Minnesota AG office accused of fraud, politicization, abuse

Minnesotans take great pride in our political culture. We have good participation, we only elect idiots every ten years, and we have avoided the corruption of other states and places in the US. Well, we think we have, but as WCCO reports, Minnesotans who believe in clean and fair application of the law are about to come in for a rude awakening.  Present and former Attorneys General Mike Hatch and Lori Swanson stand accused of manipulating prosecutions and lawsuits for their own personal gain:

The WCCO I-TEAM first told you about expensive, sound-proof doors in the Attorney General’s Office. Now there are allegations of unethical and unlawful behavior from two former lawyers in the office speaking publicly for the first time. …

Paul Civello was a Medicaid fraud attorney under former DFL Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch and his successor, the DFLer Swanson.

“It was always political mode,” said Civello.

In an interview with the I-TEAM, Civello said employees were routinely pressured into working on high profile cases intended only to bring publicity and political attention to the boss.   But there’s more to his charges than just politics.

“The problem I found in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was an attempt to deceive the Office of Inspector General (about the make up of the unit),” said Civello.

Civello makes the claims in a sworn affidavit, in which he describes “misconduct” by two successive Democratic Attorneys General, the top law enforcement officers in the state. In one case, said Civello, a lawyer was hired under a different title in order to receive federal funding.  Another attorney, who still works in the AG’s office, writes in a memo that “this amounted to fraud.”

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who saw Mike Hatch in action.  Last summer, an investigation revealed that Hatch purposely lowballed a settlement with a credit-card company he sued in order to keep control of where the money went.  He gave a substantial amount of the settlement to ACORN, which then endorsed him against Tim Pawlenty for Governor, a race Hatch just barely lost in 2006.  Swanson worked at the AG office as his protege and won her office in the same election.

The sound-proof doors are an example of potential petty corruption.  The allegations from Civello are much more profound.  He accuses the present and former AGs of manipulating prosecutions for personal political gain, a major abuse of power that would reveal Minnesota government to be much more corrupt than anyone realizes.  The AG’s office exists to enforce the law in an equitable and fair manner, not to act as shakedown artists for ambitious politicians.

Fortunately, the legislature has issued a call for an investigation on a bipartisan basis.  If what Civello says is true, the Minnesota legislature must act quickly and forcefully to put an end to these practices, potentially by impeaching Swanson if the charges are substantiated and referring the information to the Minnesota State Bar for further action.  Minnesotans want a government in which they can take pride apart from the policies that each officeholder brings.  We like to limit our embarrassment to the buffoons we occasionally elect to high office.