Election 2022: Minnesota Attorney General

This is one of the races that’s so stark for me it almost doesn’t feel like I should need to write this. Keith Ellison is one of the DFLers who is not only better than the alternative, I’m actually extremely happy with the job he’s done, plus he’s up against a radical right-wing Republican who is smart enough to say the quiet part quietly but is nonetheless going to do anything and everything in his power to screw over LGBT people and anyone who needs an abortion while also defanging Minnesota’s consumer protections. tl;dr VOTE FOR KEITH ELLISON.

On the ballot:

Keith Ellison
Jim Schultz

At the top of my list of reasons I appreciate Keith Ellison’s work: his prosecution of Derek Chauvin. The AG’s office does not do a lot of criminal work (mostly that’s handled by the County Attorneys, more on this in a minute) but in a situation where a police officer is being prosecuted for a crime, there are significant advantages to letting a state official take the lead. (County Attorneys depend on police officers to testify in all their other criminal prosecutions; this creates a significant conflict when prosecuting police for crimes committed while on duty.) More importantly: Ellison’s office did an extremely good job prosecuting Chauvin. It is hard to get a conviction of a police officer, even when he commits cold-blooded murder in front of multiple cameras. They took nothing for granted, brought in top-notch experts, built the case, and won it.

Normally, the Attorney General is more focused on consumer and worker protection, and Ellison has also done a lot of excellent work there. He’s taken slumlords to court. He’s created a wage theft unit. He’s won debt relief for people who were conned into enrolling in fraudulent diploma-mill schools and a settlement from Navient over allegations they steered people away from the repayment plans that would have benefited the borrower. He defended the Alex Smith Insulin Affordability Act and joined a lawsuit against generic drug makers for colluding to keep costs high. He’s done a lot of really good work and I am genuinely really happy with him as AG.

Jim Schultz seems to be running on the platform of, “not Keith Ellison.” If you look at his website, it’s sort of shocking just how little information is on it. I counted, and on his issues page, he uses fewer than 100 words total. (It’s 71, to be exact.) The icons shift slightly when you mouse over them, suggesting that maybe they’re links that would go to a more detailed policy discussion, but nope. No links. Here’s one of his “issues”:

Defend the Constitution
Safeguard the constitutional rights of every Minnesotan.

He does not say which constitutional rights and we sure as hell know he doesn’t mean the right to an abortion! (I assume, after a bit of digging, that he means “the right to own guns and take them wherever the hell you want with no repercussions or inconveniences or requirements or training or whatever, at least if you’re white.”)

He’s tried repeatedly while running to claim that abortion is “settled law,” which — weirdly — is almost word-for-word what several of the Republican-nominated justices said in confirmation hearings and they went on to overturn Roe vs. Wade. His phrasing here is absolutely not a coincidence; it’s intended to reassure the right wing that he’s definitely going to do whatever’s in his power to stop people from getting abortions.

And what is in his power? Well, in the debate, he pointed out that AGs can wade in to criminal cases uninvited if they involve “racketeering.” The NLRC has been urging the passage of legislation that massively expands racketeering laws to prosecute people who provide abortions. Abortion in Minnesota is legal and protected, but that does not mean that Schultz would not be able to find loopholes to harass and prosecute people seeking or providing abortions. He served on the board of the “Human Life Alliance,” a nonprofit that says it seeks to make abortion “not only illegal, but unthinkable.”

This morning, I listened to a radio show (also a podcast) about “pill fairies,” women who provide abortion pills on demand in states where abortion is not legal. (There’s also a transcript — you can find it here.) The legal status of people who buy abortion pills over the counter and send them by mail is deeply unclear, but I am really confident that a Republican could dig up a law they could prosecute that under, whether it’s practicing medicine without a license or misuse of encryption. Racketeering laws are intended to prosecute people involved in criminal enterprise. So let’s say someone in Minnesota acts as an intermediary — buys the abortion pills via telemedicine for a friend, sends them along, and gets reimbursed the cost over Venmo. Do we really think Jim Schultz won’t try a racketeering charge for that, if it happens in Hennepin or Ramsey County and the County Attorney declines to treat this as a criminal matter?

In the piece about pill fairies, the journalist cites a Mexican activist in saying, “the bigger the movement becomes, the harder it’ll be to crack down on.” Overall, this is true. However, what I predict will happen is that right-wing prosecutors will try to make an example of anyone they happen to catch. There’s a saying popular among cops that goes, “You may beat the rap, but not the ride” — even if a jury refuses to convict, this sort of criminal prosecution can really fuck up someone’s life. And that would be the goal.

In the meantime, Jim Schultz has explicitly promised to protect the rights of people who take pharmacy jobs in order to act as the personal moralistic gatekeeper against anyone who needs medication they “disagree” with (rather than the rights of individuals who need medication) and I sure as hell don’t see him protecting the rights of same-sex married couples, never mind the rights of trans kids or their families.

He’s also a literal hedge fund lawyer and has made it thoroughly clear that his priority is not citizens that get ripped off, but businesses and their right to make as much money as possible. He wants to cut the number of consumer protection advocates in the AG’s office. He says he would hold businesses accountable for serious wrongdoing, which is a heck of a caveat. Just how serious does it have to be before he’d get involved? Does it matter if a company only stole $100 from you, rather than thousands? The Strib article also included this really classically Republican quote:

He would focus on protecting seniors in assisted living facilities from neglect and abuse, noting his late father who had dementia did not receive adequate care at one nursing home and had to be moved to another.

Seniors in assisted living facilities absolutely need protection from neglect and abuse. (This is in fact something Ellison’s office has worked on!) But it’s sure telling that the one area of consumer protection Schultz wants to talk about is the one where a family member has suffered unnecessarily. This is such a chronic Republican thing (where they suddenly recognize that something is a problem when it happens to them, their spouse, one of their parents, or one of their kids — because this is the set of people on whom they’re disinclined to blame the victim) that I thought surely there was a term for it but I’m not finding it. Maybe there isn’t! Maybe we should come up with one! Because it’s sure a thing.

Jim Schultz is not a moderate. He’s a right-wing extremist who believes all the same crap as Doug Wardlow, but said with a smile and couched in polite words. I am voting for Keith Ellison and I really hope everyone reading my blog will vote for him as well.

ETA 10/31 to add: Jim Schultz also committed massive campaign finance violations, coordinating with a Super PAC on $800,000 worth of ads. Totally fucking racist ads.

In addition to writing political commentary, I write science fiction and fantasy. My book that came out in April 2021, Chaos on CatNet, takes place in a future Minneapolis. It’s a sequel to Catfishing on CatNet and signed copies of both books are usually available from Dreamhaven and the NOW REOPENED Uncle Hugo’s (it’s at 2716 E 31st St in Minneapolis, in the former Glass Endeavors.)

I do not have a Patreon or Ko-Fi, but you can make a donation to encourage my work! I get a lot of satisfaction watching fundraisers I highlight getting funded (or, in the case of the Movement Voter fundraiser, continuing to raise money past their goal). I explained back in May why I’m fundraising for the Movement Voter PAC and that fundraiser is still active.

I also went looking for some DonorsChoose fundraisers. In Minneapolis, I found a science teacher at Sullivan STEAM magnet needs some better computers so his students can actually program the cool robots they got. In St. Paul, I found an English teacher at Harding Senior High who would like snacks for her students. In her project intro, she notes, “With a new schedule this year, some students have to wait a very long time to eat lunch everyday. When students are hungry, they cannot focus and most students can’t afford to buy their own snacks.” This made me curious about their schedule. Some students at Harding don’t get to eat lunch until 1 p.m. School starts at 8:30. When I eat breakfast at 7:30 I’m ravenous by noon, never mind 1 p.m. Feeding kids is an absolute no-brainer, seriously.