Saturday, August 27, 2005

Conflict of interest

If you’re anything like me, you rolled out of bed this morning around noon, picked up the paper and saw that Big Tobacco is suing the State of Minnesota over the Health Impact Fee that was passed during the government shutdown as a way to end the gridlock.

Big tobacco companies and several Minnesota distributors are taking their dislike of the state's new 75-cent-per-pack cigarette "health impact fee" to court, saying it violates the multibillion dollar settlement reached with the state seven years ago.

In the 1998 settlement, the state agreed not to seek more money for health care costs associated with tobacco, the companies claim in a motion filed Friday in Ramsey County District Court. The fee, which was key to balancing the state budget after a partial government shutdown, earmarks money for such costs, they said.
(Source: Star Tribune, August 27, 2005)

Being the Attorney General, Mike Hatch, or at least his office, will most likely be the one responsible for defending Minnesota and Gov. Pawlenty in the case.

Hatch, a DFLer and a potential 2006 gubernatorial rival of Pawlenty's, said the state's defense would be that the fee really is a tax.

Plenty of jurisdictions, including New York City, that are also covered by consumer fraud settlements with the industry already have increased taxes on cigarettes, he said.

"The industry acknowledges that if this is a tax, they have to pay," Hatch said.

He added the state will also argue that regardless of whether it is a fee or a tax, it's not covered by the 1998 settlement and it's legal.

"This is a case of a political gimmick screwing up the stability of the state budget," Hatch said, repeatedly blaming Pawlenty for political "gamesmanship."

Hatch downplayed the notion that the legal challenge could blow a hole in the state budget, saying the Legislature and the governor would find a way out of it -- possibly by raising taxes.
(Source: Star Tribune, August 27, 2005)

Hatch’s comments alone warrant removing him and his office away from the case. Instead of attacking Big Tobacco for filing an lawsuit that has no warrant (coincidentally much like Hatch’s Medica case), he attacks his client/political rival Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Whether or not Hatch is going to try the case, I think that there are a few reasonalbe requests that should be made by Pawlenty:

1.) If Hatch has made his decision to run against Pawlenty, he should remove himself from the case.
2.) If Hatch has yet to decide, he should remove himself from the case.
3.) If Hatch has decided to run, he should pass the case off to another attorney from his office, one that is not a political friend of Hatch’s like Lori Swanson (whom Hatch is rumored to be backing for AG).
4.) Promise to treat the court room with respect and not use the case for attacking Pawlenty and grandstanding (this may be difficult for Hatch).
5.) Promise not to describe any of the tobacco attorneys using any double expletive.

The good people of Minnesota elected Mike Hatch to serve their best interests, not use his position as a stepping stone for governor. If Hatch can’t take his job seriously, he must step aside for someone more capable of being non-partisan.

UPDATE: The ever vigilant MDE has a great post on Hatch's tobacco connections.


At 4:47 PM, Blogger Micah said...

See, the problem with your blog isn't that you don't have worth-while content, it's what you do with it. You start off with a post that is insightful, and then you turn it into a personal attack. So what if Hatch has a foul mouth, is has nothing to do with this story.

At 2:36 AM, Blogger lloydletta said...

I've never liked Mike Hatch - but I agree with Micah. Your post would be stronger if you'd left out the cheap shot. There was plenty in there without it.

But then you also make cheap shots about David Strom and the Tax Payer's League - rather than addressing the issue of why Pawlenty and the Tax Payer's League are at odds.

Pawlenty is hoisted on his own petard with this lawsuit. If this is a user fee, then the tobacco companies are right - they already settled with the state over that issue.

Doug over at Bogus Gold has an excellent post on that topic.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Republican Minnesota said...

Neither of you take offense over what Mke Hatchis rumored to have called a former Appeals Court judge? He showed not only a complete lack of respect for women, but also towards the law.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Micah said...

I don't care for Hatch that much, and while it may be important that he did say those things, it has nothing to do with this and it weakens your argument because you take cheap shots.

At 6:49 AM, Blogger Republican Minnesota said...

You obviously have no sense of humor.


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