Suddenly, campaign pits Hatch vs. Hubbardby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch is denying that he called a male reporter a "Republican whore" when he questioned Hatch about his running mate. Several newspapers in the Forum newspaper chain reported on Friday that Hatch used the term when the reporter tried questioning Hatch about Judi Dutcher's knowledge of E-85 and ethanol. Hatch says he called the reporter a "Republican hack." Hatch also lashed out at KSTP-TV by suggesting the station has an agenda because the station's owner, Stanley Hubbard, has contributed to a special interest group that is running TV ads that criticize him.
St. Paul, Minn. — Hatch's alleged comments to Forum Communications reporter Scott Wente came as the Hatch campaign was under fire for Judi Dutcher's handling of questions about ethanol and E-85.
KSTP-TV aired video earlier this week that showed Hatch's running mate, Judi Dutcher, showing no knowledge of the term, E-85. Hatch was forced to field questions on the issue from reporters across the state. Wente wrote that Hatch called him a "Republican whore" when he asked Hatch about Dutcher's knowledge of ethanol and why Dutcher wasn't available for an interview. Hatch says that's not what he said.
"And he was very aggressive and I said 'Listen, you're acting like a Republican hack. I'm going to get her to call you but, frankly, you're acting like a Republican hack.' I know he has a tape of this thing you should get him to play the tape," Hatch said.
Don Davis, the Capitol bureau chief for Forum Communications, said, "there's absolutely no doubt that quote is accurate." Davis said it's company policy not to discuss news gathering procedures when asked if Hatch's comments were recorded.
Wente was not the only member of the media in Hatch's sights this week. Hatch also called KSTP-TV owner Stanley Hubbard and the KSTP-TV newsroom a group of "Republican hacks."
He criticized Hubbard because campaign finance reports show the media owner contributed $10,000 to the group, A Stronger America-Minnesota, which is running negative ads against Hatch.
"It bothers me that a news organization would claim that they're being credible and would claim that they're being objective and yet they're financing such a shadow group," Hatch said.
Campaign finance reports show that Hubbard, Target CEO Robert Ulrich, the business lobbying firm Lindquist and Vennum and the Committee of Automobile Retailers gave $40,000 to A Stronger America-Minnesota before October 23. The group is now running $500,000 in TV ads criticizing Hatch. Hubbard said he gave money to the group because he wants Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty re-elected.
Hubbard denies that he had anything to do with the decision to air the video of Dutcher bumbling the E-85 question. "I have never ever, nor has my father before me or my sons and daughters after me, ever gone to the newsroom and suggested they help any political candidate or suggested they hurt any political candidate and we never will," Hubbard said.
Hubbard says Rick Nelson, a lobbyist and Republican fundraiser, asked him to contribute to the group. Minnesota Public Radio was unable to reach Nelson for this story.
Hatch also claims the group is trying to , "swift-boat" him. In fact, Benjamin Ginsberg, the attorney who represented the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 presidential campaign, is affiliated with the group.
Joe Weber, a St. Paul-based spokesman for A Stronger America-Minnesota, says his group is a chapter of A Stronger America. He says Ginsberg is an attorney for the national organization.
Weber wouldn't disclose the contributors to the Minnesota chapter. He said it is a collection of business leaders and trade groups who support lower taxes and are worried about Hatch's economic proposals. He denies that they're trying to avoid disclosing their donors until after the November election.
"I can promise you, and anyone who has ever run a campaign would agree with me, had we had this money sooner, we would have spent it. As a matter of fact, the effect of us spending this money now and the effect of Mike Hatch attacking the business community behind it has raised an additional $85,000 locally just today," according to Weber.
Weber said the group has raised about $700,000 to date. The group's TV ads and campaign literature accuses Hatch of having a track record of intimidation, arrogance and abuse of power.
The Minnesota Republican Party has worked to portray Hatch as an angry, win-at-all-costs candidate.
When asked about his temper, Hatch said "I am what I am."