Minnesota Vice - Climate Litigation Watch

Minnesota Vice

Paper trail puts the lie to MN AG Ellison’s Office denial it is using privately hired attorneys

Well this is interesting. Courtesy of Legal Newsline, we see the remarkable claim by Minnesota’s Office of the Attorney General that it has not in fact brought in privately hired attorneys. This was in response to a question specifically about its…two privately hired attorneys whom AG Keith Ellison asked a Michael Bloomberg-funded group to hire for him. Which Bloomberg’s group did then hire and — as OAG knows full well — OAG did not.

When reached for comment, AG Ellison’s office denied any impropriety in hiring Currie and Surdo, stating that the attorneys “were not privately hired.” The office pointed to a statement Ellison made in February, in which he argued that he has “always been transparent about the money that pays the salaries of employees in the Attorney General’s Office.”

Christin Nielsen, Legal Newsline

(emphasis added).

Yeah, right, except

(Also…then, what are these OAG “hires” doing with these email accounts?)

Bloomberg’s group hired then placed its two employees in Ellison’s Office, as “Special Assistant Attorneys General,” in which position the two then advanced the Bloomberg group’s agenda. This includes serving as attorneys of record in Ellison’s/Bloomberg’s campaign against energy companies, “to identify new streams of revenue” for the state.

After flubbing the facts, Ellison’s Office then proceeded to tie itself in knots, so busy insisting on its transparency and purity (emphasis added):

Ellison said in the statement that his use of SAAGs was in the best interest of Minnesotans because the number of attorneys in their office has dropped by more than half over the past two decades. He further insisted that the attorneys do not report to anyone but him and exist only to serve Minnesota.

The AG’s office did not, however, refute the fact that the attorneys are indeed privately funded—an issue that, according to Ellison’s detractors, is neither ethical nor lawful.

Except, ‘someone gave me the money to hire them’ isn’t factual — unless recent scrutiny has led Ellison’s Office, like the New York AG before it, to scrap the deal with Bloomberg’s group, but then run the money for Bloomberg’s lawyers directly through Ellison’s Office. There is nothing in the public record to suggest that is the case.

Instead, the clumsiness offers an obvious takeaway: Ellison brought in privately hired attorneys, and knows there’s a problem with that, such that his spokesperson denies what CLW has the papers to prove.*

If one chooses to believe one’s own lyin’ eyes, these SAAGs are inarguably privately hired by a third party — by written contract — and placed in Ellison’s Office — at Ellison’s written request and, again, by contract.

* CLW readers may recall that Ellison’s Office stumbled so hurriedly into its embrace with the Bloomberg group that OAG never even asked for the “SAAGs'” arrangements with the activist donor. Only after Energy Policy Advocates sued for those records did OAG ask the privately hired lawyers, so, what’s the deal?, and obtained then turned over the above agreements. With this whopper, it seems that reading the arrangement’s details was of as little interest to the Minnesota Office of the Attorney General as was obtaining them.