Hmmm: Star-Tribune sues to unseal Ellison divorce records as Ellison calls for House Ethics probe

Good news: The Star Tribune apparently plans to cover allegations of domestic violence against DNC vice chair Rep. Keith Ellison. Currently unknown: whether they’ll cover it as news, or as Jim Treacher is wont to say, with a blanket until it stops moving. The state’s largest newspaper filed a motion in court to unseal the divorce records of the DFL nominee for Attorney General, but they didn’t get there first:


The Star Tribune has joined a legal effort to unseal the divorce records of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

Ellison and his ex-wife, Kim Ellison, divorced in 2012. The related records have been sealed, so the public cannot access the information.

The Star Tribune’s motion to intervene and unseal the records follows a similar action by Alpha News, a right-leaning online news and opinion site.

Ah, competition. Isn’t its impact magical? The Strib has had months to make this same move and to follow up on two allegations of domestic violence. Between covering Karen Monahan’s initial allegations and a survey testing voters on their knowledge and inclinations about them (August 25 to September 19), the paper had one mention of Monahan — in a puff piece on Ellison’s political resilience.

Now that a competing platform has filed to unseal Ellison’s divorce records, the Strib doesn’t want to get caught with its pants down. Why didn’t they find Ellison’s divorce newsworthy before Alpha leaned into it? In part, maybe because it’s likely going to be a bit of a fishing expedition. Even if two of Ellison’s former girlfriends have alleged domestic violence at different times, Ellison’s ex-wife has publicly denied it ever happened in their marriage:

Kim Ellison said her ex-husband “never abused me in any way before, during, or after our marriage.” She said release of the file would exploit their privacy and the privacy of their children.

Carla Kjellberg will be filing a joint opposition on behalf of both Keith and Kim Ellison, according to a notice of the motion filed Monday. Kim Ellison is a member of the Minneapolis Board of Education.


Alpha News must be hoping that the sealed records contradict that assertion. The Strib’s coming along just in case, one would think. On the other hand, if this comes up empty, it can certainly boost an Ellison-sympathetic narrative: if he didn’t get violent with his wife *even while the marriage was breaking up*, would he have done so with his girlfriends?

That’s not an entirely unreasonable argument, but it might run into a serious problem if Monahan releases the video she claims to have of Ellison’s violence toward her, and if it’s as she represents. That raises two questions. One: Why hasn’t Monahan released the video? Two: If the sealed records are a nothingburger, why not just release them? Hmmm in both directions.

Finally, the Strib did carry an AP report on a Monahan-related development this week. Minnesota DFL chair Ken Martin said that the party’s “independent” investigation into Monahan’s allegations should wrap up “any day here.” However, the quality of that “independent” probe should be considered with this in mind, emphasis mine:

While the state party’s attorney initially investigated the allegations against Ellison, Martin decided after the August primary to hire an external investigator to ensure “that it wouldn’t be colored by people with associations with the party.” They hired Susan Ellingstad, a partner at a Minneapolis law firm with state party attorney Charlie Nauen.


So Nauen solved the obvious conflict of interest by, er, handing off the probe to his business partner? The Daily Caller threw a flag on that one, and notes that it’s not the first time it’s happened:

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin told the AP they hired Ellingstad to make sure the investigation “wouldn’t be colored by people with associations with the party.”

Ellingstad is a legal partner with the state party’s attorney, Charlie Nauen, who the AP reported handled the early stages of the investigation. Ellingstad and Nauen are partners at Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P., which bears the DFL attorney’s name.

Another Lockridge partner, David Zoll, represented Martin and the DFL in their unsuccessful bid to get then-candidate Donald Trump thrown off of the state ballot in 2016, court documents show. Zoll worked with powerhouse Democratic law firm Perkins Coie L.L.P. on the case.

We’ll see which is worse – an “independent” investigation by business partners of party leadership, or “coverage” of this by the Star Tribune. Neither is likely to do anything to damage the DFL nominee, deservedly or not.

For that matter, neither is the House Ethics Committee — at least, not before the election. Ellison called for the panel to investigate the allegations:

Rep. Keith Ellison is calling for a House Ethics Committee inquiry into allegations of abuse against him made by a former girlfriend.

“I am taking this step now because I am innocent and eager to see this entire matter resolved,” the Minnesota Democrat said in a statement Wednesday. …

“These allegations have lingered in the public sphere, and remain unsubstantiated. I welcome an investigation by the House to allow us to move on,” the congressman said.


Remember two things about this request. First, it’s almost a certainty that any such inquiry would take several weeks at the very least to conduct. Even assuming that the committee takes it up immediately, there is zero chance that it can finish ahead of the election — and probably not in this session. That brings us to the second point, which is that Ellison won’t be a Congressman after the first of the year. This is a pretty good move if the strategy is to run out the clock.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024