Attorney General Keith Ellison has counseled Minnesota through a period of dramatic social and economic change in the wake of the pandemic, including the nationwide social justice protests in connection with the death of George Floyd in police custody in May 2020. In conversation with Lori Kalani and Chris Allen, he talks about the demands on his office, his new hires and how he is collaborating with other states in multistate actions and adding resources to better serve the people and businesses of Minnesota.
(0:44) Chris Allen introduces himself and State AG Group co-chair Lori Kalani.
(1:32) Lori introduces guest Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
(3:15) General Ellison talks about his career history prior to first being elected as AG in 2018. He describes meeting Nicole Smith-Holt, founder of Insulin4All, while in Congress. Smith-Holt’s son died of ketoacidosis because he was not able to afford the medication he needed to manage his diabetes effectively. General Ellison adopted the phrase “affording your life” as his campaign slogan and it underpins his philosophy of working to ensure that Minnesotans and more generally, all Americans, have access to opportunity and economic mobility.
(6:58) Gen. Ellison describes his role as to ensure fair markets, a safe environment, and fair treatment for consumers and businesses.
(7:26) Gen. Ellison reflects on the impact of the pandemic and the subsequent inflationary backlash. He discusses the resistance he faced in enforcing the governor’s executive orders related to social distancing, before a vaccine was available.
(9:28) The social justice protests in reaction to the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota presented a further challenge that resonated throughout the country. Notwithstanding that Ellison took the lead in the prosecution of the officer concerned, he respects and admires the work carried out by law enforcement in Minnesota and is working hard to build positive relationships with a range of law enforcement associations.
(11:37) Lori raises the question of the bill recently passed in Minnesota to provide additional funding for criminal prosecutions.
(12:14) Gen. Ellison describes how he has upped his office’s prosecution staff from a single lawyer to 11 or 12, in order to manage the crime rate in the state effectively.
(13:16) Chris asks whether the pandemic and its fallout have completely derailed the office’s priorities, and what it will take to get back to “business as usual”.
(14:16) The General’s response is that there is a new normal now that involves safety, consumer protection, and environmental protection which is demanding even more of his staff.
(15:01) The Dobbs decision has been a further curveball that is taking up a lot of time ensuring that women have access to safe and legal abortions.
(15:33) Despite being a gun owner, General Ellison is in favor of government regulation of safe gun use and access, to help combat the nearly weekly mass shootings happening across the country.
(16:37) Lori compliments the General on being ranked as second-best workplace in Minnesota, and enquires about his hiring of Jessica Whitney from the Iowa AG’s office. General Ellison explains the role Jessica will fill in his office.
(18:20) Chris enquires further about General Ellison’s budget request to the governor, in particular the creation of a large and complex consumer litigation multistate fund.
(18:58) General Ellison responds that he doesn’t really have a big plan for the fund. His goal is simply to ensure that he has the tools available to do the job he needs to do.
(20:32) Lori asks about the future for multistates, and whether the Minnesota AG’s office will continue to become more involved in multistates.
(23:00) AG Ellison confirms that he expects states to continue to work together to ensure consumers are treated fairly.
(23:48) Chris asks General Ellison for his advice to businesses in Minnesota.
(24:16) General Ellison reiterates his gratitude to the Minnesota business community, and his willingness to stay in touch with, and talk with the law-abiding businesses that fuel the local economy. At the same time, he acknowledges that there is also a role for the public sector in a healthy and well-managed society.
(29:55) Lori wraps up the conversation, making the point that most businesses want to do the right thing, and it is not in their best interests to make an enemy of the AG.
To listen to the full podcast, click here [https://www.stateagreport.com/podcast/the-age-of-the-multistate-is-here/]. To listen to a particular section, open the recording and use the time stamps provided above to navigate to the desired part.