courts.

Illinois was among those states, but according to a recent report by WLDS/WEAI, “llinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office responded to an inquiry about any lawyers connected to Environmental Impact Center saying that they have employed fellows to New York University’s School of Law in the past, but none were currently working in the department.”

Criticism of the program has come mostly from Republican attorneys general, but it defies imagination how anybody in any party, or NYU’s law school that hosts the program, can defend the practice. It’s justice for sale — an unconscionable way for anybody with money to rent the badge of a government legal officer. Everybody of any political stripe should shutter at the precedent it could set.

Consider how attorneys get placed through the program and it’s evident how corrupting it could be. According to the New American, in a 2017 email to state attorneys general, the head of the Impact Center at NYU set forth the qualifications for AGs seeking to hire SAAGs: “The opportunity to potentially hire an NYU Fellow is open to all state attorneys general who demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions,” he wrote.

In other words, pursue their agenda and they will give AGs free lawyers to help. AGs have tight budgets like everybody else. Like other politicians, they also like more headlines on more crusades. What’s not to like about that offer, as long as they are in a state they think is roughly aligned politically with the program’s agenda? Independent legal judgement on the specifics gets sidelined in favor of more firepower for free.

Bloomberg’s candidacy for president makes the concept particularly pernicious in his case. The Bloomberg-financed program is – no surprise — anti-Trump. According to the New American, “In public and in private, the State Impact Center and its associates show a bias against the Trump administration. For example, the organization’s website celebrates the fact that state AGs have taken more than 300 legal actions against this administration since President Trump took office.”

Never Trumpers may be thrilled with that, but if Bloomberg’s approach becomes acceptable they’ll be on the other end in states favoring Trump. And aside from Trump, who knows what positions somebody will be willing to pay an AG to agitate for.

The immediate solution should be obvious. All attorneys general and law enforcement authorities should terminate Bloomberg’s program or anything like it.

In Illinois, where Raoul says Bloomberg’s lawyers are now gone, his office seemed to defend the program, telling WLDS/WEAI that “Regardless of the law school with which the fellowship is affiliated, attorneys work to advance the office’s mission, including the Attorney General’s commitment to protecting public health and preserving Illinois’ environment and natural resources for all who live and work in Illinois.”

No. The program or anything similar is fundamentally inappropriate for any law enforcement agency.

New York University should be ridiculed to no end for sponsoring it. And Bloomberg should be told to butt out of AG offices.

This article was updated to reflect the WLDS/WEAI report on Illinois’ A.G.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

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Elizabeth Runge

Yes he and his lawyers have no
Place in the AG offices!! Butt Out

Riverbender

Kwame Raoul…and here I thought it couldn’t get any worse than having Madiugan’s stepdaughter as State’s Attorney.

(footnote: The people of the State of Illinois voted in Madigan’s stepdaughter as well as Raoul so other’s apparently do not share my opinion)

Bob

Its an insult to me that Bloomberg funds …no he BUYS his agenda by doling out cash to people who will be beholdin to him in the future . Not just this AG scam. He subsidizes politicians for many different offices. Thats not representing the people. Thats representing a billionaire. This is very scary and proves that we need to have laws in place to stop it. He bankrolls nearly all of the anti 2A “movement” . Its actually hilarious that a multi billionaire calls himself a Democrat. Just goes to show there is no real Democratic party anymore. What… Read more »

Chase Gioberti

Looks like Bloomberg has a paid troll army that is starting to hit the websites and their little Napoleon’s sidekick is named William Kimball.

William W Kimball

There seems to be a lot of “clutching of pearls” here when there is no evidence of wrong doing. This programs stated goals seem to be to help enforce laws for the public good. I can see a possibility of undesirable behavior but is it even happening? Or is this just a slow news day story. “The opportunity to potentially hire an NYU Fellow is open to all state attorneys general who demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions,” he wrote. I for one am not concerned… Read more »

TBS

“No evidence of wrongdoing”… State law enforcement officials taking payments from special interests to enact a specific agenda.

Try again, William. Your counter-campaign is failing miserably today.

Bloomberg Bankrolls a Social-Media Army to Push Message

https://www.wsj.com/articles/bloomberg-bankrolls-a-social-media-army-to-push-message-11582127768

Jon

What’s being described in the article is a serious conflict of interest. No public official, including and especially attorneys working in government Attorneys General offices, should be taking private money for the purpose of influencing policy within their government offices. In fact, such a practice is so egregious that it ought to be illegal. At the very least, it presents a serious opportunity as a vehicle for corruption.

Mike Mike

This State Attorney General lawsuit against the Federal government is partially funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies (or whatever non-profit is being used), through its funding of the NYU School of Law’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (a private university), who in turn funds SAAG (government employee) pay & benefits in the State AG office, provided their duties are limited to clean energy, climate and environmental matters. Another reported string attached is the state government provides the private university a quarterly progress report. “These privately funded staffers would work out of an AG’s office for two years and deliver quarterly progress… Read more »

William W Kimball

“The state government’s prosecutor reporting to a private university.” That’s seems a bit of a stretch to me from the information that I have seen. I’ve seen nothing that says this will occur.

Mike Mike

I could have worded that better.

The idea is that, according to the URL, the State AG office would send a quarterly report to NYU.

As opposed to someone from the State AG office having to directly report (organizational structure / chain of command) to someone at the NYU Law School Impact Center.

Benecia

Doesn’t Governor Toilets already do something similar with his staff in Springfield?

DOUG

Turnging into Oligarch Rule. Crazy.