Friday, August 18, 2006

Mark Kennedy caught in "CPA-gate"

Republican Mark Kennedy's campaign has a new problem. Not only are polls showing him behind Democrat Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, but now he's been caught using the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) designation in violation of an agreement he signed last December with the Minnesota Board of Accountancy.

Kennedy's latest television campaign ad says that he were elected, he would be the only CPA in the U.S. Senate. That appears to directly contradict the affidavit he signed saying he would "not use the CPA designation in a way that may lead a person to believe I hold an active certificate in Minnesota."

Today when asked about how long his CPA license had been inactive, Kennedy said "I'd have to go back and look for you."

Kennedy touted his CPA credentials at the Minnesota GOP convention in June saying "As a CPA, I can assure you, there is no good news in the tax code."

In A New Ad, Kennedy Said “I’d be [. . .] the only CPA in the Senate.” In his latest television ad, Kennedy said, “I’d be one of the few businesspeople, and the only CPA in the Senate. And I think you need to just take one look at the budget to know, we need at least one CPA in the Senate.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

DFL can't wait until September, unifies behind Steve Kelley

(Sauk Rapids, MN) Those who showed up wanting to watch a DFL party endorsement fist fight were very disappointed on Saturday. With very little dissent, the DFL State Central Committee endorsed State Senator Steve Kelley for Attorney General.

Kelley made teamwork, party unity and defeating Republicans the theme of his endorsement speech. Listen to Steve Kelley's speech here (Runs 8:09)

Here is the text of that speech:
I'm Steve Kelley and I'm here to ask for your endorsement to be the next Attorney General of Minnesota.

And I want to thank all of you for driving here today. I thank you for your service to the party and to our state. We appreciate everything that you do.
I'm seeking your endorsement today because I can't wait to get out there and campaign with the DFL team this November.

With your endorsement today we can complete that team and take our party's message to Minnesotans. And that message is clear. We know the right things to do to make Minnesota great again. Invest in public schools. Make college tuition affordable and make sure every Minnesotan has universal access to health care coverage.

Build a transportation system that works and make sure that we're creating good jobs at fair wages. And here's what I'm going to bring to this team. As Attorney General I will work with Governor Mike Hatch and a DFL Legislature to make sure we have universal health care coverage.

Now I'm going to continue the good work that Mike has done -- holding health care companies and their executives accountable. No Minnesotan should worry that her hard earned dollars are going wrongly into the pockets of health care executives instead of into bedside care.

And with your help I'm going to work to improve the health care quality and patient safety. Every Minnesotan deserves the best care available. As Attorney General I'll work to protect individual privacy. As a legislator I've worked hard to protect our privacy. I was the chief author of the first Internet privacy bill in the country. And I'll continue to do that work as your Attorney General.

And I'll work with our county attorneys and our Attorneys General around the country to prosecute and prevent identity theft.

Now we have a new scourge in Minnesota today -- methamphetamine. It is threatening our kids. I'll work with police and sheriffs departments across the state to keep our communities safe -- cracking down on gangs and meth dealers, Internet predators targeting our kids and violent criminals.

I'm asking for your support today because I am ready to take this battle to the Republicans. They've got a State Auditor who thinks that public libraries are not essential services. They've got a Secretary of State who tries to make it harder to vote. They've got an Attorney General Candidate who wants to actually reduce regulations on big corporations. And they've got a Governor who wont' trust a woman to make her own health care decisions.

Mike Hatch and Judi Dutcher will get us to universal health care and affordable college tuition. Mark Ritchie will make sure people can vote and that every vote counts. And Rebecca Otto will strengthen communities and help lower property taxes.

As your Attorney General I promise to strengthen justice in Minnesota by standing up for those without power against those who misuse power.

We'll stand up for our children against the bureaucrats in Washington who think they know more than Minnesota teachers. We'll fight "No Child Left Behind".

We will stand against companies who are trying to victimize our vulnerable seniors. We'll stand up for working families by going after companies that wrongly classify employees as contractors. And we'll stand up against bigotry in all its forms.

Minnesotans and all Americans are looking to Democrats to lead us back to the principles on which our country was founded -- liberty, equality, and opportunity for everybody.

We need courage to stand up for the things we believe in. Now is not the time to let self-doubt and fear guide our actions. To be the leaders our state and country need we have to be united. Only by working together can we unify our nation and lead the way back to our basic values.

Now is the time to unite against the right-wing agenda, unite against divisive politics, unite for a better future for each and every one of us.

Now let's go out and win in November!

Listen to the voice vote- Kelley wins DFL AG Endorsement

No contest. There was barely any dissent. Listen for yourself here. The speaker is DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez.

Friday, August 11, 2006

MN 6th District Now Rated A Toss Up

Congressional Quarterly has changed its ratings on 18 races reflecting what it calls a "Democratic Breeze" blowing across the country. In Minnesota's 6th District CQ's rating has gone from "leans Republican" to "No Clear Favorite"
Minnesota 6
• New rating: No Clear Favorite
• Old rating: Leans Republican
The political history and demographics of this district, which three-term Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy left open to run for the Senate, do not exactly lend themselves to a Democratic takeover. Voters in the 6th, which bridges suburbs of the Twin Cities with the city of St. Cloud, gave President Bush 57 percent in 2004. Yet Kennedy himself ran 3 percentage points behind Bush in his 2004 race against well-known child safety advocate Patty Wetterling — who is back for another try after flirting with a Senate bid this year. Wetterling has a powerful personal presence that makes her a formidable candidate. So is state Sen. Michele Bachmann, though Democrats think they have an angle in her image as a social conservative activist — which contrasts with Kennedy’s more business-oriented image.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Interview with DFL Attorney General Candidate Bill Luther

Former Congressman Bill Luther says he is NOT actively seeking the endorsement of the DFL State Central Commitee in the Attorney General's race. That's why he won't be at the SCC meeting this Saturday (August 12). Neither will Solicitor General Lori Swanson who is also running in the DFL Attorney General Primary. Both candidates are encouraging the SCC to give no endorsement. That leaves State Senator Steve Kelley the only candidate actively seeking the DFL SCC's endorsement. We've already interviewed Steve Kelley and Lori Swanson. Today we talk with Bill Luther

Download podcast here (Runs 24:18)

Welcome to this Edition of Inside Minnesota Politics. I’m Mike McIntee. Our guest today is no stranger to politics. He’s been elected to Congress four times and the Minnesota Senate five times. And now he wants to be Minnesota’s Attorney General. Welcome Bill Luther.

Bill Luther: Thanks Mike

MM: Bill you’re one of three candidates vying for the DFL slot on the November ballot. That’s all going to be decided in September. The other two are State Senator Steve Kelley and Solicitor General Lori Swanson.

Now I know when you were in the state Senate you had the job Bill, you had the job of overseeing the Attorney General’s finances and you were also involved in writing many of the laws the Attorney General is called to enforce. So you’ve got a good idea of what the does. Can you give me in your own words what the Attorney General’s job is?

Bill Luther: Sure. Be glad to Mike. It really is a multi-faceted job you might say. First of all you're the chief legal officer for the state. And what that means is that you serve in the role of chief legal officer, which means offering opinions on various things, different levels of government and to different agencies within the state government. In addition to that the Attorney General would initiate and defend lawsuits when it’s in the interest of the state. Often times it in the nature of the defense of cases that are being brought. But there are other instances as well. And so just handling a lot of legal matters in the courtroom for the state and its various agencies is a big part of the job.

In addition to that, the Attorney General is really what you might call the watchdog or the advocate for all Minnesotans. In a number of areas the Attorney General has authority to work on behalf of all Minnesotans. In the area of consumer law. It might be when it comes to charities, anti-trust work. A number of statutes allow the Attorney General to take aggressive action on behalf of the citizens of the state. That's where you hear people refer to it as the people's attorney-- the Attorney General-- because that is... that often times can be the attorney for individual citizens.

And then I think I would call the third role really an area of advocacy where the Attorney General might feel that certain laws should be changed. He's entitled to come into the legislature to ask that the legislature change them. Or he might feel that by teaming up with other Attorney Generals around the country they can approach Congress or can take on a case that's bigger than one Attorney General alone. So there's this area where an Attorney General can exercise a lot of leadership in advocacy. And that's what I kind of call the third area. So you really got three areas. One is the chief legal person for the state. The second is where you represent the people of the state individually as the people's attorney. And the third is where you are an advocate for change or leadership on important issues of the day.

MM: Now you've had to go out and find people to work for you before and you'd have to consider what are the necessary qualifications for the job. So, if you were going to go out and hire somebody to be the Attorney General of Minnesota what qualifications would you be looking for?

BL: Well first of all, of course you'd want to hire a good lawyer.

MM: Good lawyer, OK.

BL: You'd want somebody with very good credentials both from an education standpoint and from an experience standpoint. And I think from the materials I've put out you can probably tell that I feel that I fill the bill in that regard.

MM: I got your email today that you sent out to a lot of folks and it has an extensive history on what you've done an attorney.

BL: Right and my legal education is from the University of Minnesota law school after I went to undergraduate there. I graduated with honors. After that I clerked for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and after that practiced law both in a firm and on my own. And primarily representing what you might call the underdog, the powerless in society. It's just a role that I chose and that's basically been my life's work.

MM: So if you're going to hire the Attorney General you're looking for somebody who is going to be a good attorney. Anything beyond that?

BL: I think in addition to being a good attorney you want to hire somebody that can exercise good judgment. I think there are a lot of areas where you simply have to have good judgment because you can't take on every matter that comes just as you can in a law firm or when you serve in the legislature or in Congress. So exercising good judgment. I think the third thing I would say is you have to be very tough and strong because of what you're dealing with. It's similar to when you're handling cases like the cases I handled in my private practice. You'll often times be up against the corporate attorneys and maybe a battery of them. And you might be the only person on your side of the council table. You have to have that. It's something about the resilience in a person. You have to be able to take on those tough fights and not be dissuaded by the amount of power or wealth or pressure brought by the other side.

MM: Now you've mentioned how you've been a lawyer and how you meet those qualifications and how you're tough. Can you tell me a little bit about your judgment-- how you have good judgment?

BL: Well I think that comes down to the work. Obviously some of it in the law practice in terms of having a successful law practice and succeeding on the cases. I have a good track record in that respect. But I think it also comes down to the work that I've done in the legislature and in Congress. On the legislature I was chosen to be the Senate Assistant Majority Leader and I served in that role for 12 years. And in that role as Senate Assistant Majority Leader basically what you do is exercise judgment every day working with your collegues, working with legislation and trying to get things moving forward for the state on behalf of other members of the body. You serve in a leadership role like that.

In Congress I had the same experience. I was asked to serve on one of the most powerful committees in Congress, which is the Energy and Commerce Committee. And I served on that committee and in that role in that committee I had to exercise good judgment every day because of the importance of that committee to the affairs of the people of the country.

MM: Now being a candidate for Attorney General is a little bit different than being the Attorney General. It's not a totally different set of skills, but as you know from being a candidate that you're required to do a lot different things. Can you tell me how you would make a good candidate as well as a good Attorney General?

BL: I think in terms of being a candidate one has to just look at one's track record when it comes to winning elections. I have a strong track record of winning elections in tough districts. It's one thing to win an election in a district that's of your own party's political persuasion.

MM: Like Minneapolis with the fifth.

BL: That's right. But it's another thing to win in those tough districts. When I went into the legislature, both the House and the Senate I did beat Republican incumbents in both instances. But even more importantly than that when I ran for Congress I ran in very difficult district in a very difficult year. It was 1994 when Newt Gingrich was taking...

MM: The "Contract with America".

BL: Exactly.

MM: Or some called it the "Contract on America".

BL: That's right. And that was a very tough district, suburban district and it was a very tough year. And I was one of the few Democrats in the country that was able to pick up a seat for our party that year. And then in succeeding years the district actually got more difficult. And yet I was able to be re-elected three additional times in that very, very difficult district. And so I think when it comes to electablity, the fact that I was able to accomplish that, and I became know throughout the state as somebody who did a good job, I believe, in my service in Congress and the legislature. I think that makes me the most electable candidate.

MM: Now last election you ran was I believe in the second against John Kline.

BL: That's correct.

MM: And he did win that. That was a redistricted second congressional district. How come you lost that race?

BL: Well there were a lot of reasons, but I would say the fact that the district was in effect split in half. My district was split in half and both sides of the district were actually more difficult than the district I had run in --even though I had run in a difficult district. I would say that would probably be the biggest factor. The other factor of course that affected former Vice President (Walter) Mondale and Senators across the country and certainly our ticket here in Minnesota was the fallout from the (Senator Paul) Wellstone memorial. It was just a tragedy to see that occurring following the tragedy of the loss of Senator Wellstone. And so that was definitely a big factor as well.

MM: That's very symptomatic about what we've seen over the last several years where the opposition will take and turn some events against you and use it to attack you. Are you prepared for an Attorney General's race that you may be the target of the Republican attack machine?

BL: Well I've been the target of that for many years. What generally happens in this business is if you are successful, and if you are able to successfully compete against Republicans in a variety of offices, you do become the target of the other side. And so I have been the target in the past and I would expect that to be the case in the future. I've stood up to it well in the past, I believe and that would be my intention.

MM: What's the key in standing up to it and turning back that mud that they might throw?

BL: Well, I think staying on the positive, on the offense and just simply not letting yourself get mired down in all of the kind of politics today that people find so offensive. I think staying on the positive. Always, always attempting to look for the bright spots rather than the negatives I think that that's what I've tried to do in my political career and it's worked well.

MM: Let's think back here to actually just a few weeks ago. Matt Entenza suddenly pulled out of the race and everybody had literally just a few hours to decide if they were going to file. Tell me what went through your mind that day and why you came to the conclusion you did.

BL: Well I felt that we needed a strong candidate in the race. And I had been encouraged by many people and I just felt that this office is so important for the people of Minnesota that one had to look beyond themselves. It was not a job that I needed. In fact I often times say it's good to get some people into government that don't need the job. If you know what I mean. People who want to do the job....

MM: It's not the pay that attracts people.

BL: Right. In this case it was just a feeling that we've had a terrific Attorney General in Minnesota for a long time. We've had 40 years actually of Democratic control in the Attorney General's office. It would be a tragedy to let that slip away in a year where we had all this political difficulty as we saw with the Entenza race. And so I just felt that I needed to step forward for the people of Minnesota.

MM: You said people encouraged you. Were any of those people the current Attorney General Mike Hatch?

BL: Yes and many others. But that would be something that's occurred over time. Ever since I left office in 2002 I've had people encouraging me to get back into office again.

MM: Because I heard your name circulating, as rumors circulate on blogs and other things, well before Entenza stepped aside when his troubles surfaced. Had you thought about it then or didn't really think about it until the day of?

BL: Yes, not really. Not until the day of. I had been called by reporters before but Matt Entenza is a friend of mine. Matt and I worked together when he was with the Attorney General's office and I was serving in the legislature. And I know that Matt would do an excellent job on many, many issues serving in the Attorney General's office because I've worked with him. And so I knew that he had that capability. And so I really didn't give it any kind of thought until the point in time where he did decide to withdraw.

MM: Here's an interesting question because you've had the experience of being on the other end of that attack machine we were talking about. If you were in Matt Entenza's shoes when this whole thing kind of happened, what would you have done?

BL: I really can't say. Those things sometimes just get out of control. Which I think occurred in this case and through a variety of perhaps missteps and the handling of everything. So it's hard to now look back and say that he could have done one thing or another. I'm sure that he's doing a lot of second-guessing right now. But the important thing I think is to move forward and I certainly hope Matt does move forward in public service. I think he has a lot to offer.

MM: Let's talk about the endorsement process. Because you and Lori (Swanson) and Steve Kelley are all going to appear on the primary ballot. But between now and the primary the (DFL) State Central Committee is going to meet. In fact it's this Saturday as we speak. Are you actively seeking the endorsement from the State Central Committee, the DFL State Central Committee?

BL: No I'm not. I sent a letter to the Central Committee members today asking for their support, but asking them to support the candidate that wins the primary. I think under the unusual circumstances that we find ourselves in this year; it would just be a very healthy thing to open the process up and let the rank and file Democrats pick the candidate that they feel would be the best candidate to go into the General election.

MM: Now we have a very limited amount of time between now and the September primary and even when you look at it in terms of an election, less than 100 days to the November election. The DFL endorsement carries some perks with it. Obviously the media attention, the fundraising ability that goes with it. Should the State Central Committee not give that to any of the three candidates right now and hold off or would it make sense for them to grant that and give that person a head start?

BL: Well I'm sure that will be debated on Saturday but I think with the short period of time between now and the primary and really the other demands on the party in other races, I think it would be really welcome by the public if the party would allow more rank and file people to be involved in this decision. And that's not taking anything away from the people in the party who work so hard day in and day out -- the Central Committee members the Executive Committee members. I work within the party my entire political life. I have great respect for the people. And so this is not taking anything away from them, but I just think this is an opportunity. I view this as an opportunity to say to the rank and file Democrats in Minnesota "you know in this case we think we'd like to have you involved in this decision. We trust you to help us in this decision with these candidates because I think most people that look at the candidates would say we've got three qualified candidates here. So let's just ask the people in the party to assist us in that process.

MM: Now this is almost a side issue since there is no real convention or anything with this endorsement, but the DFL of lately has had of habit of endorsing people who don’t' win elections. Either somebody else wins in the primary or the person they endorse doesn't win in the November elections. Is the endorsement process broken with in the DFL? Does it need adjustment?

BL: Well I don't know if I would say that it's broken. The primary is a check on the endorsement process. The whole system is setup that way. So if the party ever veers off too far and doesn't do something that fits within the general feelings of the rank and file democratic voters, the true check on the party is the primary. And so I have always viewed the primary as just an appropriate check on the party. I think the party does good work and I think that there are instances where they can be very helpful to rank and file voters by selecting one candidate versus another. But I think there are also instances where that's not necessarily the case. And I think this under the unique circumstances here is one where the party could actually go out and get the assistance of rank and file democrats.

MM: Let's talk about the November elections then. Mike Erlandson, who was the former chair of the party, had a saying that "we didn't need Democrats who can beat Democrats, we needed Democrats who could beat Republicans". Tell me how you are going to be able to beat Republican Jeff Johnson who is running for this?

BL: Well I like that quote of Mike Erlandson's because I think it says a lot. I think that it also is something that applies directly to this race. I think that I have a track record of winning races by appealing not just to Democrats, but appealing to independents and even Republicans. And I think that is what I would be able to do in this race. The kinds of issues I'll be talking about will be issues that won't necessarily be party oriented, if you will. For example the press release I put out today making it clear that my number one issue would be rising gas prices in Minnesota. I don’t' think that's an issue that necessarily cuts across party lines. I think it’s affecting every family, every business, every farmer in Minnesota. And that's going to be my number one issue in this campaign. Because I don't believe enough attention is being spent on it. I believe much more can be done on that issue. And we need true leadership on the issue to carry it forwards. That's an example of what I can do, I believe, to show Minnesotans that I'm going to be an Attorney General for all Minnesotans, not just for a small segment or a special interest group here.

MM: Four years from now, if you are Attorney General of Minnesota and we look back, how is Minnesota going to be different? How are our lives going to be different?

BL: Well I think that in the next four years there will be a number of opportunities to take the side of what you call the powerless or people who are just kind of seems like they don't have the ability to work their way through the system. And there will be many of those instances where as Attorney General I will have the opportunity to work with them, help them, and make their quality of life a lot better in Minnesota. In addition to that, I think that there will be the instances where I will be able to change the laws so that we're not just dealing with the way laws are today but the laws will be improved, will be better. The laws will be fairer for those individuals in the future. And then I believe that there will be some big-ticket issues-- gas prices and other areas -- where my serving as Attorney General has truly made a difference in this country. And that will mean that over the next four years I'll be working with other Attorney Generals, with Congress, with other leaders that want to do something on some of those big ticket issues. But I truly believe that we need an Attorney General with vision and leadership in order to move us in the right direction in this country and in this state. And so I would be someone who would do that and I think that will be reflected in four years.

MM: Bill Luther, former Congressman, I thank you so much for stopping in and talking to us today. Are you planning to go to the State Central Committee meeting this...

BL: I'm not planning to go. I have sent everyone a letter and stated my position.

MM: OK, but we'll be interested to see what happens. Are you asking your... I haven't read through all of your material... are you asking your supporters to vote for no endorsement at this point?

BL: I'm asking them not to endorse a candidate at this point so that they're able to support whoever wins the primary.

MM: OK. Well Bill I thank you so much for taking time to come in here today because I know the campaign takes up a lot of time that's the most valuable resource you have as a candidate is your time. Thank you for joining us and folks if you want to send us a comment about this podcast you can do so at And I'm Mike McIntee and this is Inside Minnesota Politics.

BL: Thank you.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Interview with DFL Attorney General Candidate Lori Swanson

This weekend, DFL State Central Committee members will be asked to endorse one of three candidates who are running for Minnesota Attorney General. Inside Minnesota Politics has already interviewed Senator Steve Kelley and will speak with former Congressman Bill Luther later this week. Today we talk with Solicitor General Lori Swanson.
Download podcast here (runs 30:23)

Welcome to this Edition of Inside Minnesota Politics. I’m Mike McIntee. Would you want your boss’s job? For today’s guest I’m going to assume the answer to that question is yes since she’s running to replace Attorney General Mike Hatch. We’re honored today to have Solicitor General Lori Swanson in our studio. Lori, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to our audience today.

Lori Swanson: Well thank you for having me, I appreciate it.

MM: Lori is one of three candidates vying for the DFL slot on the November ballot. The other two are State Senator Steve Kelley and former Congressman Bill Luther. Lori, you’ve been with the Attorney General’s office ever since Mike Hatch took office seven years ago…

LS: Correct. 1999.

MM: 1999, so you’ve certainly had time to take a close look at the job. Can you tell me what is the job of the Attorney General?

LS: Sure. The Attorney General wears a number of different hats. The Attorney General really is the state's chief legal officer, which means that the Attorney General represents the state of Minnesota in court on legal affairs that can range from the state being sued and the Attorney General defends the state in court. Those lawsuits can range from constitutional challenges over school funding to more routine cases if somebody is walking down the capitol steps. It's snowy. The capitol security didn't shovel well enough. They fall down. The State of Minnesota is the one who would defend that kind of lawsuit. The Attorney General would defend that lawsuit.

The Attorney General is better known for however its consumer advocacy, its plaintiff advocacy. The Attorney General is the chief one to enforce the consumer protection laws, charity laws, anti-trust laws, and really is, I believe, should be the people's lawyer in terms of advocating for the public, being the people's champion, standing up for people when there have been corporate abuses.

MM: So you've had a good chance... you've been involved in many of the lawsuits as the Solicitor General. In fact, I think the Solicitor General kind of does a lot of the heavy lifting, as one would say, in the office...getting these things done?

LS: I've been very involved in many of the more high profile cases of the office ranging from HMO reform to financial services reform. Cases where HMOs have broken the law by not properly paying benefits. Cases where banks have broken the law by selling social security numbers and account balances to telemarketers who then use that information to go out and slam consumers with products they never ordered and never wanted. Cases involving equity strippers who stole the home equity out from under consumers in foreclosure. Literally ripping away from the American dream of home ownership. And so I think the Attorney General serves an incredibly important role for the State and for its people.

We're in an era where many people feel like, I think rightfully so, that the government doesn't always represent them. That the government doesn't care, doesn't hear, doesn't listen to what their concerns are. The Attorney General's office has been the one office in government at all levels that the people have been able to count on to listen to them, to be their advocate, to be their champion and that's the kind of work I would like to continue as Attorney General.

MM: I know I've always had great response from the Attorney General's office when I've called up and I've had telemarketer problems or what not. I always get a call returned. I always get a letter filed. So the office does very good work. Now I have to ask you, what do you think are the qualities that an Attorney General should have?

LS: I think there are many qualities an Attorney General should have. One is the Attorney General needs to be tough. These cases that I'm talking about are not easy cases to bring. They're not easy cases to litigate. When you sue a major national corporation for ripping off your state's citizens, you get an army of lawyers on the other side. Sometimes they're not Minnesota lawyers. They ship them in from some of the biggest law firms in southern Manhattan. And they litigate them very aggressively. Often times will pull out all the stops and take a, not just a kind of a heavy litigation strategy but we've had cases where HMOs for example have formed war rooms to fight back the Attorney General's office --conducting polling and focus groups and opposition research.

So it's very important that the Attorney General have a backbone. Be very strong and tough. Not worry about alienating powerful interests. And be willing to stand up to those powerful interests and not back down. Because they do put an enormous amount of pressure on the Attorney General when you bring those kinds of cases. Mounting kind of this whole overall litigation strategy plus other strategies that really try to get the Attorney General to cave in. So it's incredibly important that the AG be strong, tough, vigilant. Know what's right. Do what's right. Take strong action on behalf of the public.

I think the Attorney General should also be a good lawyer. I think it's very important that the Attorney General have a strong legal skills and be a good lawyer. You are the head of essentially a very large law firm. What I've been doing in the Attorney General's office is in addition to being involved in some of the cases we've talked about myself is essentially manage the state's litigation. I'm responsible for the lawsuits filed by the Attorney General. Managing the professional staff of the office because with a big law firm at any given time we have hundreds and hundreds of lawsuits pending and it's important that the Attorney General know what those lawsuits are. Be able to help drive the legal strategy and participate in the setting of the legal strategy because the AG is the chief legal officer for the state.

And then I would also say it's really important for the Attorney General to exercise what's called prosecutorial discretion. And that is what cases do you bring. What issues do you push forward? At any given time with the hundreds of complaints that are coming in, the Attorney General has to make judgment calls what areas to focus in. And it's important that the Attorney General have that right balance and you know exercise the appropriate judgment to take the kind of cases that I think should be brought.

And in terms of the plaintiff’s cases that I think are important are going to be health care and HMO reform. It's been an area I've spent a very large amount of time in. Whether its filing lawsuits against HMOs that deny claims for kids who at risk and they need treatment and the HMO is saying "too bad, we're not going to give you your chemical dependency treatment" or your mental health treatment. Or whether it's some of the audits that I've been involved in where we've looked at how the non-profit health care companies are spending the "charitable dollar" and have found that rather than either using that money to lower premiums or improve patient care they've squandered the money with excessive executive compensation, you know junkets for around the world and trips to the Venetian Inn for $90,000 to study health care reform. Literally in one case found a health care company that was getting -- having masseuses come in the board meetings and give directors massages at company expense-- at non-profit expense.

So health care reform is an area that the Attorney General's office has been very active in and I want to continue to be incredibly active in. It's an issue that I think is going to get worse not better for the public in terms of problems that we see in the marketplace. You see for instance attempts to preempt the ability of states to regulate health care. There's a bill --Senate File 1955 sponsored by a Republican of Wyoming--Senator Enzi who coincidentally if you look at where he gets his money-- it comes from HMOs and insurance companies

MM: It's always interesting to see where the money comes from.

LS: It is. It is. And he got an inordinate amount from HMOs and insurance companies and financial interests. He sponsored this bill in the US Senate saying that essentially that the Congress would pre-empt the states' ability to regulate health insurance rates, claims handling practices and I think that's wrong.

I think if the Federal government wants to try to set some minimums in a particular area we can talk about that. But states tend to be laboratories of democracy. A lot of times its the states who lead the way. And I think it’s highly arrogant for the Federal Government to try to regulate the states by telling them "you can't do better for your people. You can't do better for your citizens” That we're going to have some Federal bottom line. I think there will be more attempts like that at the Federal level to try to rip power away from the states and state Attorneys General.

In terms of the health care area another problem area is going to be Medicare Part D where we've essentially passed this Medicare Prescription Part D plan. But there are going to be a lot of problems because the Federal Government and Congress have essentially turned over the implementation of Part D to private insurance companies and HMOs and we have started to see some problems. Through the Attorney General's office one where these dual eligibles-- people who are on Medicaid and Medicare -- fell through the cracks and weren't signed up and we had to get involved there. Another one where one insurance company "forgot" or didn't bill people for their Medicare Part-D premiums for a number of months and then what happened was they wanted to debit their social security account for the entire ...essentially entire balance at once.

MM: I saw that in the paper the other day.

LS: Exactly. And that was a case where we had to jump in and say no, you're not going to take somebody's entire social security check and leave them with no food for you know, no room for groceries or rent and what not. So health care is going to be a very, very high priority of mine. It's an area I've spent a lot of time on in the past. And is only going to get more problematic. Not to mention prescription drug companies too, which we've spent a lot of time litigating against them and the abuses that they bring to bear on behalf of consumers.

MM: Now you mentioned three qualities that an Attorney General should have. You said an Attorney General should be tough. An Attorney General should be a good lawyer and a good decision maker-- to paraphrase everything. Tell me how you fit those qualities?

LS: Sure. Well in terms of the "tough" part I've been involved in a lot of these efforts. Going to court and representing the public. And again they're not easy cases. People think, "oh the government has a ton of resources" and that the government has a lot of power. It is true that the Attorney General does have a lot of authority to get involved in areas. But I tell you, these companies when you file these suits they will put a lot more lawyers typically on the case than the government can put on. So I've stood my ground whether it's taking action against HMOs for denying benefits. Whether it's taking action against banks for selling private data. Whether it's taking action predatory lenders, equity strippers, utility companies. I have been involved in those cases and have stood my ground and not backed down and have been strong for the public.

I think that the public deserves an Attorney General who will stand up for them. Because people contact the Attorney General's office typically as somewhat of a last resort. It's not their first option. But they contact the office because they've been ripped off or they feel aggrieved. And I think that the Attorney General works for the taxpayers, works for the people and that the public deserves an Attorney General who will be their lawyer and their champion and who will stand up for them and not back down. And that's my track record and why I'm a lawyer, what I believe in. I've spent my legal career standing up for people and certainly will continue to do that.

On the other qualifications, I think being a good lawyer for the public is -- I think I alluded to that -- just the work that I've done in the Attorney General's office whether it's participating in these cases or managing the state's litigation. I'm very proud of the Attorney General's office and the work that I've done.

And then three is the issue of judgment and having your head screwed on straight. Knowing how to apply judgment appropriately. That you want to be tough, but you also want to be fair. And the rule that we followed over the last seven and a half years in the Attorney General's office is a simple one and that's that no interest should be so powerful that they're above the law, nor should any person be so powerless that they don't deserve the protection of the government. And that's what I'm talking about when I'm talking about judgment. And I think I've applied that judgment pretty well in the Attorney General's office. It's a difficult thing to do. You can't file every lawsuit that comes in the door. So you have to separate the wheat from the chaff and know which cases to push and which ones not to.

MM: Sounds like a good Democratic ideal as well as a good ideal for the Attorney General's office. Now let's talk about being a candidate. Really there are two sets of skills here or at least there's two jobs going on here. The (DFL) State Central Committee is trying to find somebody who is going to be a good Attorney General, but they're also trying to find somebody who is going to be a good Attorney General CANDIDATE. Sometime those skills differ. Tell me how you're going to be a good Attorney General Candidate. What are the qualifications? What should a good Attorney General Candidate do and how do you fit that?

LS: Sure, well I think if you look throughout the country at some... I think if you look at all the Attorney Generals, there are probably about a dozen and maybe more who have backgrounds similar to mine in that they've been either assistant Attorney Generals, Deputy Attorney Generals, Solicitor Generals --that they come out of that kind of role. And if you also look around at some of the better Attorney Generals this country has had, you'll see a lot of them who have had background more similar to mine. Elliot Spitzer of New York probably one of the more recognizable Attorney Generals in the country has a background where he had not been an elected official. Before he became Attorney General he had been in the US Attorney's office as an assistant in that office but had not been an elected official. Mike Hatch had run for office before but hadn't held office before becoming Attorney General. He had had a background as a commerce commissioner and through the commerce commissioner role had been very aggressively involved in enforcing the banking laws and insurance laws.

In terms of the candidacy, it's a natural fit for me because I think that the public wants an Attorney General who will be their champion and who will be their watchdog. And my strategy is to talk the public about the kind of issues I've been involved in and the public will have to make a decision about what kind of Attorney General do they want to have, what do they want their Attorney General to be.

But I've been out there talking to people. And very much engaged at the grass roots level and I think the public is very happy with the Attorney General's office in this state. They like the work that the office does. They want to see an Attorney General who will be a watchdog, not a lapdog for private industry for private corporations. So, my political strategy, if you will, is really very similar to the reasons that I'm running for Attorney General, and that's getting out there, talking about the work of the office.

I had the opportunity to meet the Republican candidate for Attorney General (Jeff Johnson) at a debate a few weeks ago and his philosophy is clearly very different than mine. It's quite a contrast. He, I think, has a certainly more market-based kind of a laissez-faire approach to a lot of these issues. And I think engaging him on those issues I think the public would see, will see the contrast. In addition to that I'm doing the things that I need to do. I'm out there raising money. You know, doing the lawn signs. Trying you know to get the name ID up there and....

MM: Doing interviews like this.

LS: Doing interviews like this and doing debates and cable shows and what not and trying to get the word out. I also think in light of kind of how circumstances developed there's a lot more visibility to the Attorney General's race this time than there has been in past years. It's not a top of the ticket in terms of like a Governor's race or Senate race. But this year in light of all the publicity with the Democratic candidate's withdrawal, people know there's an Attorney General's race. They know who the candidates are. So having interviews and getting out there is the strategy.

MM: Now at the (DFL) Feminist Caucus Forum, which I saw you at, you said that you were going to actively campaign in the primary even if you didn't get the DFL endorsement. Let's talk about the endorsement process. Are you actively seeking the DFL State Central Committee's endorsement?

LS: You know I have... I am going to be in the Primary regardless of what happens at the Central Committee Meeting (August 12th). And if I could explain why that's going to be the case.

I have a lot of respect for the people who play roles on the Central Committee and who participate in party politics. I think its incredibly important work that people be involved in. It's the people who participate in the Central Committee and the Executive Committee are the people who keep the party running, who do the fundraising and really do all of the grass roots work necessary to have an active vibrant political parties. So I very much respect that and had circumstances been different where I had been in the race for a year, you know I certainly would have taken a look at perhaps a different strategy.

Here however, with the withdrawal of the Democratic nominee being so sudden and candidates jumping into the race, it really presents a different type of picture. And first of all nobody can get off the ballot, so the Central Committee Meeting and potential endorsement comes after the filing and withdrawal deadlines. So I'm on the ballot, the others are on the ballot. An endorsement will typically serve kind of a winnowing function where you narrow down the field and here that's not going to occur and really can't occur because we're all on the ballot.

Second is in terms of the timing, you're going from zero to sixty in a very few weeks. I did a rough calculation. Usually these campaigns they would be yearlong campaigns. Here you're talking a seven-week campaign. So every week in this campaign essentially amounts to two months in a normal campaign. Meaning that time is precious and it's very difficult to do all of the raising of the money and the outreach and the shows like this one and interviews and try to mount any effort in terms of an endorsement. So that was my thought process. It's the reason I'll be in the Primary regardless of the outcome at the Central Committee.

MM: But are you seeking the Central Committee's endorsement?

LS: You know I have not... I'll be kind of figuring out where things stand. I actually haven’t even talked to the party yet about what the plans are for Saturday and hopefully will be doing that here in the next little while.

MM: Your supporters. I assume you have supporters within the party. Do they have a strategy of asking for no endorsement or are you encouraging that or do you think the endorsement process should go through?

LS: You know, I, I um... Ultimately the Central Committee is going to need to make up its mind as what to do. I know there is a lot of discussion that I've heard of and seen about whether it even makes sense to endorse. Ultimately the Central Committee is going to have to make a decision about whether to endorse. I can see where it makes sense not to endorse given that you have three Democrats who all believe in what they're doing and that the primary will resolve things.

MM: Just taking your logic on it though that every week here is worth a couple months. If somebody's given an endorsement, not only does it carry more press visibility with it but it also carries the strength of the DFL's fundraising machine and all the things that go with that. Is that something we not be doing for a couple weeks and waiting to see if the primary determines a winner or should somebody be privy to those resources right now?

LS: Well, you know again I'm not exactly sure what would come with an endorsement. I'm not exactly sure, I mean given that essentially that Primary comes four weeks after any Central Committee meeting in any event and I'm not sure what that would mean. We all have our strategies in terms of how we're going to reach out to the voters in terms of money what not.

MM: This has all been a very impromptu race. When (Representative) Matt Entenza decided he was not going to run you had to make a decision relatively quickly. Did you consult with your boss Mike Hatch about this before deciding to run?

LS: I did. I talked to a number of different people. People started calling me that morning indicating that kind of rumors were circulating that Matt Entenza may be dropping out of the race and I didn't make a whole lot of them.

MM: Most rumors aren't worth anything.

LS: Most rumors aren't. I don't pay a lot of attention to them. And I didn't then. Of course Matt Entenza withdrew the day that filings closed. So it was a ..kind of a ... real quick decision-making. I did talk to the Attorney General (Mike Hatch). He indicated, you know, at that point, Mr. Entenza had withdrawn and if I wanted to run for Attorney General I should take a look at it and file. And I thought about it and made a decision that I would like to throw my hat in the ring.

At that point the Democratic Party was without a candidate and I very much feel strongly that this is an incredibly important office. It's an office that's been in Democratic hands for 40-years now. And I think there's a reason for that. I think that people tend to think that Democrats will represent people and I very much want to continue...continue that tradition of representing people through the Attorney General's office. I think that there's a lot of powerful interests out there who have plenty of ability to do their own advocacy. But the people don't always have that ability. The deck is often times stacked against them. So that's why I'm running.

MM: Speaking of rumors, before Matt Entenza left the race, there were rumors, I can't remember if anything was confirmed but that Mike Hatch was trying to solicit other people to run against Matt Entenza. Did he ever talk to you about something like that?

LS: You know you're... he's been...going back several years he's been very complementary about, about my legal work and has said even going back several years to the 2002 election that you know, if I ever wanted to run for Attorney General he was complementary about that but those weren't active discussions.

I've seen him encourage you know, younger Republicans to get into public service, younger Democrats to get into public service and he's very good that way regardless of what side of the aisle you're on. Public service is a noble thing. And he certainly told me that if I ever, you know, wanted to run that it's a worthwhile noble endeavor and I, I believe that it is.

MM: With the demands of your current job, I mean you are doing a lot, and I know Mike Hatch does a lot when he's working as the Attorney General. How are you going to be able to campaign between now and the Primary? How much time are you going to have to be able to do that?

LS: Well I actually have taken a leave. So I am on leave in terms of being able to campaign. For the reason I mentioned, we're going from zero to sixty very very quickly, I obviously will not be able to aggressively campaign so I did take a leave in order to do that and put the time into the campaign.

MM: That's why you could get here during office hours today.

LS: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

MM: Former DFL Chair Mike Erlandson had a saying. He always said that "we don’t' need Democrats that can beat Democrats. We need Democrats who can beat Republicans." So how do you plan to beat Republican Jeff Johnson?

LS: Sure. I plan to beat him by again talking about these issues. I think that fundamentally the General Election going to come down to what kind of Attorney General does Minnesota want to have. And in the end I think they want an Attorney General who will be a champion for the people, who will stand up for the people, who will give people without a voice, a voice in their government. And the way I plan to beat him is talking about those issues and showing what my record is on those issues. And he'll talk about why he's running. But in the end I think by far the better view of what kind of role the Attorney General ought to play on behalf of the public.

MM: I know the Republicans, by reputation, have a habit of slinging mud and bringing out the dogs. The Karl Roves or whatever it may be. Are you concerned that you may be under attack once you are in the race here?

LS: You know there is a movement around the country... there's something called the Republican Attorney General Association or RAGA. It's a fairly new body. And essentially what it is is the oil companies and the prescription drug companies and the health insurance companies and they fund this organization, which in turns funnels money into Attorney General races -- particularly open Attorney General races.

MM: I think we have one in Minnesota.

LS: And we have one in Minnesota. So is that kind of money going to flow Minnesota? I don't know. I don't have any evidence that it has. Is it possible that it will? Yes. Do some of these corporate interests want to elect Republican Attorney Generals so they can have what they view as a more friendly audience? Absolutely. We've seen that going around the country. Might it happen here? It could.

MM: Four years from now, if Lori Swanson is Attorney General, elected Attorney General in November, how is Minnesota going to be different four years from now than it is right now?

LS: I think that some of the issues that I see coming down the horizon are going to be health care and HMO reform. It’s...we have a health care system that's undergoing a lot of change and that will continue to undergo a lot of change. The job of the Attorney General is to try to make sure that people don't fall through the cracks while that change happens. So as...over the next four years I very much want to be an advocate for patients and people who participate in the health care system to try to make sure that the playing field is level for them.

There are other issues coming down the horizon. I alluded to the notion of Federal preemption. We have a federal government controlled by people who for years never wanted to pass federal legislation in important areas such as Civil Rights and others. They would basically say "well let's leave it up to the states to take action". Well now the same crew that's in charge of Washington, DC, starting with (President) George Bush and going to members of Congress wants to preempt the states ability to regulate the health insurance industry -- the employment rights. The prescription drug industry. The banking industry. They have been very, very vigorous about attempting to preempt the state's ability to protect their workers, their patients, and their consumers. And I very much want to lead the fight against that kind of federal preemption. I've been involved in efforts to do that in the Attorney General's office and I want to continue to do that. I think it's incredibly important that states have the ability to protect their patients, their consumers, and their workers.

And it's interesting the same Republicans who are controlling so many branches of our government in Washington, DC want to preempt the state's ability not because they want to regulate these industries -- they don't--they want to preempt and then deregulate and get out of the way so the markets can roughshod over people, over workers, over patients. So that's an area I want to be involved in.

In addition to that I think other new areas are going to come down the pipeline over the coming years. We have a whole bunch of homeowners who have gotten involved in these option ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages), interest only ARMs where they are literally engaged in what's called negative amortization where you pay your monthly bill every month and your principle increases. There's going to be a lot of people who face sticker shock where the payment jumps $800 a month to $1,400 a month. They're not going to be able to afford that. When they can't afford it, they're going to go into foreclosure and that's going to bring a host of problems ranging from damage to credit scores to people losing their homes.

And I'm on the.. I'm chairing the Federal Reserve Board's Consumer Advisory Council. I was appointed to that council by the Allan Greenspan board. And essentially advise the Federal Reserve Board on consumer protection matters in the financial services industry. And so get involved a lot in issues relating to predatory lending, fair lending, and anti-discriminatory issues. And that's an area we spend a lot of time talking about is what happens when people face that sticker shock and start falling through the cracks.

Predatory lending in general is a big problem as well for Minnesota. We see not only people put into mortgage products they can't afford but, oftentimes companies through the guise of the American Dream of home ownership, putting people into fraudulent mortgage products. Products that they can't afford that have false appraisals attached to them.

And so I think it’s... in terms of the Attorney General's work I'm going to spend a lot of time on the bread and butter. Basic things that effect lives. Your health care, your mortgage, your cars. Things that are big ticket items for consumers and where the playing field is not level for consumers.

MM: That's Lori Swanson we just heard from. Lori is running for Attorney General for the DFL nomination on the September Primary. We have heard from Steve Kelley already, State Senator Steve Kelley. If you haven't listened to that podcast we invite you to do so and we'll be talking to Bill Luther, the third candidate for the DFL nomination later on this week. Lori, thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule today.

LS: Well thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

MM: We'll see you folks who are listening probably at the State Central Committee meeting. This is Inside Minnesota Politics. I'm Mike McIntee.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Update on AG Interviews

Bill Luther will not be able to interview this week, but has promised to record a podcast next Wednesday. Lori Swanson has scheduled her interview for next Tuesday. Podcasts of both interviews will be released as soon as possible.

Stay tuned...

DFL AG Candidates Forum Audio

Listen to the forum here (runs 1 hour 29 minutes)
It’s a short campaign. Only a few days until the DFL State Central Committee meets to endorse a candidate and only a few weeks until the primary. That’s what the three impromptu DFL candidates for Minnesota Attorney General are facing in the wake of DFL endorsed candidate Matt Entenza abruptly leaving the race.

Wednesday night the DFL Feminist Caucus sponsored a candidates forum. Two of the candidates, Senator Steve Kelley and Solicitor General Lori Swanson were there. The third candidate, former congressman Bill Luther was unable to attend because of a prior commitment. (The Luther campaign apparently does not have a campaign website yet. Here is a link to a blog supporting Luther that has information about him.)

Our podcast contains the forum in its entirety.

UPDATE: Luther's campaign now has a website

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

AG Candidate Lori Swanson will not abide by DFL endorsement

Attorney General candidate Lori Swanson tonight said she would NOT abide by the DFL endorsement. The DFL State Central Committee will meet on August 12th to consider endorsing Swanson, former Congressman Bill Luther or Senator Steve Kelley for Attorney General.

At tonight's DFL Feminist Caucus candidates' forum, Kelley sidestepped the endorsement question, saying he is confident he is going to get it. He pointed out that he abided by the DFL's endorsement in the Governor's race. Kelley was the only DFL candidate for Governor who said he would abide by the DFL endorsement, which eventually went to Attorney General Mike Hatch.

Bill Luther was not at tonight's forum. He had a prior personal commitment.

The organizers of tonight's forum stressed the need for the State Central Committee to make an endorsement. Kelley concurred saying the DFL needs a team and he would like to unite the party before September's primary.

Update: I've been informed by the Feminist Caucus that the statement from forum moderator Jackie Stevenson on needing an endorsement was her opinion only and not an official position of the Feminist Caucus.

Swanson and Kelley did manage to get in some shots at Republican AG candidate Jeff Johnson and Governor Tim Pawlenty. Swanson said Johnson would rather negotiate with companies than enforce the law. Kelley noted that Pawlenty's recently announced "Meth Registry" proposal was another example of Republican "Government by gimmick".

Inside Minnesota Politics recorded the entire forum and will make much of it available in the coming days.

Swanson also told Inside Minnesota Politics tonight that she WOULD do a podcast interview, however she declined to set a time and date.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Interview with DFL Attorney General Candidate Steve Kelley

Later this month DFL State Central Committee members will be asked to endorse one of three candidates who are running for Minnesota Attorney General. Inside Minnesota Politics has offered all three candidates an opportunity to talk about their campaign. Today we talk with Senator Steve Kelley.
Download podcast here runs 25:35.

Mike McIntee: As DFL delegates, I’m an alternate; we have to make a decision. We're really trying to fill two positions here. We're trying to find somebody who is going to be a good Attorney General. And we're also trying to find someone who is going to be a good Attorney General candidate. Because they may not absolutely always be the same thing. So that's what I first wanted to start with, what do you think is the job of Attorney General?

Steve Kelley: Well the main job of the Attorney General is to be the state's chief legal officer. And that has a lot of implications. I think in the recent years, certainly with Attorney General (Mike) Hatch, as well as with his predecessors we know that the Attorney General's office has responsibility to stand up for consumers in Minnesota and to be a voice for protecting consumers whether it is respect to health care, identity theft, privacy, or a variety of concerns consumers may have. And certainly as Attorney General I would want to continue Attorney General Hatch's efforts on protecting consumers and patients. In the health care field especially with respect to cost. But I also think there are some other things that we need to pay attention to that I've worked on as a State Senator. Health care quality and patient safety has been important to me in my past public service and would want to make sure that the Attorney General is providing support and assisting other agencies in ensuring improvement in quality and protecting patient safety.

I also believe that we ought to be cooperating with local law enforcement agencies with county attorneys, police departments and sheriff departments to address the increase in violent crime that we've seen recently. I think that's an issue in Minneapolis as well as greater Minnesota. I think we have gangs that operate across multiple jurisdictions and the AG's office along with the bureau of criminal apprehension can play a coordinating role in assisting local agencies. And then I think overall it's very important that we do high quality legal work for the state, that we have high expectations for the office and that deal with everybody fairly.

MM: Well tell me since this is sort of a job interview, what do you think are the three most important qualifications that an Attorney General should have and also an Attorney General candidate should have?

SK: Well first with respect to the Attorney General, I certainly think experience with the law and having some courtroom experience is important because you're supervising lawyers who frequently are in the courtroom. There are also responsibilities with respect to contracting and so forth that the Attorney General's staff is involved in on behalf of the agencies. But I've been a private practicing lawyer for 27 years have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in the courtroom, Federal and state courts. So I have the experience with our legal system to supervise the work of lawyers who are representing Minnesotans as their Attorney General.

I think another key area of the Attorney General's office is the policy work that the office does. During my 14-years as a state legislator I've been involved in a variety of policy areas that have overlapped with the Attorney General's office including as I mentioned earlier, health care quality issues. But also privacy and identity security -- things that I thing will continue to be important issues for the Attorney General's office.

And then I also think that the Attorney General a responsibility as a constitutional officer to provide leadership on a range of issues in the state. And I'm interested in a variety of things that as a State Senator I've been concerned about -- improving civic participation, encouraging young people to get involved. And I think as Attorney General that would continue to be an interest of mine as how as public leaders we encourage more people to get involved in the political process.

As a candidate, I think one of the benefits that I bring to this is recent experience campaigning all over Minnesota.

MM: Real recent experience, yes.

SK: Exactly. And a network of supporters who are prepared to volunteer to help out to win both the primary and General Election. I also bring a commitment. The Attorney General is not the top of the ticket. It's a ... but the Attorney General candidate can be an important contributor to the team of candidates that we put forward and I'm a firm believer in the team work aspect of political campaigns. That we are more likely to win if we are working together. It was a commitment I made in the Governor's race and I stood by that commitment and it's a commitment I still bring; continue to bring to the Attorney General's campaign.

So I think that's very important and the third thing is that I think we have an opportunity to win this race as Democrats, but we do have to bring out Democrats in some new areas. And it's areas where I think my experience and the breadth of things that I've worked on will have broad appeal, especially in the third congressional district in places like Rochester and St. Cloud where I demonstrated I had a political strength during the Governor's race.

MM: So to sum that up, to be an Attorney General you say the experience, the policy background, the leadership. And as a candidate the recent experience, the support network, the new Democrats that you may be able to bring in to this race.

Now I have to ask. This is a change from shooting to be Governor. Can you be as enthusiastic about being Attorney General as you could be running for Governor?

SK: Certainly the Governor's office has a broad range of responsibilities and areas that I continue to have a passion about including education and some of the other issues that I've worked on. But on the Tuesday when Representative Entenza made the announcement that he was withdrawing I talked to a lot of people and the more I talked about it, it was clear that my getting into the race was the right thing to do for a variety of reasons. But as I've thought about it my experience representing people in a courtroom, I know how important it is for individuals without power to have an advocate standing by their side, to stand up for them and represent their views. And that what Minnesotans need in an Attorney General. And I am certainly passionate about that way of achieving justice.

I think along with our other branch of government -- the courts -- the Attorney General is responsible for the overall quality of our justice system in Minnesota. And part of that, it seems to me is standing with people who don't have power against people who do. But also ensuring that everyone is treated fairly. And during my 14 years in the State Legislature that's what I've been committed to doing is treating people fairly. I've been fighting for the causes that I believe in and that's what I'd continue to do as the Attorney General.

MM: Talk to me a little bit about the decision process you went through on that Tuesday because it had to be a hectic day and you had to make a decision real fast.

SK: Well certainly it took me by surprise. I had not had any advance notice of Representative Entenza's decision to withdraw. So we had about, especially if you think about the logistics of getting to the courthouse to withdraw and then to the Secretary of State's office, I really had about five hours in which to make a decision. And I talked to a lot of people. I received phone calls from supporters in different parts of the state urging me to run. And that was very helpful in the thought process. And I did have an opportunity to talk to my wife and to some of my former campaign team from the Governor's race. And one of the things that came clear to me was that if I was in the race I could really play a role in helping to unify the party. That there likely would be enough support for me, that would reduce the period of contention and disarray that we might see. Now that hasn't proved to be entirely true. But I think with the kind of support I've gotten already from State Central Committee members and leaders in the party and the unions, that I'm well on the way to achieving the goal of trying to unify the party, bring us back together as rapidly as possible.

MM: Speaking of contention and disarray, the discussion among the state central committee members or some of them is "well it's too close to the primary. We really shouldn't give an endorsement, we should just let the voters decide in the primary." What are your thoughts on that?

SK: Certainly in contrast to the state convention where an endorsement decision by the delegates could effect who is on the ballot and who is not, because of the realities of filing, all three of the candidates will be on the ballot in the primary. So, an endorsement does not affect that in the way that it would in a state convention setting. But I still think it's important for the party to endorse. I've been a member of the party since 1980. Actively going to caucuses and engaged in other things. And my reason for doing that is not simply to be part of the DFL party, but to effect change by effecting the choices of who runs for office. And so I do think that is a critical role of political parties. And that it is important for members of the party, people who are elected to be representatives in the party to play that role. To be responsible about it, certainly. But it’s important to say that we stand for something and we stand for some people who represent those values of the party.

MM: Now one of the things you made a good point of when you were running for Governor is that you said "I'm going to abide by the endorsement” I the party says that they want somebody else -- in this particular case it was Mike Hatch -- you were not going to stand in the way. If the party when it meets in August decides that somebody else --either one of the other two candidates -- should be endorsed, would you still continue to run? I know you can't take your name off the ballot, but would you continue to run?

SK: Well I think that's a relatively low-level of likelihood. So I'm not too worried about that at this point. And I don't think that the question of who is going to abide and so forth should be the critical issue this time. We don't have a lot of time to make a decision and our names will be on the primary ballot anyway. So, the issue here is does the party want to get united and build a strong team, and if so, they gotta make a choice. And it would be better to make that choice on August 12th rather than wait until after the primary.

MM: Now I asked some of the delegates to send in questions. And I did get one. And somebody wanted to know ... "the AG's office is the legal arm to prosecute wrongdoers. What I'd like to know is which wrongdoers the candidates think need the most watch dogging?

SK: Well, as I said earlier, I believe the Attorney General's office has a range of responsibility including the consumer protection and watching for those wrongdoers and having both an investigative staff and a legal staff capable of taking effective action. And I also mentioned earlier that I do believe that it's important in the health care area. I said during the Governor's race I'm committed to working towards universal health care for Minnesotans. I don't think the Federal Government is going to get around to it and I think we ought to be looking at it at the state level. So as Attorney General I would be interested in working with the Governor and with the Legislature to try to reform our system, to move to universal health care. And I don't think we can get there just through regulation. But if that isn't going forward, then I think the Attorney General does have an on going responsibility to ensure that health plans and health care providers and pharmaceutical companies aren't gouging patients. Aren't taking advantage of them. And are not lining their pockets. And as the Attorney General I would continue to stand up for consumers and follow in the Mike Hatch tradition with respect to that. And then as I mentioned, patient safety is important. Just a few days ago there was a report from the Institutes of Medicine on the number of preventable prescription errors. And I think an Attorney General who is standing up for people is going to be looking for not just prosecutorial ways to stop people from those kinds of errors that harm patients, but helping to assist in systemic change to prevent errors that are harmful to patients and add cost to the system. I also think that we have to... I was noticing an increase in the newspapers in reporting on insurance fraud. People who had taken money from consumers on false pretenses that they were legitimate insurance agents....

MM: I think there was something in the Star Tribune today talking about motor insurance.

SK: And I think it's really important to pay attention to that. I think there will be trends. Folks who will try to rip off consumers find new areas, new methods to do it. And I think the Attorney General has a responsibility to adjust to those changes in criminal behavior.

MM: Now Mike Erlandson (former DFL party chair) had a favorite saying that "we don't need Democrats who can beat Democrats. We need Democrats who can beat Republicans." Let's turn our attention here to the November election. Tell me how you would be able to beat Jeff Johnson who is the Republican nominee?

SK: I think the critical addition I can bring to it is this commitment to working with the team. You know the Attorney General doesn't have in campaign terms compared to the Governor or certainly the US Senate race the same kind of budget for a campaign. We'll certainly raise the money we need to run an effective campaign, but we are going to be working with local candidates and building on their work and I think it's that team based approach that will enable me to beat Jeff Johnson. I think we'll be able to cost-effectively build up my name recognition, get the word out about my accomplishments and my commitments to people in Minnesota as well as use the media effectively in order to let people know more about who I am and what I can do on their behalf. I also think that a responsible DFL Attorney General candidate does have an edge because Minnesotans tend to think that the DFL will be more of a watchdog for them and act on their behalf. And certainly Representative Johnson has made clear in the one plank of his platform that he intends to cut red tape, reduce regulation and promote jobs. And to me that sounds like he wants to cut corporations a break and is not going to be as vigilant about wrongdoing by companies. And I think that’s not what Minnesotans want to hear from their Attorney General. So we'll be describing aggressively the alternative agenda.

MM: I think there's definitely a perception that the DFL has more the concern of fairness when you start getting down to these issues, than just being concerned about the dollars. So that people are treated equal as opposed to treating people who have the dollars the best.

SK: That's really important Mike. I mean we've seen what's happened over the last several years, certainly with Republican control in Washington is that they in a way have been using their political power to plunder and take advantage of the United States. And with the corruption by various members of Congress and you know I was just listening today to a report on the sort of "walking the line" that Secretary Levitt has done with their family foundation, recycling money that's benefited from tax deductions, tax exemptions, back into their private interests. I think we have a good case to make that the Democrats are going to be responsible to the people and that we are going to be on the side of the folks who don't have power against the people who do have wealth and power.

MM: Speaking of wealth, coming out of the Governor's race I believe you had a deficit or at least a campaign debt. Now is that going to make running for Attorney General a little bit harder?

SK: The debt is not a significant factor with respect to the Attorney General's race. That can sit there for a little while. We'd like to collect a little bit more money in that account and pay off some bills. That would be a good thing to do. But the real issue that's come up with respect to financing is that there's a little known provision of state law that says if you run for more than one statewide office in the same year, then what you spent in one race counts against any spending limit that might exist in the other race. So that means that I would be severely handicapped in the Attorney General's race if I signed the public financing agreement in which the candidate agrees to limit the spending. And so it's very clear that I can't sign the public financing agreement. What that means instead of ... if I had just started in the AG's race and hadn't run in the Governor's race I would have had to raise $400,000 and then the rest of the budget would have come from the public subsidy. So instead of raising $400,000, I have to raise $500,000. And that's a doable increment. I'm not worried about that piece. And so we're working rapidly as possible right now to get that fundraising going.

MM: So on the matching on the dollars it's not a dollar for dollar match that comes from the state on something like that.

SK: No. The state public subsidy is about $108,000. At least that was the most recent estimate.

MM: So the worst that you could do is say you might have to have a $108,000 more of fundraising than any of your other opponents in this race.

SK: That's exactly right. And the other consequence, you mentioned running against a Republican. I think Representative Johnson, the likely Republican candidate, was not planning... he may have signed the public subsidy agreement, but I think their planning was that Representative Entenza was going to spend more than the limit in any event. Because that's the other consequence of not signing the public subsidy agreement and spending more than the spending limit is that you release the opponent from the spending limit as well.

MM: So after September, Jeff Johnson, if you should win, he could spend as much money as he could raise then too?

SK: That would be one of the consequences that if my spending report shows that I have spent more than the limit than that would free him from the spending limit.

MM: OK, let's talk just a little bit about the little time that we have between now and the State Central Committee meeting. What are you doing and how are you going to win this endorsement from the State Central Committee?

SK: Well it's pretty much the way we ran the campaign for Governor is by relying on volunteers to make phone calls on my behalf. But also making a lot of phone calls myself. So I have been talking to the Executive Committee and State Central Committee members. I've also been visiting with representatives of unions and other groups that are active in the party to talk about why I should be the candidate. So I'm going to continue to do that for the next two weeks. For example on Saturday the 29th I'm traveling up to the 8th Congressional District meeting in Coleraine to visit with State Central Committee and DFL activists to talk about the campaign and hear what their concerns are. So I think it's just active campaigning. We're also though, we're not... I think it's important not to wait for the State Central Committee. The primary is only about six weeks away. So we're starting to do the groundwork in contacting a broader group of Democrats to talk about my candidacy and elicit support. And so we're going to continue to do that work during the next two weeks as well.

MM: Last question here. To be a successful Attorney General. If you were the Attorney General and four years from now, if you look back how is Minnesota going to be different than it is right now?

SK: I think the primary; the first-level difference that I would ask people to evaluate would be "is the Attorney General's office doing a high-quality professional job on behalf of the people of Minnesota and the agencies of state government that it is our responsibility to represent?" Secondly, have we made a difference on behalf of consumers. Have we prevented losses, whether it's through fraud or wrongful conduct or breach of fiduciary duty that our non-profits owe to the citizens of Minnesota. And I would expect that we'll have demonstrated that Minnesotans have been better off. That we've avoided fraudulent conduct or prevented losses by being active advocates on behalf of consumers. And then I hope that people will say that we have worked well with other agencies of state government and with local citizens to reduce crime and to make people feel safer in their homes and on the streets. Those are three really important measures that I ask people to look at.