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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Don't let the door hit you, Matt!

From the Star Tribune

Entenza drops out of race

Buffeted by questions about his honesty and investigations into his wife's multimillion-dollar stock options, DFL endorsee Matt Entenza dropped out of the race for state attorney general Tuesday.
With wife Lois Quam, a top executive of UnitedHealth Group, at his side, Entenza stood on the steps of the State Capitol and said he was withdrawing despite his confidence that he still could win the election to succeed Attorney General Mike Hatch, the DFL endorsee for governor.

"But with so little time and so many attacks, from anonymous faxes to attacks on my family, it is impossible to fight these attacks and win this race without it taking a serious toll on the people and the party we care about the most," he said.

Entenza, who recently stepped down as minority leader to concentrate on his campaign, has been under heavy fire for almost a week.

His troubles began with the revelation that he had hired a Chicago opposition-research firm that investigated fellow DFLer Mike Hatch, the current attorney general who is the party's endorsee for governor.

The hail of criticism has been directed not so much at Entenza's original action but at explanations and defenses that his critics are saying are distortions or lies.

Entenza issued a statement Monday, saying that "over the last few days my opponents have tried to land a few hits, but it is nothing compared to the hits the people of Minnesota have taken every day under this Republican administration."

State Rep. Jeff Johnson, R-Plymouth, the Republican candidate for attorney general, bluntly accused Entenza not only of changing his story as details emerged, but of outright lying. "I think he lied probably several times this last week," Johnson said Monday.

Johnson said Entenza initially didn't tell the truth when he told reporters more than a year ago that there was no truth to rumors that he was doing opposition research on Hatch.

Johnson also said Entenza has tried to deceive the public on the motive for his research, the extent of the digging and the cost.

Meanwhile, a St. Paul attorney with a familiar surname in DFL Party history became the first to file a primary challenge. She is Jennifer Mattson, granddaughter of former Attorney General Robert Mattson Sr. and daughter of former State Auditor and state Treasurer Robert Mattson Jr.

Mattson said she saw an "irreconcilable conflict" in Entenza's pursuit of the attorney general's office, which under Hatch is investigating $30 million in stock options granted to UnitedHealth Group, where Entenza's wife, Lois Quam, is a top executive.

In a letter to Entenza, Mattson said his handling of the Hatch inquest and the conflict of interest posed by his wife's income "are now the dominant issues."

"Not only is your own election highly questionable, but you are endangering the entire DFL ticket," she wrote.

Entenza's campaign counterattacked with a statement accusing Mattson of "viciously attacking Matt's wife," who is being "dragged through the mud simply because of where she works."

Mattson's inexperience also was addressed. Entenza's campaign manager, John Van Hecke, cited Entenza's 20-year record as a white-collar criminal prosecutor, an assistant attorney general and as a consumer advocate while in the Legislature.

An anonymous attack against Entenza on Monday came in the form of a packet of documents, including photocopies of campaign records and cancelled checks from Quam and Entenza's joint account, that were faxed to several Capitol reporters. Entenza's name was blacked out on the checks.

The person who faxed the documents claimed that they demonstrate that Entenza didn't tell the truth when he told reporters in December 2004 that he and his wife contributed about $600,000 to Democratic campaigns and liberal groups.

The mystery attacker's documents indicate that Quam gave at least $55,000 more to Democratic committees in South Dakota, which then sent the money back to Minnesota and to the DFL House caucus, which was led at the time by Entenza.

DFL Party chair Brian Melendez said the information in the attack appeared to be accurate but that nothing illegal was done.

In his written statement Entenza said, "We have a lot of Democratic friends in a lot of places, and we are always happy to help them."

Meanwhile, the names of several high-profile DFLers have been circulating as possible alternative candidates to Entenza, with indications that some party insiders are seeking recruits.

The deadline for filing for office is the end of the workday today.

This guy was a poor excuse for an effective legislator, and was a worse candidate for statewide office. Good riddance