Michael Bastasch and Ethan Barton of the Daily Caller outline a scheme that uses the legal system and tax dollars to help fund Democrats.

A nonprofit that employs dozens of Democratic donors makes millions by suing the federal government for stricter environmental regulations, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found.

Earthjustice, an environmental law firm that grew out of the Sierra Club, has sued federal agencies at least 39 times since 2009. Using three environmental laws, Earthjustice has raked in nearly $4 million, according to a DCNF analysis of the Department of Treasury’s Judgment Fund, which tracks court ordered federal payments.

Certain Earthjustice staff have donated $2.4 million to Democrats, TheDCNF found. …

… Earthjustice isn’t alone. TheDCNF found many environmental groups, law firms and attorneys have sued the government for millions of dollars in what are called “citizen suits.” Such lawsuits are often environmentalists looking to force a federal agency to issue more regulations.

“Citizen suits are often brought to enlarge environmental regulation beyond the scope of statutory authority and congressional intent, frequently with the willing help of overzealous bureaucrats and sympathetic judges,” Reed Hopper, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), told TheDCNF.

Activists not only use such lawsuits to further their own policy goals, they can also get taxpayers to pay for their legal fees. Republican lawmakers have been huge critics of environmentalists’ use of “citizen suits” to collude with agencies in what are called “sue-and-settle” lawsuits.

“Sue-and-settle” happens when environmentalists sue a federal agency for missing a regulatory deadline under the CAA, CWA or ESA; the federal agency opts to quickly settle the case and issue a new rule instead of fighting it out in court.