Government Accountability and Oversight

Government Accountability and Oversight (GAO)

Background

Government Accountability and Oversight (GAO) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit launched in the beginning of 2018 by “experienced attorneys from the litigation, prosecutorial and classical liberal think tank worlds.” [1]

According to its website, “GAO will engage in litigation to protect public interests in economic liberty where taxing or permitting activities, property right restrictions and other extant or proposed regulatory or other policy impediments threaten to limit those interests.” [1]

GAO launched Climate Litigation Watch in May 2018, a project to target those investigating ExxonMobil and other oil companies' knowledge about climate change. Climate Litigation Watch describes GAO as follows: [3]

“Government Accountability & Oversight (GAO) is a non-profit public interest law firm created by, among others, individuals who have been most instrumental in bringing the public records exposing these AGs’ abuses to light.  As this audacious legal assault ramps up still further, entering its third year, GAO through its project Climate Litigation Watch will shine a light on the campaign’s origins, its leadership and its tactics.

“Documents will serve as the antidote to the climate campaigners’ ad hominem attacks, time-worn talking points and half-baked scientific analysis. How did this effort come about, with whose impetus, when?  Public records show the answers to these questions, and Climate Litigation Watch is now organizing them for easy search and education, a function that has been sorely lacing [sic] to date as a way to allow the public to learn for themselves.  If you want to understand the campaign behind these investigations and lawsuits, these are the organic documents, providing the background information, and news stories and analyses you might have missed in the legacy media’s enthusiastic promotion of the campaign.” 

One of the key figures behind GAO and Climate Litigation Watch is Chris Horner, a lawyer with a history of working for the coal industry who has claimed global temperatures haven't been increasing for at least 25 years. According to The Daily CallerHorner is “one of the key figures spearheading the ClimateLitigationWatch project.” [4], [5]

Horner works as a Senior Legal Fellow for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), formerly the American Tradition Institute, where he “provides strategic and legal counsel on cases involving Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings and government transparency.” He is also a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). In 2016, E&E Legal issued a complaint to Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, requesting a turn over of documents discussing climate change deniers. An answer to that complaint is posted on the Climate Litigation Watch website. [6], [7]

J. Gregory Garrison, a member of GAO's Board of Directors, has described climate change as “a hoax, a snare, and a delusion always.” Garrison is a partner at the Garrison Law Firm, LLC and a former legal analyst for CBS News. He also worked as a radio host at Indianapolis’s WIBC, where he replaced “longtime friend” Mike Pence. [8]

Matthew D. Hardin also sits on GAO's Board of Directors. GAO's address listed at GuideStar is, according to public records, also registered to a house Hardin purchased in late 2017. Hardin was elected Greene County's next Commonwealth's Attorney in 2018. He proudly lists among his accomplishments open records requests related to the Paris Accord under the Obama administration. “I believe in the Constitution and your rights to be free from overbearing government,” Hardin writes. “I’ve been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, even teaching free concealed carry classes since 2014.” [9], [10], [17]

Separately from the nonprofit GAO with a listed Virginia address, business filings at the Departmant of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs indicate a “Government Accountability and Oversight” was also incorporated in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2018 with Chris Horner listed as CEO. The address on record is a shared office space in Minnesota[18]

Chris Horner has said that he worked closely with Matt Hardin “on various legal issues for the past three years” with various groups Horner is involved with. Horner officially endorsed Hardin for Commonwealth's Attorney in 2017. [11]

Climate Litigation Watch

The Climate Litigation Watch website claims “Its sole purpose is to ensure the public record about this explosion of litigation, in the name of 'climate accountability,' is complete so as to allow a more honest, fact-driven and well-informed debate.” To achieve this, it would post “commentaries and analysis, posting and placing in context important information gleaned from Freedom of information Act (FOIA) requests.” [2]

“Burning witches was an absurd response then, and today’s modern equivalent will be viewed in future years as an equally misguided response,” Climate Litigation Watch writes of the investigation into oil companies.

It describes the investigations as “a perversion of the justice system and particularly of chief law enforcement offices, state attorneys general” with the supposed goal to “to conjure a history of illegal conduct in order to advance an extremist policy agenda and fulfill a vision of an energy-starved world.” [2]

Stance on Climate Change

Climate Litigation Watch refers to a “climate that is always changing,” downplaying the impact of humans on climate change and subtly suggest increasing wealth and adapting to climate change as a strategy: [2]

“Misuse of the judicial system in the face of their agenda having failed through the proper, democratic process will not yield the practical responses the world needs as it faces a climate that is always changing, which change the wealthiest societies have always adapted to best.”

Funding

GAO does not publicly list its funding sources. Chris Horner, one of the key individuals working with both GAO and its Climate Litigation Watch Project, was named in Alpha Natural Resources' bankruptcy documents. A January 11, 2016 document listed Horner as Regulatory Counsel for the coal company. The Wall Street Journal reported Horner was paid at least $18,600 before the group declared bankruptcy. The Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, also an Alpha creditor, paid Horner $110,000 in 2014, $115,865 in 2013, and $60,449 in 2012, according to the clinic’s tax filings. [12], [13], [14]

990 Forms

As of summer 2018, Government Accountability and Oversight had not yet filed its first 990 forms.

Key People

Board of Directors

Professionals (also listed at Climate Litigation Watch) [16]

Actions

May 2018

GAO launched Climate Litigation Watch, The Daily Caller reported. [5]

“We’re not going to get into the science debate and other arguments. We’ll just show the public the documents, so you can decide,” Horner told The Daily Caller. “Let people see what this campaign looks like. There is a constantly shifting narrative. This site lays out the progression — the players and their roles to put all of that into perspective.” [5]

The Daily Caller noted that Attorneys General Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Eric Schneiderman “will almost certainly be included in the profiles” compiled by Climate Litigation Watch. [5]

Climate Litigation Watch's launch occurred while several cities have filed lawsuits against oil companies including Exxon and Chevron. ExxonMobil itself has sued those attempting to investigate and sue the company over global warming, contending that the company is victim to a politically-motivated conspiracy. [5]

Related Organizations

Contact & Address

Guidestar listed the following address for Government Accountability & Oversight: [10]

324 LOGTRAC RD

STANARDSVILLE, VA 22973

That address matches with a house sold on December 15, 2017, and now owned by Michael Hardin according to public property records for Greene County, VA: [10]

324 Logtrac Rd, Stanardsville VA

Social Media

Resources

  1. Homepage, Government Accountability and Oversight. Archived May 10, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/0tJWj

  2. About Us,” Climate Litigation Watch. Archived May 9, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/pCF5l

  3. Confronting Righteous Political Passions with Stubborn Facts,Climate Litigation Watch, May 3, 2018. Archived May 10, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/TP5Wm

  4. Patrick Fitzgerald. “Arch Coal Made $10,000 Gift to Energy & Environment Legal,” The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2016. Archived April 18, 2016.

  5. Chris White. “Watchdog Group Launches Website Exposing Intimate Aspects Of Enviro-Led Climate Litigation,The Daily Caller, May 9, 2018. Archived May 9, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/DJcqS

  6. Igniting the Fight on Climate Alarmism,” Legal Insurrection, June 22, 2016. Archived June 23, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/CMUcR

  7. RESOURCES,” Climate Litigation Watch, May 7, 2018.

  8. Gregg Garrison. “Liberal Turned Skeptic Nails Global Warming Hoax,” 93.1FM WIBC, March 13, 2018. Archived May 9, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/xLBTd

  9. About Matt,” Conservative Republican Matthew Hardin. Archived May 19, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/sc7cA

  10. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY & OVERSIGHT,GuideStar. Accessed May 9, 2018.], [“324 Logtrac Rd, Stanardsville, VA 22973,” Zillow. Archived May 10, 2018.

  11. Chris Horner endorses Matt Hardin for Commonwealth's Attorney,” YouTube video uploaded by user “Matthew Hardin for Commonwealth's Attorney,” August 10, 2017. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  12. Patrick Fitzgerald. “Alpha Natural Discloses Payments to Climate Change Skeptic Chris Horner,” The Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2015. Archived April 18, 2016.

  13. Elliott Negin. “Coal Companies’ Secret Funding of Climate Science Denial Exposed,” Huffington Post, April 12, 2016. Archived April 18, 2016

  14. Patrick Fitzgerald. “Arch Coal Made $10,000 Gift to Energy & Environment Legal,” The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2016. Archived April 18, 2016.

  15. BOARD OF DIRECTORS,” GAO. Archived May 10, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/PeCjh

  16. Professionals,” Climate Litigation Watch. Archived May 10, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/nXaKw

  17. Matthew Hardin,” LinkedIn. Accessed May 10, 2018.

  18. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY & OVERSIGHT - Initial File Number: N00005963347,” DC.gov Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Accessed May 10, 2018.