Role reversal in AG's office; Hatch to work for Swansonby Laura McCallum, Minnesota Public Radio
On the day that Lori Swanson was sworn in as Minnesota's 29th attorney general, her predecessor announced he's staying on to work for Swanson. Mike Hatch said during Swanson's swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol that he'll help his former top aide develop a new unit in the attorney general's office.
St. Paul, Minn. — Mike Hatch recruited Lori Swanson to work for him in the attorney general's office, and encouraged her to run for his job. Now, he'll work for her.
The two-term DFL attorney general, who lost his bid for governor in November, says he had several job offers in the private sector. But Hatch says Swanson persuaded him to stay on to help develop a unit dealing with complex civil cases.
"It's a great honor," said Hatch Tuesday morning. "You go through that month of evaluation, and I tell you what, she's very inspirational."
Swanson jumped in: "I persuaded him for a long time, too!"
Swanson says ever since the Nov. 7 election, she's been lobbying Hatch to work for the office. She says many of the details of Hatch's duties have yet to be worked out, including the types of cases the new unit will focus on.
"It could be consumer, it could be other types of financial issues, it could be other issues as well," said Swanson. "The state of Minnesota gets involved in a lot of very, very complex, sophisticated litigation, so it will be that type of litigation."
During Swanson's swearing-in ceremony, Hatch said he'd been talking to law firms who represented businesses he'd sued as attorney general.
Over the past eight years, Hatch developed a reputation as a scrappy and sometimes confrontational crusader who took on some of Minnesota's largest banks, insurance companies, HMOs and utilities.
Hatch says Swanson discouraged him from working for a private firm, whose mission would be at odds with the consumer advocacy role of the attorney general's office.
"She said if I really wanted to do something about health care, the fact that I lost an election was irrelevant," said Hatch, adding with a laugh, "I told her I didn't know if I could afford to keep working at my current salary. She told me I didn't need to worry about that, that if I stayed, I'd get a pay cut."
Swanson says Hatch will make less than the $114,000 attorney general salary.
While the arrangement is unusual, it's not unprecedented; former South Dakota attorney general Mark Barnett, who lost a bid for governor, now serves as chief deputy AG in that state.
Still, it has prompted incoming House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, to question who will call the shots in the attorney general's office. Seifert says the situation reminds him of the former governor of Alabama whose wife ran for office as a surrogate candidate.
"It looks like when George Wallace was term-limited in Alabama, that Lurleen Wallace was brought in, and then people wondered who was really running the state," said Seifert.
Swanson says she'll be in complete charge of the attorney general's office, and she simply wanted to hire the best lawyers she could find.
Hatch says he doesn't know how long he'll work for Swanson, joking that he's not sure she can tolerate him for her entire four-year term.
- All Things Considered, 01/02/2007, 5:23 p.m.