Dark money-fueled law firm joins Massachusetts climate suit against Big Oil

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FIRST ON FOX: A California climate-focused law firm, which has received millions of dollars from left-leaning nonprofits, has quietly joined Massachusetts’ persistent legal battle against the oil giant ExxonMobil.

According to court filings reviewed by Fox News, Sher Edling’s founding partners, Vic Sher and Matt Edling, were admitted to the case of Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. ExxonMobil Corp. following a request from Seth Schofield, senior counsel for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Energy and Environment Bureau. Both Sher and Edling affirmed in separate affidavits that they would appear on behalf of the state.

Text from both affidavits, filed in Suffolk County Superior Court, read: “I am familiar with the facts and law relevant to the claims and defenses in this action, and my appearance and participation will aid the attorney general in her prosecution of this case.”

It remains unclear what Sher Edling’s exact role in the case will be and how its involvement will impact the many other Big Oil cases it is pursuing on behalf of more than a dozen states and cities. Sher Edling and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

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Andrea Campbell

Democratic Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell speaks in Boston on Nov. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

In October 2019, then-Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat who is now the state’s governor, filed the initial complaint against ExxonMobil, accusing the company of engaging in deceptive practices by failing to disclose the climate change risks posed by fossil fuels. The lawsuit came after a yearslong investigation into the company’s day-to-day operations.

Healey said at the time that ExxonMobil “has known for decades about the catastrophic climate impacts of burning fossil fuels — its chief product.”

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But ExxonMobil fired back, arguing in court that Massachusetts’ allegations implicate the company’s “right to petition as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” It added that the state objects to the company’s protected activities merely because they “influenced climate policy in a manner that is contrary to the policy objectives of the attorney general.”

ExxonMobil campus in Houston

An entrance to the ExxonMobil campus in Houston is pictured on Feb. 1, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Sher Edling’s involvement, meanwhile, adds to the growing list of cases the firm has taken up. It was founded in 2016 to pursue climate-related litigation against oil companies, arguing they have known about their impact on global warming for decades. 

The firm is pursuing such litigation on behalf of Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Baltimore, Honolulu and several local governments across the country. Overall, more than 25% of Americans live in jurisdictions suing Big Oil for climate deception.

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Though the entirety of Sher Edling’s funding structure is unknown, the firm has for years raised millions of dollars from nonprofit organizations. These nonprofits shield the identities of their individual donors, effectively ensuring that anonymous individuals and groups play a pivotal role in the firm’s climate litigation efforts. 

According to tax filings, between 2017 and 2020, the Collective Action Fund for Accountability, Resilience, and Adaptation (CAF), a secretive group fiscally sponsored by Washington, D.C.-based New Venture Fund, wired more than $5.2 million to Sher Edling. In 2021, CAF funneled $3 million to the firm, and in 2022, it wired grants worth a total of $2.5 million to the firm.

Vic Sher, partner at law firm Sher Edling

Vic Sher, a partner at law firm Sher Edling, speaks about the climate litigation he is involved in during a virtual panel in December 2021. (American Museum of Tort Law/YouTube)

In 2021, CAF switched its fiscal sponsorship from a smaller, dark new money group to New Venture Fund, which is managed by Arabella Advisors, a firm that oversees a liberal billion-dollar dark money network.

While CAF’s, and by extension Sher Edling’s, individual donors are also unknown, a previous Fox News Digital review showed past funding has flowed through the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

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“As I’ve warned, it’s clear that radical, left-wing dark money groups are footing the bill for Sher Edling’s climate crusade with the goal of bankrupting American energy employers,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, previously told Fox News Digital. “New Venture Fund and Sher Edling’s litigious gamble is nothing but an attempt at achieving a goal lacking majority support in Congress: the eradication of fossil fuels.”

Cruz, who is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the House Oversight Committee chair, have conducted a wide-ranging probe into Sher Edling and its ties to the Biden administration, an investigation which is ongoing.

ExxonMobil didn’t respond to a request for comment for purposes of this story. 

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