In his dutiful and forceful concession remarks in November 2014, John Miller, the Republican candidate that year for Massachusetts attorney general, gave fair warning: “The fight for impartial, fact-based justice from a non-partisan attorney general goes on.” Miller, even in defeat, believed – and presumably feared — that the Bay State was still in “desperate need” of an attorney general who would take a “professional, not a political approach” to the office.
His fears are confirmed.
In June of 2016, it is now evident that the winner that November night, Maura Healey, is using her office to punish those whose views of public policy differ from her own. As a consequence, Healey is no longer fit to hold the office of attorney general.
As reported last week, Healey is now using the power of her office to investigate conservative groups with supposed ties to ExxonMobil. Her subpoena charges that the oil giant lied to shareholders and consumers about the risks of global warming in its communications and shareholder filings.
Healey is seeking 40 years-worth of ExxonMobil documents and communications with right-leaning “think tanks.” Locally, these include the Beacon Hill Institute and Acton Institute. According to The Boston Herald, the basis of the investigation is “deceptive business practices.” The energy company countered by filing a federal lawsuit claiming, rightly, that Healey’s action is no more than a “fishing expedition,” part of a “political agenda,” and the attorney general is “abusing the power of government.” It is a disgracefully overt political maneuver.
Remarkably, both the Left and Right have been critical of state attorneys-general engaged in this scrutiny of ExxonMobil. Harvey Silverglate, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts, called the investigation “pure harassment.” Added Silverglate, “It’s not the way scientific or factual or even political battles are settled in this country, which last I checked is still a free country.” The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel wrote that the attack on ExxonMobil is really a “front,” and that the real target is “a broad array of conservative activist groups.”
So this is what we have come to in Massachusetts: a hyper-partisan attorney general, motivated by political expediency, who believes that ExxonMobil defrauded the public and its shareholders by systematically advancing the idea of “climate denial.” Seriously.
Where is the outrage on Beacon Hill? Where is the outrage from the prestige media in greater Boston?
Perhaps more so than any other Massachusetts elected official – including Sen. Elizabeth Warren — Healey is the penultimate programmed progressive. Her core belief-system centers around identity politics and so-called diversity… of everything; except political thought.
On her Web site, maurahealey.com, Healy calls herself the “People’s Lawyer” (she is, apparently, the lawyer of all of the people, except, that is, conservative people). In a January posting she brags that she is “looking ahead to the challenges around the bend and we’re already pushing hard on our top priorities.” ExxonMobil’s thoughts on so-called climate disruption are a priority for the people of Massachusetts?
Healey’s behavior is reminiscent of the Lois Lerner and IRS scandal from a few years ago. Then, as now, conservative groups were targeted under a legal pretense. If Healey’s actions were based in fact and based on the law, warranting the full force and authority of her office, why hasn’t she called for the complete divestiture of ExxonMobil investments by the state’s pension system (which in 2015 was valued at $151 million in the Domestic Equity portfolio)?
Among the first official undertakings by Healey in 2015 was a social-media “campaign.” It involved the collection of testimonials from same-sex couples for an amicus brief that was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, supporting national recognition of gay marriage. However laudable, such time and expense amounted to a political lagniappe but not a legal imperative.
In Massachusetts, it seems identity politics is a greater priority than identity theft, which should be a priority.
Identity theft – the unauthorized use of personal information to defraud or commit crimes – is the fastest-growing crime in America. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security notes that victims spend “between 30-60 hours of their time” and “approximately $1,000 of their own money clearing up the problem.”
The Boston Globe noted two years ago that 1.2 million people in the Commonwealth had personal information and financial data compromised in 2013. In February 2015, a “data breach” occurred at insurer Anthem, compromising personal information of 78.8 million Americans. One million of those reside in Massachusetts.
But don’t tell that to Healey.
On mass.gov/ago, victims are cautioned: “You should be aware that not all identity-theft complaints can or will be investigated.” These people, unlike ExxonMobil, will likely not be accorded a vigorous campaign. What is unsettling is that Healey and fellow progressives believe they can effectively combat climate disruption to their satisfaction but not identity theft.
Healey will probably not resign from office. She also probably not be impeached under the articles of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As a last resort, however, she should be recalled. Interestingly, the voter initiative and referendum provisions in the constitution specifically exclude the recall/removal of judges. But the Constitution is silent regarding recall/removal of executive branch officers.
Let the petition begin.
James P. Freeman is a columnist for The New Boston Post.