Pay to play (the state attorney general version)
And guess which local coal company and which state's AG are among the players?
Bloomberg is out this morning with an excellent in-depth analysis:
Battered Coal Companies Courted State AGs to Fight Climate Rules
The article begins:
Murray Energy Corp. made a $250,000 donation to the Republican Attorneys General Association last year and, in return, the coal mining company’s chief executive got a closed-door meeting with state prosecutors to discuss the Obama administration’s regulation of power plants.
Eleven days later, the attorneys general went to federal court to fight the rules that Murray Energy says could put the coal industry out of business.
The article notes the connection:
"It’s no coincidence that GOP attorneys general have mounted an aggressive fight alongside the fossil fuel industry to block the Clean Power Plan," said Nick Surgey, research director for the Madison, Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy, which obtained the documents. "That appears to be exactly what the industry paid for." (Emphasis mine.)
How much did they pay?
The Republican group laid down an explicit menu of options for its biggest donors, with an annual contribution of $15,000 conferring membership in the organization.
RAGA donors contributing at least $50,000 annually get four passes to group meetings, according to a membership packet, a chance to be a panelist during those summits and an "opportunity to lead issue briefings with Republican attorneys general" such as the one Murray attended.
How does it work?
Attorneys general are "a captive audience" at the conferences, Surgey said. "The corporations are paying a premium to RAGA for the benefit of being able to hold the AGs in a room and tell them what they want, tell them about their expectations, and at the same time -- literally the same day -- those AGs are asking the corporate representatives for money."
And RAGA has certainly been helping West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. As the Charleston Gazette-Mail concluded last month:
The Republican Attorneys General Association, through an affiliated political action committee, has already spent nearly $640,000 in West Virginia this year to help re-elect Morrisey. That’s more than Morrisey and his Democratic opponent, Delegate Doug Reynolds, combined have spent on their campaigns so far.
Of course the organization denies the connection between contributions and AG actions:
Scott Will, the Republican Attorneys General Association’s executive director, said there is no link between contributors and litigation -- only "between executive overreach and litigation."
(A suggestion to Scott Will -- you might want to drop the often-used Robert Murray phrase "executive overreach" when you're trying to deny the possibility of a connection -- for those of us who read Murray's quotes on a regular basis, it gives you away.)
By the way, the Democratic state AG's have their own organization although it has not raised nearly as much cash:
The Republican association raised $19.3 million in the past year and a half, while the Democratic Attorneys General Association reported taking in $6.7 million, an increase from the previous year, according to Internal Revenue Service filings.
This is a good article which I notice has also been picked up by other news sources including the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.
Here is a direct link to Surgey's comments.
Additionally, Think Progress is now covering the story.