Today Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R- Big Lake) released a letter sent from her office to Attorney General Keith Ellison. The letter outlines specific questions regarding the Attorney General’s arrangement for a fellowship position to be dedicated to environmental law and how the position is paid for by an outside special interest group. The questionable fellowship arrangement is being challenged in court. The letter from Kiffmeyer letter also raises concerns the fellowship arrangement is influenced by outside groups and special interest money.
Even with the lawsuit in Minnesota, Kiffmeyer said, “I am considering legislation for this upcoming session that would prevent an arrangement like from happening within the attorney General’s office in the future.” The Virginia legislature passed language that would only allow state or federal employees to conduct legal services on behalf of the state in response to a similar questionable fellowship arrangement by the Virginia Attorney General.
Kiffmeyer’s letter seeks to clarify who is funding the work done by the individual in the fellowship position, who does the fellow report to, and how common the arrangement is. “I do not think is it appropriate for an attorney in the Attorney General’s office to be paid for by a special interest group,” Kiffmeyer states in the letter. “While we await a legal ruling, I am requesting a release of the documents related to [this] hiring. The release of these documents will help shed additional light on this situation and provide answers to taxpayers who are concerned about this individual’s presence in the Attorney General’s office.”
Finally, Kiffmeyer clarifies the legislature approved a “substantive budget increase” to the Attorney General’s office in 2019. “I would think this allocation of funds should allow you to hire an environmental lawyer to do the work of the office,” she says.
Similar lawsuits to challenge the use of externally-funded legal counsel to influence state policy are already underway in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
Senator Kiffmeyer’s letter can be read here.