First, there was Chevron; now, there’s Exxon. The international oil-and-gas company is currently the target of two investigations — one by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, the second by California attorney general Kamala Harris. The prosecutors allege that Exxon “defrauded” its shareholders and the general public by misleading them about the impact of man-made climate change.
In reality, Schneiderman and Harris, both Democrats, are using their prestigious perch to hassle a company for having views with which they disagree. And their recklessness is spreading. This week, attorneys general from 15 other states and territories joined Schneiderman and Harris in New York to announce that they, too, have no qualms about employing their offices in a naked display of political muscle; a couple of them are vowing to look into fossil-fuel operations in their jurisdictions. The coalition calls itself “AGs United for Clean Power.” Delete “Clean,” and the name would be more accurate.
Coincidentally, another Democrat is all in for frog-marches, just for different perps. On Thursday, in a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White calling for an investigation into “contradictory statements” by financial-services providers with regard to a pending Department of Labor rule, Massachusetts senator Liz Warren observed: “Corporate interests have become accustomed to saying whatever they want about Washington policy debates, with little accountability when their predictions prove to be inaccurate.” Nudge, nudge.
This is one instance of corporate free speech that Democrats are happy to endorse. As they did last year, when an uproar from businesses helped force Indiana governor Mike Pence into “clarifying” his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Democrats are thrilled that Apple and the NFL and the rest are displaying a “conscience” and using the tactics at their disposal to influence public life.
For the Left, businesses have a license to participate corporately in political life to the extent that they promote Democratic interests. Anything else is a license for Democrats to use the tools of the state to bring them to heel.
A relationship between the government and private enterprise that is reduced to power relations is an unsustainable one. This is a climate that needs to change.
— Ian Tuttle is a National Review Institute Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.