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Monday, April 21, 2008

Steve Simon Gets Minnesota Lawyer Profiles in Courage Award

Simon gets this award for standing up to his party and calling for an investigation into Lori Swanson's office.

The post references an April 9 Strib article.

In the latest flare-up of a DFL quarrel, a Democratic legislator sent colleagues an e-mail questioning the motives of another DFLer who sought an investigation into Attorney General Lori Swanson's management.

The e-mail suggested that the legislator seeking the probe held a grudge against Swanson for an unwanted transfer years before. The dispute led to a closed-door caucus meeting.

Swanson's office has been beset by high turnover amid discontent about her management and directives. The discord, including a controversial union-organizing effort in the office, has put DFL legislators in the middle of a fight between one of their party's top officeholders and one of its biggest constituencies, organized labor.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, wrote to all House Democrats a few days after Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, called on the Legislative Audit Commission to investigate allegations that Swanson pressured subordinates to compromise ethical standards.

In calling for the inquiry March 28, Simon referred to his service from 1996 to 2001 as an assistant attorney general, during which he worked with Swanson, who was a top aide to Attorney General Mike Hatch after his election in 1998.

Hilstrom began her March 31 e-mail by saying she is working as an intern in Hatch's law office.

"I have talked to Mike Hatch," it read. "I think that as long as Representative Simon spends his time talking about his time working down the hall from Lori Swanson, he ought to disclose to the people the facts and circumstances under which he was transferred without his consent from the consumer division to the education division by Lori Swanson."

The e-mail became a subject of a closed-door DFL House caucus that party members have declined to discuss. "This was a misunderstanding between two lawmakers that has since been resolved," said Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis.

Neither Hilstrom nor Hatch returned phone calls Wednesday, and the Attorney General's office declined to comment about the e-mail.

Mark Cohen at Minnesota Lawyer comments:

MinnPost's G.R. Anderson, who attended the legislative hearing at which Simon took his bold stand, reported that the DFL lawmaker then explained his decision to call for a probe as follows: "The attorney general is the people's lawyer. I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat. It ought not to matter." Wise words indeed. (And let's not forget that that the auditor's investigation may actually clear Swanson of any legal or ethical violations.)

If, as the e-mail purports, Mike Hatch is in fact the spinmeister impugning Representative Simon's integrity, history provides a simple, yet elegant response to Mr. Hatch's political chicanery: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Isn't it a classic example of an ad hominem attack: avoid the substantive issue by trying to smear the person (in this case, people) raising it.

If it walks like a Hatch tactic, smells like a Hatch tactic, and quacks like a Hatch tactic, what is it?

Mark Cohen, editor said...

The last commenter is missing the point. I am not saying Simon never had a negative run in with management during his entire tenure in the office. In fact, it seems to me likely he did at some point given the environment of the office. What bothers me is the assumption that Simon must be acting out of some sort of petty personal grudge when there are so many legitimate reasons for the auditor's inquiry. The whole thing reads like a political dirty trick. (Yes, the classic ad hominem attack.)

I do have to award points for creativity, though. So far, by my count, people with management complaints or calling for someone to look into matters have been written off as union plants, right-wing troublemakers, agents of Matt Entenza, employees with axes to grind and, in one post, communists. It's an enemies list that would make Nixon blush.

It seems that Lori Swanson has been the apple that hasn't fallen far from the Mike Hatch tree.