Monday October 2, 2017 •
Intolerance for criticism. A penchant for bully lawsuits. Indifference toward the First Amendment. Blaming others for problems he created. No, I am not referring to Donald Trump, but to the proponent of a lawsuit that predates the U.S. election. It is a lawsuit with so many themes in common with Donald Trump’s worldview and tactics that it seems like an offspring of our dark election.
Resolute Forest Products, a $3 billion company from Canada, has sued Stand.earth and Greenpeace for criticizing its destructive logging practices. It hired Kasowitz, Benson & Torres — the same firm Trump used to threaten the New York Times for publishing his tax returns. The same law firm Trump has used for decades. Attempting to bully critics into silence is something Resolute and Trump have in common. This is Resolute’s third lawsuit against a nonprofit critic in the last few years.
But Resolute is not just suing Stand.earth and Greenpeace — they are suing me personally. Why would you sue a non-profit employee? Intimidation. Last spring, private investigators started showing up at the homes of current and former Stand.earth and Greenpeace employees, in locations as far flung as the Southeast United States and Canada’s West Coast. These shadowy investigators parked in front of our houses for days at a time, asked questions while refusing to explain themselves, and frightened our neighbors and families.
It’s also an attempt to intimidate my wife and me — by putting the home where we are raising our two boys at risk, by threatening to put the small college fund we have scraped together for our children at play in a lawsuit, by trying to insert risk into the financial future of people who have worked their entire adult lives protecting forests and fighting climate change. Think about that for a minute. This is the work of Richard Garneau, the CEO of Resolute. I don’t need to characterize what kind of person would do this — you already know.
Stand with me on October 10 when we have our day in federal court – the Northern District of California, San Francisco, at 2:00 PST. This is a moment of truth that will help define whether this bully lawsuit becomes the latest trend in the rise of corporate power — or whether it will die a swift death and be filed on the dust heap of history under the heading of expensive, unstrategic, and cowardly attempts to beat back citizen activists and advocacy organizations.
Bullies always want an unfair fight, but the disparity in this case is astonishing: Resolute had more revenue in the first eight hours of 2015 than Stand.earth did all year. The only fight they want is the one where whomever has the most money and lawyers wins. That may be Trump’s and Garneau’s idea of America — but that isn’t what this country stands for.
All of this would be bad enough, and an ominous parallel to the ugly thinking that brought us Trump, if this case were limited to Stand.earth and Greenpeace. However, Resolute’s (and Trump’s) law firm is applying an absurd yet dangerous legal theory that, if successful, could put all of civil society in jeopardy. Their complaint alleges that Stand.earth and Greenpeace are a “criminal enterprise” under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, which was designed to take down the mafia.
While their legal action has little chance of winning in court, a legal victory is likely not the point. Resolute is hoping to take Stand.earth and Greenpeace off focus, drain our resources, and intimidate us — as well as to throw a deep chill on anyone else who wants to speak out against destructive logging.
Spending millions to blame environmentalists for a company’s problems is perhaps a sign of desperation. That’s not surprising given that Resolute’s CEO, Richard Garneau, has been closing company mills under a corporate consolidation plan and trying to blame activists for the resulting job losses — and all the while, Resolute’s shares have dropped from over $20 to under $5 in the past several years. Like Trump, it’s always someone else’s fault with Richard Garneau.
The disease of this lawsuit is spreading. Trump’s favorite law firm just brought a copycat lawsuit in Nebraska against Greenpeace and others for fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Same lawyers, same legal claims. Kasowitz says other CEOs are ready to file additional lawsuits aimed at the environmental movement. We need to see this for what it is. This is not a lawsuit — it’s a campaign. A campaign aimed at intimidating advocacy groups into silence, penalizing environmental activism, and stifling free speech.
Trump-minded bullies will be only too happy to embrace this line of attack if it works to silence inconvenient critics. But the converse is also true. A win by Stand.earth and Greenpeace on October 10 will expose this strategy for what it is — a vast overreach fueled by intolerance and greed.
A win will show that intimidation is an expensive, losing tactic. A win will send a signal to the companies considering a move to the dark side that like all things fueled by hatred, they implode. A win will show us something that in the past few months millions of people have begun to question — winning will demonstrate that the foundation of our nation is still sound, that in America, might doesn’t make right.
Stand with me for justice on October 10!
We’re more committed than ever to fight attempts to turn environmental advocacy into a crime. But we can’t do it without you. Click here to support our work to stop destructive forest practices in Canada and the U.S. We will not be intimidated, and we will certainly not be silenced. Together, we’ll continue to stand up for the people and places we love!