Why in the world does Attorney General Leslie Rutledge get involved in cases such as opposition to a pipeline crossing in Virginia that will defile the Appalachian Trail? Answer: Money. And lots of it from corporate interests.

A giant energy company wants to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, including the trail crossing. Giant energy companies pour big sums into the Republican Attorneys General Association (which Rutledge once headed). It is essentially a PAC to elect Republicans. The attorneys general seem to return the favors of contributors by intervening around the country in cases of interest to the benefactors, such as the company with the pipeline project.

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Facing South takes a look here at RAGA’s activities and finances. (it’s known for high-dollar retreats with the moneyed crowd, too.) Rutledge is an active participant.

RAGA has been called a “pay to play” group and “Corporate Attorneys General” because it offers corporations access to its members based on how much money they donate to the group. According to a 2018 “Membership Benefits” explainer obtained by Documented, an organization that investigates corporate influence, a yearly contribution of $25,000 or more to RAGA allows corporate donors to shape the group’s legal policy via “a secret online bulletin board,” while $125,000 allows them to “lead issue briefings.” The benefits of giving $250,000 or more are available only “upon request.”

 

Also under IRS rules, RAGA must disclose its donors — a requirement that reveals the group’s extensive ties to dirty energy interests.

The next time Rutledge joins in a multi-state legal team supporting dirty air and water to help power companies or other corporate polluters, think RAGA. Its supporters are probably lurking in the background.

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According to OpenSecrets.org, RAGA’s top known donors in the past three campaign cycles included oil and gas drillers Devon Energy Production and Range Resources, the energy and petrochemical conglomerate Koch Industries, coal mining giant Murray Energy, electricity producer and distributor Entergy, gas-compressor manufacturer Ariel, and oil and gas services company Trinity Industries, along with the industry groups American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. Among RAGA’s past energy industry contributors are the American Petroleum Institute, Anadarko Petroleum, CenterPoint Energy, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Newfield Exploration, and Noble Energy. A recent investigation by the Energy and Policy Institute found that Dominion Energy of Virginia, the lead partner in the ACP project, donated over $60,000 to RAGA since 2014.

Democratic attorneys general have gotten in this game, too. So far, though, they are outnumbered.