Sunday, September 11, 2016
When state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took on ExxonMobil over climate change last year, it seemed like an odd global crusade for a local politician.
Perhaps he was drilling for campaign cash, critics now contend after The Post obtained an e-mail that appears to show the state’s top cop was seeking a tree-hugging billionaire’s help to finance a run for governor in 2018.
In March 2016, four months after announcing the Exxon probe, the Democratic AG tried to arrange a phone meeting with hedge-fund mogul Tom Steyer, an environmental activist and Exxon enemy.
“Eric Schneiderman would like to have a call with Tom regarding support for his race for governor . . . regarding Exxon case,” reads the March 10 e-mail.
The note was sent by Steyer lawyer Ted White to Erin Suhr, Steyer’s director of strategic planning at Fahr LLC, which oversees Steyer’s political and philanthropic efforts. White, a Colorado lawyer, is Fahr’s managing partner.
“Anyone have any flags on this call before I add to Tom’s call sheet for Monday?” Suhr replied the next day in an e-mail.
A spokeswoman for Steyer and the two Fahr execs confirmed the e-mail exchange but said the phone meeting never happened.
She also said White has not donated to the AG’s campaign.
Steyer is a heavyweight Dem donor who has poured cash into Hillary Clinton’s coffers, organized a fund-raiser for President Obama and helped bankroll Clinton acolyte Terry McAuliffe’s successful 2013 gubernatorial bid in Virginia. Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action PAC spent nearly $70 million on elections in 2014.
Steyer had accused Exxon of misleading investors on climate change for nearly 30 years. In January, as Schneiderman rallied attorneys general in other states to the cause, Steyer urged California’s attorney general to join the investigation.
But with AGs deserting the case, many wonder why Schneiderman took on an issue so far afield.
“It all smacks of politics,” said former New York AG Dennis Vacco. “What’s unsettling to me about this probe is that many of Attorney General Schneiderman’s supporters are investors in alternative-energy companies and enemies of Exxon.”
The March e-mail alludes to a run for governor, but Schneiderman had denied any such ambition months earlier, telling Politico on Nov. 12, “I am not running for governor in 2018.”
His spokesman, Eric Soufer, called the e-mails “nonsense” and said neither the AG nor his staff communicated with White or Steyer about a run for governor.
“If anything, Mr. White may be referring to Mr. Steyer’s reported interest in a run for governor of California,” Soufer said.
But a source close to White told The Post, “That’s not our interpretation of the e-mail.”