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Timeline of #ExxonKnew

2012

  • June 14-15, 2012: Rockefeller-funded organizations hold conference in La Jolla, California to brainstorm how they could use racketeering laws against ExxonMobil. 

    The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI) organize a conference for activists such as Naomi Oreskes (author of Merchants of Doubt), Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists and attorney Matt Pawa, who served on the board of CAI.

2015

  • July 31, 2015: Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) starts working with Democratic Attorneys General

    As Frumhoff says in a July 31, 2015 email, “we’re also in the process of exploring other state-based approaches to holding fossil fuel companies legally accountable – we think there’ll likely be a strong basis for encouraging state (e.g. AG) action forward, and in that context, opportunities for climate scientists to weigh in.”

  • Sept. 16, 2015: InsideClimate News and Columbia School of Journalism publish #ExxonKnew series; Columbia fails to disclose Rockefeller funding

    InsideClimate News publishes the first article in its #ExxonKnew series.

  • Oct. 9, 2015: The Columbia School of Journalism follows up with its first ExxonMobil article in the LA Times

    The LA Times story did not initially disclose that the Columbia School of Journalism is funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF). Likewise, the website of the Columbia Energy and Environment Reporting Fellowship did not originally disclose its Rockefeller funding. 

  • Oct. 12, 2015: Rockefeller-funded Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies releases report suggesting ExxonMobil funds climate denial

    The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies produced a report suggesting that “corporate funding” to “climate counter movement” institutions is responsible for skepticism about climate science. The report was funded by the Rockefellers and other groups bankrolling the #ExxonKnew campaign.

  • Nov. 4, 2015: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announces subpoena of ExxonMobil.

    InsideClimate News reports that this announcement followed a “year-long probe” by the attorney general’s office.

  • November 2015: Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica emails Maryland Attorney General’s office

    Pica emails Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office, offering to brief the attorney general on "the potential consumer related complaints and other authorities re: ExxonMobil." Just days after the meeting, Frosh announces he is considering an investigation into ExxonMobil.

2016

  • Jan. 8, 2016: #ExxonKnew activists meet behind closed doors at the Rockefeller Family Fund

    A leaked memo reveals that a coalition of activists including Bill McKibben of 350.org and attorney Matt Pawa gathered for a secret, closed-door meeting at the Rockefeller Family Fund offices. According to the memo, the coalition’s goals were to establish “in the public’s mind that ExxonMobil is a corrupt institution.”

  • March 10, 2016: Schneiderman contacts Tom Steyer about ExxonMobil investigation and funding for gubernatorial race

    As the New York Post reported, “In March 2016, four months after announcing the Exxon probe, the Democratic AG tried to arrange a phone meeting with hedge-fund mogul and environmental activist Tom Steyer. 'Eric Schneiderman would like to have a call with Tom regarding support for his race for governor. . . regarding Exxon case',” reads the March 10 email. 

  • March 15, 2016: Virgin Islands Attorney General subpoenas ExxonMobil and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, uses law firm linked to #ExxonKnew activists

    The subpoenas served by Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker were issued through a Washington, D.C. law firm, Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, where Matt Pawa used to work.

  • March 24, 2016: Rockefellers admit to funding #ExxonKnew campaign

    Lee Wasserman of the Rockefeller Family Fund told Reuters that funding the #ExxonKnew campaign is part of “our push to drive better public understanding and better climate policy.”

  • March 28, 2016: Attorneys General draft common interest agreement to avoid transparency with the public

    In an email to Lem Srolovic with the New York Attorney General’s office, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Scott Kline expresses concerns about sharing documents related to the meeting, as they could be revealed to the public via a records request. Kline says “our office is okay with refusing to disclose covered documents.” The New York Attorney General’s office then requests a “Common Interest Agreement” be signed to avoid having the public find out about their meetings. 

  • March 29, 2016: #ExxonKnew activists brief attorneys general ahead of press conference with Al Gore

    Reuters reports on emails between the offices of the state attorneys general, which reveal that Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Matt Pawa, an attorney then on the board of the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI), briefed the attorneys general ahead of their March 29 press conference with Al Gore. Later Frumhoff is forced to admit his attendance: “I was invited to brief the attorneys general that gathered on March 29 on my work, and that is what I did.”

  • March 30, 2016: Attorneys General offices tell activist not to tell the press about their collusion

    Matt Pawa sends an email to Lem Srolovic with the New York Attorney General’s office, as well as Scott Kline in the Vermont Attorney General’s office, explaining that “a WSJ reporter wants to talk to me. I may not even talk to her at all but if I do I obviously will have no comment on anything discussed at the meeting.” Pawa then asks, “What should I say if she asks if I attended? No comment? Let me know.” Srolovic responds that Pawa should effectively stonewall the WSJ reporter. “My ask is if you speak to the reporter,” Srolovic writes, “to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event.”

  • April 13, 2016: Attorneys General sign Common Interest Agreement to keep investigations secret

    New emails confirm that Gregory Schultz of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office signed on to a Common Interest Agreement that was distributed to all the attorneys general offices involved by the New York Attorney General’s office.

  • April 21, 2016: Emails show the Delaware Attorney General pulled out of common interest agreement

    Emails released by Energy & Environmental Legal Institute (E&E Legal) show that just a few weeks after Delaware Attorney General Matthew Denn (D) agreed to sign on to the Common Interest Agreement – which would keep their proceedings on the ExxonMobil investigations secret – he suddenly pulled out, telling the other attorneys general that he would no longer be participating.

  • May 20, 2016: Virgin Islands Attorney General withdraws its subpoena of the Competitive Enterprise Institute

    The withdrawal comes after editorial boards across the country strongly push back on the #ExxonKnew campaign. For instance, the Financial Times say, “the legal basis for these actions seems flimsy…Beyond that, the implications of the investigations for free speech on public policy issues are alarming.”

  • June 15, 2016: Thirteen state attorneys general call ExxonMobil investigation "a grave mistake"

    The attorneys general of thirteen states send a letter to the attorneys general launching climate investigations warning that their efforts raise “substantial First Amendment concerns.” They ask the attorneys general to "stop policing viewpoints." 

  • June 22, 2016: Congressional Progressive Caucus holds #ExxonKnew forum on Capitol Hill

    The Congressional Progressive Caucus holds a forum, which includes key #ExxonKnew activists. Kathy Mulvey of the Union of Concerned Scientists admits, “Yes, UCS has also been involved in providing information to attorneys general who are moving into the issue on whether these companies violated any state laws in providing this information to shareholders and the public…our chief scientist Peter Frumhoff who’s actually here with me as well and he has briefed a number of the AGs…”

  • June 29, 2016: Virgin Islands Attorney General withdraws subpoena of ExxonMobil

    This withdrawal comes as legal experts across the country criticized the #ExxonKnew campaign for being legally unsound. For instance, Harvey Silverglate of the ACLU says the ExxonMobil investigation is “pure harassment.” Columbia Law Professor Merritt B. Fox notes that the investigations are “unlikely” to “be a winner.”

  • July 13, 2016: House Science Chairman Lamar Smith subpoenas New York and Massachusetts attorneys general and eight activist groups in relation to their work on the #ExxonKnew campaign

    Chairman Smith explains in the press release, “the Committee has a responsibility to protect First Amendment rights of companies, academic institutions, scientists, and nonprofit organizations. That is why the Committee is obligated to ask for information from the attorneys general and others.”

  • Oct. 13, 2016: Federal judge issues discovery order to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

    Federal judge Ed Kinkeade issued a discovery order against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to determine whether “bias or prejudgment” influenced her decision to initiate a “bad faith” investigation into ExxonMobil, just days after she appeared before news cameras with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Al Gore and other Democratic state attorneys general in New York.

  • Nov. 17, 2016: Federal judge adds Schneiderman to discovery order

    Judge Ed Kinkeade ruled that a standing discovery order – which was issued to determine if Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was engaging in a “bad faith” pursuit of ExxonMobil – could be amended to include New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been spearheading the entire #ExxonKnew effort. 

  • Dec. 2, 2016: Rockefellers admit to funding #ExxonKnew campaign on national TV

    The Rockefeller family appeared CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and owned up to the fact that they specifically paid the Columbia School of Journalism and InsideClimate News to write stories about ExxonMobil.

  • Dec. 22, 2016: Rockefellers forced to admit they directly lobbied Schneiderman to launch an ExxonMobil investigation

    In a column published by the New York Review of Books, David Kaiser and Lee Wasserman of the Rockefeller Family Fund admit: “It is up to government officials, not public interest advocates, to determine whether ExxonMobil’s conduct has violated any state or federal laws within the relevant statutes of limitations. Recognizing this, the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) informed state attorneys general of our concern that ExxonMobil seemed to have failed to disclose to investors the business risks of climate change. We were particularly encouraged by Schneiderman’s interest in this matter, because New York’s Martin Act is arguably the most powerful tool in the nation for investigating possible schemes to defraud.” 

2017

  • Feb. 13, 2017: New York Post reports that the Rockefellers and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman were discussing the #ExxonKnew investigation before either the InsideClimate News (ICN) or Columbia School of Journalism #ExxonKnew pieces were published

    As the New York Post revealed, “Documents show Schneiderman’s top staffers were in correspondence with Lee Wasserman of the Rockefeller Family Fund going back to February 2015. Schneiderman launched his probe that November.”

  • April 6, 2017: #ExxonKnew campaign claims global warming caused the Exxon Valdez spill

    This was yet another article written by graduate students at the Rockefeller-funded Columbia Journalism School, which was published in the Los Angeles Times.  The article claims that ExxonMobil had evidence that the Columbia Glacier was calving due to climate change, but allowed one of its tankers to put itself in the way of the icebergs anyway.

  • June 14, 2017: Court documents reveal Schneiderman used a private email address for official business while conducting #ExxonKnew investigation

    Court documents, submitted by lawyers for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), show that Schneiderman’s personal email address was used for official business because it is contained within a privilege log of correspondence that he provided to the court. A judge only recognized that the personal email was used after an in camera review of this log.

  • Aug. 10, 2017: Vermont Judge orders Vermont Attorney General’s office to disclose all email communications with Schneiderman’s office – including Gmail correspondence

    Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout ordered the release of records between the attorneys general of New York and Vermont, specifically any discussions of sharing documents with “outside advisors” pursuant to a secrecy pact. She also granted access to Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s private emails since both he and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman used private email accounts, specifically Gmail, in their ExxonMobil discussions.

  • Aug. 23, 2017: Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran publish a study conceding that #ExxonKnew was never really about what ExxonMobil “knew,” but about punishing ExxonMobil for arguing against specific climate policy proposals

    Of course, Oreskes is the activist that the New York Times has credited for helping kick off the #ExxonKnew campaign, whose goal was to convince “a single sympathetic state attorney general” to investigate the company for supposed climate fraud.  If there’s any doubt about her positions ahead of releasing this report, in 2015, Oreskes wrote: “Did Exxon deliberately mislead the public on climate change? Hello. Of course they did!”

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