Jennifer Mattson to challenge Matt Entenza in DFL primary

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Attorney Jennifer Mattson says she’s been hoping someone in the DFL would step up to run against Matt Entenza for Attorney General. She says if elected, Entenza would have a conflict of interest since the Attorney General’s office is currently investigating UnitedHealth Group — a company that has granted stock options to Entenza’s wife.

Mattson said she was spurred on to run when the media began reporting that Entenza had paid a private investigation firm to obtain information about current Attorney General Mike Hatch.

In this podcast I ask Mattson some tough questions, such as if she knew about the conflict of interest before the DFL convention, why did she wait until a month after the convention ended to run?

Is running against a DFL endorsed candidate in the primary a good thing for the DFL party?

And how is she going to get a statewide campaign up and running in the two months we have between now and the September primary.

Joining me now is Jennifer Mattson who announced today that she is going to be running for the DFL endorsement for Attorney General against the DFL endorsed candidate Matt Entenza. Jennifer joins me now on the line. Can you tell me why you’ve decided to do that?
As I made clear in my press release I’ve decided to get involved in this race because I believe Matt Entenza is not able to serve effectively as Attorney General. He has an inherent conflict with the ongoing investigation into UnitedHealth. The stock options they’ve awarded and the 30.8 Million in stock options that have been granted to his wife. As well …. the issue of his research and investigation of Mike Hatch and his response to any questions that have come up raise very important and grave concerns about whether or not he has a flawed candidacy. And if that flawed candidacy is going to take down the entire ticket.

The focus has been for the past week on why did he really do it, how much did it really cost to do the investigation, the direction of the investigation and the purpose. Those answers have not been forthcoming and I been very disappointed at his response and I don’t think that in the short time he has left in the campaign he can bring the members of the DFL party back to a position of trust.

Had this investigation been disclosed to the DFL convention I don’t think they would have put him on the ticket with Mike Hatch. And Mike Hatch has already raised the issue of the conflict of interest between Matt Entenza investigating his wife over $30.8 million in UnitedHealth stock options. That conflict is not going away.

I notice that was one of the very first things you mentioned in your letter here — I have a copy of it — that you sent to Matt Entenza. By the way, first off — have you talked to Matt Entenza?
Just briefly. I did hand deliver the letter to Matt earlier this evening he lives less than a half a mile from my home. And I made a point as a courtesy and a former supporter to allow him to know this announcement was coming.

When I dropped by his office –excuse me– his house to leave it we did have a brief exchange. We shook hands. It was very amicable and arguably I will be seeing lots of him this summer on the campaign trail.

Now let’s start with that very first point– that Matt Entenza’s wife is somebody who has received stock options from a company that the Attorney General’s office is currently involved in investigating. That’s something that’s been known for quite some time. Why now is this suddenly something for you to run against Entenza on?
Well, I had been hoping that somebody else would step forward. I have been lobbying other attorneys. I understand that people expect a candidate to be older than me. But it became clear to me that 30 or older– it really doesn’t matter at this point what my age is. The bottom line is we don’t have a candidate who can actually serve. No one else will step forward. And I have to. I have to give the DFL party a choice.

But why when this was information that was available before the DFL convention did you not decide to throw your hat in the ring then?
I fully expected somebody to come forward. I have a busy practice. I have family commitments. I certainly won’t be going on the family vacation that I’ve been planning for over a year this summer. You know, I did not expect to spend the summer, nor did I really pursue spending the summer campaigning. I really until the last moment believed that someone would throw their hat in and that I would fully support them. I would back them in any way that I could. And in absence of that happening I’ve submitted my name for consideration.

OK, but the convention was about a month ago I think at this point. Why when you saw immediately a month ago that nobody was running against him, why did you wait so long?
Well I make it clear that there are two issues that prompt my decision to run. The conflict and the issue of the past week. I expected someone else to run — that’s really the honest truth. You can ask it anyway you’d like but it became clear to me that I had to run when no one else would and the filing deadline is Tuesday.

OK, let’s talk a little bit about the revelations of the past week. Now one of the issues you brought up here is that you don’t think that candidates such as running for Attorney General should be involved with the kind of opposition research that Matt Entenza was apparently doing. Can you kind of give me your thoughts on that?
Well, first of all I want to talk a little bit about the term “opposition research”.

Sure, define that for us.
To me, the top of your ticket when you’re the DFL endorsed candidate for Attorney General is not your opponent. So the idea that this is opposition research is thin to me as a defense. But I believe in opposition research on the issues. Not on somebody’s personal life, on where a car was parked, on personal matters. And this– he expanded the scope by hiring an outside private investigator to come in and sleuth around Minnesota over Mike Hatch’s activities. He says that he did that because he wanted to know what the office functions were and how the office operated. He had many avenues to take in finding that out. And first of all, he worked there. So arguably he learned something in his service — arguably.

If he did not learn enough in his service as an assistant Attorney General he could have reviewed Minnesota statutes. Chapter eight is very thorough in explaining the duties of the Attorney General. He could have walked down the hall and had a meeting with Attorney General Hatch — a man who has been in the same party with him for decades. He could also have held a legislative hearing. He could have reviewed the office budget. He could have pursued other ways of finding out what it was he was gaining.

He now said that it was opposition research. I don’t think opposition research goes into private lives. I don’t think this was — had anything to do with what Mike Hatch was doing in office. It was a way to find out what was going on in his personal life and that’s one of the reasons that people are so disgusted with politics. The voters are really getting tired of mud being thrown back and forth. And this opposition research was aimed at mud throwing. I talk with young people every day about why it is they don’t participate in the legislative process by getting out to the polls. And the number one reason they cite to me is disgust with everybody involved. And the reason they’re disgusted is this mudslinging that’s only possible when you do opposition research on somebody’s personal life.

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe most of the revelations here of the past week were initiated by opposition research done by the Republicans. Notably I think Michael Brodkorb of Minnesota Democrats Exposed.
That’s true.

Now is there any — If indeed it’s opposition research by the Republicans that triggers turmoil within the DFL party, is this the appropriate way to respond to that?
Well you have to respond to what’s out there. I mean– we cannot ignore what’s now in the public realm. This is not about Matt Entenza’s private life. This is about Matt Entenza’s ability to be the next Attorney General of the State of Minnesota. And to protect you and me when he operates the largest law firm in the state of Minnesota– the peoples’ law firm — that’s what this is about.

I agree with you totally on the mudslinging thing. I mean especially with the Keith Ellison incidents that we’ve had and there are a lot of people out there who are practicing what I call the politics of personal destruction. I think Mike Erlandson used that phrase the other night on Almanac and absolutely hit it right nail on the head. But do you see what’s going on here as approaching Matt Entenza “you are not fit because of what you’ve done” not your stand on the issues but because of what you’ve done — is that kind of the same thing– saying “hey you are not personally fit for office because of some of the things you’ve done outside of the office”?
This is not about what he’s done outside of the office. This is about his campaign tactics in pursuing the office. This is about his ability to serve if he gets the office. This is directly on point. And I haven’t done some sort of behind-the-scenes sleuthing. I haven’t paid anyone to circumvent a very public process. What I’m doing is announcing why I’m running and the first person I gave that information to was Matt Entenza. Matt Entenza is not being attacked by me because of his personal life. He is being attacked by me because of his inability to remedy a conflict which prohibits him from effectively serving. He’s being attacked because of his actions on the campaign trail. He’s being attacked because if somebody doesn’t step forward and run for the DFL endorsement he has the possibility that his actions will affect the entire ticket come November.

I’ve asked this question of Mike Erlandson and other people who have decided to run against DFL endorsed candidates. Is that a good thing for the DFL party?
Well, the best thing for the DFL party is to put the strongest candidate on the ballot in November. In an ideal world the party would do that at the convention. The convention didn’t have all of the information here. Let’s face it. I’m a lawyer. The opinion I’m giving about the unresolvable conflict is a legal opinion. Not every participant at the convention knew that this was an inherent conflict. They may have heard Mike Hatch comment that it was a conflict. But it may or may not have been a deciding factor. Arguably if they knew that the candidate that they were considering endorsing for Attorney General had been researching their candidate for Governor, they may have made a different decision. What I’m saying is because there is a flawed candidate running unopposed; I am going to oppose him.

Let’s talk about what the issues are then in this race. Beyond Matt Entenza and your belief that he is not fit or has a conflict of interest here. Are there other issues in this race that we should be hearing about?
Well, the conflict is someone larger than just the issue with United Health. Mike Hatch has done an amazing job taking on the health care companies and that needs to continue. His legacy cannot end when he takes over the Governor’s office. His work at the AG’s office needs to be completed. One of the other issues is that we as a state deserve a highly functioning law office. The Attorney General’s office duties are outlined very extensively in chapter eight and they discuss how an Attorney General can both be the people’s lawyer in a civil context and in a criminal context. I plan on following the rule of law and applying it within my office so that we can be effective as I believe we have been for 48 of the last 52 years the people of Minnesota have entrusted the Attorney General’s office to DFLers. Now integrity has never been questioned whether it be Lord, Mondale, my grandfather Robert Mattson , Warren Spanus, Humphrey, Hatch– integrity has not been the issue. My campaign is focusing on the fact that the person who gets into that office needs to be able to be a lawyer for the people.

Let’s talk about being a lawyer, because I think to a lot of people your name is not a name that they know — but they probably know Matt Entenza’s name from his years of being in the public eye. Can you give us a little bit about your background and why that makes you qualified for this office?
Sure, I am a practicing attorney. I appear in court almost every day on behalf of my clients. I study the law. I love the law. I am a … I was born and raised in St. Paul. I am a Minnesotan who believes in public service. I am from a family of public servants. My grandfather, as I mentioned, was Attorney General. My father was both State Auditor and State Treasurer. I believe that every person should sacrifice the good of their state and their country and this is a summer that I will devote to discussing how I will run the people’s law office of Minnesota.

Now we have a little less than two months between now and the primary in September. How are you going to get your campaign off the ground and win that September primary? What’s your tactics, what are your strategies here?
Well, I’ll be coming out with various press releases over the summer as I did last time I ran for statewide office. But at this point what I’m focusing on not September but getting the groundwork up — getting the framework up as soon as possible.

My plan tomorrow, I do have court obligations but after I am done with them, my plan is to go over to the capitol and file. My statement of candidacy is already in my briefcase. My plan then in terms of infrastructure is to install the phone lines, get the website up, solicit donations from the people as to whether or not they would like to help me in my efforts to become the people’s law firm — the head of the people’s law firm. Because that’s what the Attorney General is. But I will lay the groundwork.

This isn’t my first campaign. This is not the first campaign that I’ve worked on– that’s not even been my campaign I’ve worked on. Dayton’s campaign I was the sixth staff member to sign up for that campaign. So I know what it is to network, get your field ready, get your policy ready and circle the state talking to people about what it is that you’ll do if you’re entrusted with the vote that you ask them for.

Sounds like you’re going to be putting in a lot of miles between now and September.
Arguably I will be. But as a lawyer I put many miles on my car and this is really just a continuation of what I’m already doing. I look forward to the drive. I look forward to talking to people about issues. I look forward to talking to them about what it is that they think I can do to improve upon the already stellar reputation of they Attorney General whom I follow.

Last question here. Should you win the September primary you would be facing Jeff Johnson. How do you stack up against him and what do see the issues there in that match up?
Well, I’ve looked at his releases. I believe he and I will have a constructive dialogue on the issues. But I’m focusing right now on why I am a qualified DFL candidate to go forward in November. After the primary, I will focus on Johnson. For now I’m focused on getting my message out to as many DFLers as possible.