(KMSP) - According to an investigation by an online news organization, Attorney General Lori Swanson inappropriately used government employees to work on her campaigns.
The allegations were published by the “Intercept,” an outlet that prides itself on what they call “adversarial journalism.”
Meanwhile, the Swanson campaign argues it’s a solely an attempt to settle political scores.
But at least one former employee in the Attorney General’s office insists the blurring of work and campaigning is a big, troubling issue.
“You don’t want to speak ill of someone you worked for, but I think right now at this time where we are at in the country, I think it’s important to point out when you think lines have been crossed,” said Prentiss Cox.
Cox, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, spent more than 14 years in the Attorney General’s office.
Cox spent several of those years with Mike Hatch in charge, where his direct boss was then Deputy Attorney General Lori Swanson. Cox spoke out in the recent Intercept article, explaining that it wasn’t easy for him, but said his experience of superiors heaping political and campaign pressures on the shoulders of employees trying to tend to the public’s legal affairs wasn’t right.
Now, Cox argues that voters need to know before they cast their ballots in the DFL primary for governor next week.
“The same exact thing happened when I worked under Lori, and Mike Hatch was Attorney General. People came and asked me to do envelope stuffing for fundraisers. It happened repeatedly and at one point, I actually spoke to a top manager in the office and said you shouldn’t do this. Again, it’s over a line,” Cox said.
Both the Attorney General’s office and Swanson’s gubernatorial campaign struck back. The campaign wrote to Fox 9, “there is no political activity undertaken by any member of the attorney general’s office while on the clock for the government, period. Employees of the attorney general’s office are paid and promoted based solely on their merit and work responsibilities, period.”
They also attacked a named source in the article who was fired from the attorney general’s office under Swanson. The source has apparently given thousands of dollars in donations to rival Erin Murphy’s campaign.
Additionally, the campaign questioned the motives of the online news source that published the story.
“This looks like a story that was shopped to a national outlet,” political commentator Blois Olson said.
Olson explained the timing of the story so close to the primary and quoting several unnamed sources is going to make people skeptical of the allegations.
“Look, the substance of the story has been rumored and buzzed about in Minnesota for a long time. But when politics happen in official offices, both democrats and republicans look the other way because each side can be guilty of it,” Olson said.
Full Statement from Swanson For Governor:
"There is no political activity undertaken by any member of the attorney general's office while 'on the clock' for the government, period. Employees of the attorney general's office are paid and promoted based solely on their merit and work responsibilities, period. The only person named in the article who makes allegations to the contrary states that she was terminated by the office in 2009--10 years ago--and has given $3,000 to Erin Murphy's gubernatorial campaign and is one of Murphy's top supporters.
As we get closer to the primary, we anticipate a continued onslaught of politically motivated attacks. The billionaire who runs First Look Media has direct ties to the billionaire who runs two businesses, Accretive Health and the National Arbitration Forum, that Attorney General Swanson sued and from which she recovered millions of dollars for the people of Minnesota.
This is nothing but a political attempt to settle scores."