Keith Ellison let undisclosed financial backer take over high dollar case

Minnesota Attorney General Ellison passed along a high profile case to an undisclosed longtime financial supporter of his who now stands to make millions.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison passed on a significant case to a law firm that’s backed him financially for years without disclosing this connection.

Ellison brought a lawsuit against vape manufacturer JUUL in December 2019 on behalf of Minnesota. The case was expanded earlier this month to include Altria, a tobacco company and 35% stakeholder in JUUL.

However, Ellison himself is not at the helm of this case. He opted last year to pass it along to two Minneapolis law firms which stand to collect millions in legal fees if the state wins or the case is settled.

One of these two firms, Robins Kaplan, donated to Ellison’s campaign for attorney general as well as his previous congressional campaigns, according to state and federal records reviewed by KSTP’s 5 INVESTIGATES.

Richard Allyn, a partner at the firm also lead Ellison’s transition team in 2018, per the investigative team.

Ellison did not disclose his relationship with Robins Kaplan or its partner Allyn to lawmakers when they reviewed the contract between the state and the firm last year. Ellison maintains that this is unimportant because the lawmakers could have discovered the relationship if they scoured public records.

Richard Painter, a former chief White House ethics lawyer and professor at the University of Minnesota Law School told KSTP that it’s unusual that Ellison was not up front about his ties to the firm.

“The campaign contributions, including the political action committee contributions, should be spelled out for anyone reviewing the contract,” he said. “And then we don’t have news stories like this.”

Meanwhile, Ellison has also found himself at the center of several other controversies as he leads the charge to impose fines of up to $25,000 upon business that violate or threaten to violate the governor’s coronavirus shutdown orders.

His office filed lawsuits against three more restaurants Monday, which have allegedly shirked the governor’s shutdown. This adds to the growing number of businesses Ellison has sued amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


Alpha News Staff