EXCLUSIVE: Left-wing advocacy nonprofits, aided by trial law firms and Democrats, are increasingly turning to the legal system to push Green New Deal policies, according to a new consumer report shared with Fox News Digital.
The report, published Thursday by the Alliance for Consumers, details how advocacy groups have looked to wage public nuisance lawsuits to remove products and services, such as fossil fuels and firearms, from the market that “do not align with the progressive agenda.” Public nuisance laws prohibit activities that harm people or property nearby and are generally enforced by government entities.
“Public nuisance cases aren’t about putting money in the hands of victims,” Alliance for Consumers Executive Director O.H. Skinner told Fox News Digital in an interview. “Public nuisance cases are about creating a big pot of money to ‘abate the nuisance.’ And that money doesn’t go to victims or consumers or any of the traditional people who you would think would be the good guys in a lawsuit against a giant company.”
“There’s been far too little attention to that. So, we’ve really been spending a lot of time highlighting that these are really ideological weapons, because public nuisance is a unique tool to generate billions of dollars for pet causes and bankrupt, or risk bankrupting, somebody you don’t like,” Skinner continued. “If you want to end firearm manufacturing in America, if you want to cripple fossil fuels or energy companies, this is a very unique tool.”
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According to the report, public nuisance cases are generally pursued using a similar “playbook” where left-wing interest groups identify an issue impacting people, identify corporations within that industry, then file a claim for “indirect harm.” They then leverage political and public pressure to force a settlement in the case, the Alliance for Consumers concluded.
In addition to fossil fuels and firearms, the nuisance cases have targeted chemicals, plastics, vaping and automakers.
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Overall, Skinner said, public nuisance cases focused particularly on climate change are designed to “stitch together” a large pool of money to replace the Green New Deal. That legislation, which proposed trillions of dollars in spending to force an economy-wide transition to green energy, was first introduced years ago by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., but it has yet to receive a floor vote.
The Alliance for Consumers report further highlights several federal lawmakers and governors who have sought to boost public nuisance cases and, in some cases, filed or involved themselves in such cases. The group points to Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Govs., Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., and Phil Murphy, D-N.J., in particular.
“A long line of progressive United States Senators have used their offices to urge additional use of public nuisance lawsuits or to provide formal legal support to existing public nuisance lawsuits,” the report states.
“Understanding more about these United States Senators who are boosting public nuisance litigation — from their core policy priorities to the role they are playing in these public nuisance lawsuits — goes a long way to helping illustrate the goals of the modern public nuisance movement,” it adds.
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For example, Whitehouse has long supported public nuisance litigation dating back to his time as attorney general of Rhode Island when, in 1999, he filed such a case against manufacturers accused of mixing lead into their products. But he has since supported broader cases against the fossil fuel industry, filing briefs in cases filed in his home state and California.
The other lawmakers listed in the report have similarly filed briefs in such cases or offered public support for such efforts.
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“They are stepping in time and time again to use their official office to weigh in,” Skinner said. “Sheldon Whitehouse, who rails about dark money, has come out and is publicly filing briefs and issuing statements supporting his home state attorney general, who is using Sher Edling, a dark money-fueled progressive climate change law firm to accomplish progressive goals.”
“That just kind of reveals that this is a no-holds barred attack because he talks about dark money all the time, but then, when that progressive dark money is financing the lawsuits, even in his home state, he’s right there filing legal briefs and saying how this must prevail,” he continued.
Over the last several years, the California-based trial law firm Sher Edling has filed numerous climate-related public nuisance lawsuits nationwide. The firm — which argues in the novel cases that oil companies are financially responsible for global warming and, therefore, weather events that impact people, property and communities — has filed cases on behalf of Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Minnesota, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Baltimore, Honolulu and many local governments across the country.
Sher Edling, which was founded in 2016 with the goal of spearheading such litigation, states on its website that its climate practice seeks to hold oil companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell accountable for their alleged “deception” about climate change.
The firm has raised millions of dollars from liberal dark money nonprofits to fund its pursuits. While the entirety of Sher Edling’s funding structure is unknown, the firm has for years taken donations from a pass-through fund managed by the left-wing New Venture Fund, whose individual donors are obscured from public view, meaning donors are able to remain anonymous.
The arrangement, as a result, has attracted scrutiny from watchdog groups and lawmakers, including Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky.
“As I’ve warned, it’s clear radical, left-wing dark money groups are footing the bill for Sher Edling’s climate crusade with the goal of bankrupting American energy employers,” Cruz previously told Fox News Digital. “New Venture Fund and Sher Edling’s litigious gamble is nothing but an attempt at achieving a goal lacking majority support in Congress: the eradication of fossil fuels.”
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