Gutknecht: Billionaires buying Minnesota prosecutors?

Politically motivated, frivolous lawsuits solve nothing. Allowing billionaires to pay for prosecutors sets a dangerous precedent.

Imagine a state’s attorney general accepting staff who were paid by a foundation that was funded by an out of state billionaire who had financial and political interests he wanted advanced. These volunteer assistant attorneys general waste little time filing lawsuits against the billionaire’s adversaries in Minnesota. They pursue their actions knowing full well that even if they succeed, the only result will be higher prices for all Minnesotans.

That’s exactly what is happening right now in the Minnesota attorney general’s office.

Recently, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office filed a lawsuit against the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil, and Koch Industries, claiming that they have caused “devastating economic and public-health consequences.” These entities have engaged in a “campaign of deception” concerning their carbon emissions. The lawsuit isn’t grounded in fact. It’s simply a replay of suits filed against energy providers that have already failed in other courts.

Let’s call it political prosecution.

Two of the four attorneys on the Minnesota complaint came from a New York University fellowship program. Curiously, that program received $5.6 million in funding from the Bloomberg Family Foundation to support “defending and promoting clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies.” Coincidentally, they hold the titles of “Special Assistant Attorney General” in the office. They even have official state e-mails. They receive these titles despite their salaries being paid by the Bloomberg Foundation. So, a Democrat mega-donor effectively bought influence inside our attorney general’s office? Shouldn’t this raise serious legal and ethical concerns?

The suit pretends that the science is already settled on what they categorize as the “severe environmental and social consequences” of carbon emissions. They must know that this is far from the case. They further claim that the world has warmed by two degrees Fahrenheit due to human-caused climate change. That two-degree number has never been proven. The role that human beings and their burning of hydrocarbon fuels may have played in any change is even more tenuous.

Apparently, these energy companies should be held liable for disagreeing with what climate alarmists have projected, even though other respected scientists have challenged these findings. You may remember just a few weeks ago, one former climate alarmist made a public apology for claims he had previously made. A recent study found that over 100 of the climate models used by government climate scientists – between 1950 to 2015 – dramatically over-predicted warming rates. These energy companies are targeted largely because they disagree with these increasingly flawed models and forecasts.

Ellison’s job as the state’s chief legal officer is to uphold and enforce the law objectively. He represents all Minnesotans. He hasn’t found much time to prosecute rioters and those who defaced statues on the state capitol grounds. So why is he devoting so much time to suing companies that supply much-needed energy to Minnesotans?

A New York judge threw out a similar suit, stating that “the scope of plaintiffs’ theory is breathtaking” and asked a critical question – “would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded?” Other judges have also ruled that courts are not the proper venue to address climate policy.

Minnesota continues to rely on hydrocarbon fuels. According to the Energy Information Administration, about 30 percent of all U.S. crude imports flow through the North Star State. Coal and natural gas generate over 60. percent of the state’s electricity. How can these frivolous lawsuits do anything but waste taxpayer’s money and drive up the price of energy?

We all want a cleaner environment. Suing energy providers won’t make anything better. Especially when similar lawsuits have already been adjudicated. It gets cold here in Minnesota. We need access to affordable energy. We have seen a dramatic 16.5-percent organic increase in electric power generation from 2007 to 2017. Wind and other renewables cannot carry the load.

Politically motivated, frivolous lawsuits solve nothing. Allowing billionaires to pay for prosecutors sets a dangerous precedent. The whole thing demands oversight hearings.

Gil Gutknecht served six terms in both the Minnesota and the U.S. House. 

Gil Gutknecht

Gil Gutknecht is a former Republican congressman from Minnesota.